Episode 89

A Week In Korea (8)
1 week ago
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Rurin stopped speaking, her cheeks puffed out, and tried to mess up her hair. Startled, I grabbed her arm.

“Let go. If you don’t like it, I’ll change it back.”

“No, that’s not it.”

“It’s not it?”

“Yeah, your hair is pretty.”

A problem arose. I always felt an irrational urge to brush Rurin’s hair. I couldn’t understand why such thoughts suddenly came to my mind.

I slapped my own cheek and then patted Rurin’s head.

“Is that so? I knew it. As long as it’s pretty. Hehe.”

Rurin nodded as if satisfied with my words. Looking at her innocent face, my previous thoughts felt vile.

Shaking off my brief and foolish feelings, I went outside with Rurin.

We headed to a tteokbokki shop. Since yesterday, I had decided to eat tteokbokki today.

Today’s dish following jjajangmyeon and cheonggukjang is Korean snack shop Tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cakes). We found a shabby snack shop in an alley. It was a nostalgic scene.

I used to go there so often in elementary school. When I was short on allowance, I’d be content with cup tteokbokki. Just a few pieces of tteokbokki in a paper cup made me very happy.

“What are we eating today?”

Rurin looked up at me with a curious face.

“That’s for the enjoyment a bit later.”

I smiled and went inside the snack shop to sit down. Since lunchtime had already passed, the shop was empty. It wasn’t peak time as school hadn’t finished yet.

Snack shops are always crowded after school hours.

“What can I get for you?”

“One serving of tteokbokki, a set of fried food separately, an egg, and some soondae and odeng, please.”

“Please wait a moment.”

The lady nodded and went back. At the same time, Rurin interjected with a strange expression.

“What on earth did you just say? I couldn’t understand a word of what you just said.”

“Huh?”

“Tteokbokki? Fried set? Egg? Soondae? Odeng? What do those mean?”

“Ah, those are…”

Although the dragon has no problem with Korean, it seems the translation is incomplete for things that don’t exist in that world.

For the past few days, her translator has been malfunctioning, making her angry. She doesn’t want to hear words she can’t understand.

“What kind of dragon can’t translate?”

“It’s strange. I’m a great dragon! Why don’t I know this?”

“Indeed.”

“I don’t like your expression. I’ll teach you a lesson! I’m getting angry!”

“Pfft.”

Her face scrunched up in annoyance was rather funny, making me laugh, and she stood up abruptly and started glaring at me.

“Why are you laughing! Ugh!”

“Your food is here. Is this what you ordered?”

“Oh, yes. Thank you.”

And right at that moment, the food came out. Good timing.

Steaming red tteokbokki, crispy fried food next to it, and the Soondae (blood sausage) looked bouncy and tender.

The Odeng (fishcake) broth is similar to the clam soup I often make at the restaurant, nothing special, but snack shop odeng broth has its own unique taste.

“My dearrrr!”

“Wait, wait, calm down, you fool. This is it. In order, this is tteokbokki. This is the fried set. This is the egg. This is soondae. This is odeng.”

“Those were dish names?”

“Yes.”

“Why are the names so peculiar? Same with what we ate yesterday. That’s why a great being like me wouldn’t know them. You should reflect on that.”

“Reflect on what? Stop being ridiculous and eat.”

“Reflect first! Your homeland itself should reflect on me. Oh? Oh! I know this! It’s a Palenque egg!”

Rurin was urging Korea to reflect but got distracted by a familiar ingredient.

“Yes, it’s the same thing.”

Her confused gaze subsided a bit. I wish she wouldn’t make a scared puppy face when encountering new food, especially for a dragon. Yesterday, it was the smell, today it’s the appearance.

“Here, try the tteokbokki first. This is how you eat it.”

I picked up a fork and pressed into the soft center of the tteokbokki. I didn’t intend to, but it’s the broth tteokbokki I like.

The broth is red, and the tteokbokki is less red. Anyway, I took a bite first.

Yes, this sweet, salty, and slightly spicy taste.

Fortunately, it’s not too spicy. Rurin can handle this level of spiciness.

Tteokbokki should have a perfect balance of saltiness and sweetness behind its chewiness. The taste shouldn’t be too strong on one side. Of course, this is just my preference.

Anyway, this randomly found tteokbokki shop is quite tasty.

It’s tteokbokki with a lot of flour mixed in, but honestly, I like this kind. It brings back memories of the tteokbokki I often ate in front of my school.

“But why is this so red? Is it more annoying than Red Dragon’s Breath? I don’t like that. I’ll just eat this…”

Rurin avoided the clear red color of gochujang, not tomato sauce, remembering the terror of the Buldak noodles that made her panic last time, and reached for the familiar egg first.

Of course, Rurin doesn’t usually refuse food. She’s an omnivorous dragon who eats everything, even the pungent cheonggukjang. Although she initially avoided it.

But she couldn’t overcome the spiciness of the Buldak noodles.

She can’t eat extremely spicy food. The first time she tried Buldak noodles, she breathed fire everywhere.

I dipped the tteokbokki and brought it to Rurin’s mouth.

“Ahhhh!”

She immediately showed a face of great conflict. Rurin loves to eat when I feed her, making it even more precious because I don’t do it often.

