I’ve never celebrated Valentines Day before.
I have no animosity towards it. I don’t feel blue about my singlehood during that day when my girlfriends plan romantic dinners and receive roses at their doorstep. So what if I don’t get flowers or chocolate? The next day I can boo-yah on 50 percent-marked down heart-shaped candies. And anyway, what am I going to do with a bouquet of roses that wilt in a day? That’s more time and energy I have to spend procuring a vase and then tossing it into the trash.
I also don’t have any emotional opinions about it being a hyper-commercialized charade crafted by card and chocolate companies. So what if they’re capitalizing on the guilty conscience of consumers by packaging Valentines as a day of sugar-laced love—we live in a capitalist economy after all. And as I said, I love the candy discounts the day after.
Valentines Day has always just been a non-event for me. I’ve passed through 24 Valentines Day without any drama or theatrics, often times forgetting it even exists.
This year, however, I got to actually acknowledge it in a wholly satisfying way. No, I’m still proud and blissful to be single. And that’s the whole point. This year, I got to celebrate Black Day.
I had no idea this event existed until my church friends (I go to a Koreatown church) suggested we eat jajangmyeon together on February 14.
In South Korea, February 14 is the day where only men get all the tooth-rotting chocolates. Females gift the significant males in their life—usually their love interests, but also their guy friends and co-workers—chocolate. Depending on the level of care put into it, that chocolate could signify romantic love, deep appreciation or plain courtesy. The guys will enjoy their sweet gifts, probably tallying and comparing the amount with their peers’ to gauge their popularity, while girls blush and fidget over the reactions of their crush.
Then a month later, on March 14, it’s the men’s turn. This day is called White Day, in which men will present white-themed presents, such as sugar cookies, white chocolate, creamy marshmallows, white lingerie (ew) or if you fancy, jewelry. But the men don’t have to gift their female friends, co-workers or mothers—just the girl they fancy. It sounds unfair, but White Day gifts from men are usually way, way more expensive than the chocolate the girls buy.
Anyway. After all that, another month later on April 14, all the leftover people who didn’t get any chocolate or white panties will meet up and celebrate the rogue, informal Black Day. On that day, all the single ladies and guys slurp up the worst possible food you can ever eat on a date: jajangmyeon.
Jajangmyeon, as all K-pop and K-drama fans will already know, is a fermented black bean noodle dish, a Korean rendition of the Chinese ja jiang mian.
If you’ve ever eaten jajangmyeon, you know it’s not a dainty dish. You splatter black sauce all over your face, your mouth gets stained with inky lipstick, your breath doesn’t smell so good because of all the onions and vinegar you’re ingesting. It doesn’t help that you’ll be crunching on raw onions and kimchi as a side dish.
And that’s the whole point. You’re single and free! So you don’t have to worry about any of those things. Just pig out and enjoy!
So on February 14, we decided to celebrate Black Day two months early. I went with my two church friends, Hannah and Christine. We meet every Thursday for prayer meetings, so this Thursday we hopped over to a Korean-Chinese restaurant right after our meeting.
We call ourselves the BMW: Beautiful Modern Women. Except that day, we were also the Black-Mouthed Women after our black noodles meal.
(And yes, I’m wearing a bright yellow tie. It’s a little ridiculous but that’s why I love it. I got it for $1.50 at Daiso. I couldn’t say no when I saw the little puppies on it!)
Originally I wanted to take them to my favorite Korean-Chinese restaurant, Young King, but it was packed. Apparently every Korean group in town had the same idea as us. So we crossed the road to another Korean-Chinese restaurant. God I love Koreatown.
We started out with the usual jajangmyeon holy trinity: cabbage kimchi, radish kimchi, and raw onions dosed with vinegar.
The only thing missing, I figured later on, was the pickled daikon. Shaking fist and head.
We also got a side dish of stewed beef meatballs:
I don’t know why the menu states it just as “stewed beef meatballs” when it’s clearly the famed Lion’s Head meatballs. Maybe it’s because most of the customers are Korean and thus don’t recognize the dish.
This dish was bomb. The meatballs were really tender, yet crisp on the outside from being pan-fried first. Loved the bamboo shoots and wood-ear mushrooms in this dish.
Each meatball is about half the size of a well-formed fist. Coated with a sticky, gingery sauce.
We also ordered a jjambbong soup:
I think it’s sacrilegious to eat jajangmyeon without jjambbong. Jjambbong is a spicy seafood noodle soup.
The server dished it out into individual portions for us. Each bowl came loaded with squid, shrimp and onions. Nothing like spice-zinged, onion-infused seafood broth on a cold night.
And of course, we also had the jajangmyeon:
Christine had her own small regular portion, while Hannah and I shared a large three-seafood jajangmyeon.
Our three seafood jajangmyeon came with baby shrimp, sea cucumbers and squid. The noodles were divided from the sauce since we asked to split it. By some divine intervention, I managed not to get a single black drop on my shirt or face while slurping:
Technically, Christine isn’t really single; she’s engaged. But this is the last year she’s single—unmarried—until she finally makes the deal in June. And Hannah has more guys chasing after her than I can keep track of. But it was fun to hang out like this and be each other’s Valentines for a night.