She struggled a lot with cheonggukjang too. I shouldn’t use this tactic too often, but I have no choice.

“What, what is it? It’s suspicious. You’ve been doing ‘Ahhh!’ too often lately.”

She said that while opening her mouth. It’s an incredible instinct. Her brain rejects it, but her instinct opens her mouth.

So I quickly put the tteokbokki in her mouth.

Her face scrunched up in fear, but she soon began chewing.

Again, Rurin is a dragon who fears nothing. But she was terrified of the Buldak noodles. Anyway.

But it’s not actually spicy.

As expected, her face brightened rapidly as she tasted it.

“Oh, what’s this? It’s delicious. More! More! Ahhh!”

She immediately opened her mouth again. I gave her a look indicating the joke was over. The special trick ends here. It’s losing its freshness after using it for two consecutive days.

“Eat it yourself. What’s with the ‘Ahhh!’”

“You just did it! That’s so unfair! I protest! I demand improvement!”

“Come on, let’s eat. Let’s eat.”

I pretended not to hear. Ignoring Rurin’s argument, I put tteokbokki in my mouth. As the tteokbokki decreased, Rurin gave up the fight and started poking the tteokbokki with her fork.

“Wait, wait. Hold on. There’s something else we need to eat together. Just eating tteokbokki feels lacking.”

We put our tteokbokki, which harmonizes with the red broth, aside for a moment and picked up a fried dumpling with a fork. It’s a typical flat snack shop dumpling. It tastes best when dipped in the tteokbokki broth.

I cut the dumpling in half, dipped it in the tteokbokki broth, and ate it. Then I picked up a piece of tteokbokki and ate that too.

Ah, a storm of flavors. The crispy dumpling’s somewhat lacking taste, with not much inside, pairs well with the tteokbokki broth. If it were filled, it might not be as good.

Not just dumplings, but any snack shop fried food becomes unbeatable when mixed with tteokbokki broth.

“Oh, this is delicious!”

Rurin followed my lead and ate the fried food, then readily admitted it and reached for another piece with her fork.

We shared the seaweed roll and vegetable tempura, dipping them in the broth and alternating with tteokbokki repeatedly.

We ate so vigorously that Rurin’s lips were a mess with tteokbokki broth. Well, we can clean that up later.

“Wait, wait. There’s more. One more thing.”

This time, I pointed at the soondae. Rurin looked happily gluttonous, marveling at how much there was.

“This is delicious on its own. The chewy intestines of the uba and the noodles inside are perfect. If you don’t like the smell, dipping it in tteokbokki is just right.”

“Oh, I see.”

“Isn’t it good?”

Nodding. Rurin began a feast, eating the soondae plain, dipping it, and even contemplating what to eat next.

As there wasn’t much tteokbokki left, I added the egg. This is honestly my personal preference.

Quite a few people dislike it.

I don’t feel like I’ve eaten tteokbokki properly without this finishing touch.

First, I cut the egg in half, took out the yolk, added tteokbokki broth, and mashed it with a fork.

When the yolk fully absorbs the tteokbokki broth, I eat it with the tteokbokki. It subtly shows a different taste. It’s like eating another type of tteokbokki.

“You! We’re out of tteokbokki!”

Rurin started banging the empty tteokbokki plate with her fork. It seems she liked the tteokbokki the most.

I also felt we needed more, so I immediately placed another order. Then I started wiping Rurin’s mouth with a tissue.


After a hearty lunch of tteokbokki, we came out to the street. There aren’t many people on the street in the afternoon on a weekday.

Compared to the crowds on holidays, it’s relatively quiet.

Rurin held my hand tightly, asking about various signs of civilization she was seeing for the first time, satisfying her curiosity.

The place where I stopped was called a claw machine arcade.

It wasn’t Rurin’s curiosity but mine that was piqued. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen a claw machine arcade.

You could always spot one or two of these arcades on a slightly busy street. There were claw machines 15 years ago when I lived here, but they were completely different from now.

Since we had plenty of time, I entered the store, filled with curiosity.

The machines in the claw machine arcade had significantly advanced compared to the ones I knew 15 years ago. Back then, you looked down and grabbed small toys. But now, the toys and claws are bigger, a whole new world.

With technological advances, claw machines have evolved too. It’s like an arcade, but only with claw machines. It’s a self-service store without any staff.

The machines were filled with toys, and I saw characters from the animations I watched as a kid.

It’s amazing that the Pocket O’s I loved in elementary school are still popular. While I was living through wars in that other world, Pocket O’s were still popular here. It feels bittersweet.

Anyway, Pocket O’s dominate the claw machines.

They’re monsters too, after all.

Of course, they’re much cuter than the monsters I fought against for my life in the other world.

“Where, where.”

My hands started itching. I was a monster-catching fiend in the other world, so these monsters are nothing. Plus, I was a claw machine killer when I was young.

I put money into the bill-changing machine. Rurin seemed completely uninterested in the toys. She prefers controlling real, fierce monsters, so it’s understandable she feels nothing for these cute ones.

She’s also very interested in the new monster from the northern land, Lurun, treating it like a pet.

Who can stop a dragon from thinking of a monster as a pet? Especially when she talks to the Lurun, ending her sentences with ‘Run!’ which is both funny and cute.

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