‘This is a song for everyone who is worn out by daily life.’ The performance video that followed this remark brought about a gentle change. It helped Sanggun who was gaining popularity in his prime soar to more success and it even brought attention to the previously unknown singer Iseol Yoon as the ‘Hongdae Goddess’.
The live cafe ‘Once’ experienced a chaotic panic from the influx of customers. Iseol became sought after by companies and her contract was safely secured thanks to the vigilance of the ‘Four Seasons’ older brothers. And it was also because of them that she chose a middle size company that concentrated on the singers individually rather than a large company.
The entertainment company was certain they had called the Hongdae Goddess but when four big strong men showed up, it was another matter.
- Oppa you should’ve seen it. They were saying ‘If you swindle our little sister…you know what happens right?’ and the chief there turned dead pale.
Iseol was telling this story and was laughing so hard she couldn’t breathe. There was more laughing than words.
“Did Daehwi hyungnim wear his sunglasses there too?”
- He never takes them off.
“Wow~ he has persistence.”
It was amazing, on second thought, how a meticulous performance could come from those big muscular arms. As Minho talked with Iseol on the phone he lay in bed and reminisced about the performance on that day. Then he abruptly got up as Iseol spoke.
- Oh, about the profits. I want to give you more but the oppas say 70% is too much so I think I have to lower it. I’m sorry.
He appreciated the thought but it was completely absurd. Maybe it was because she hadn’t experienced the world enough or maybe because she was so thankful but this was way beyond. Minho laughed as he persuaded her not to do that.
“Nah. I only slightly assisted. Don’t say something so ridiculous. And I make more than you think.”
- Then what about the copyright?
“Don’t say anything else and keep it. Em~ actually. Buy me meat and we’ll call it even.”
- Okay! Then I’ll take care of the bill for dining out every month, oppa.
Then there was a noisy sound over the phone. He heard a door open and it seemed like Iseol was talking to somebody.
- Huh? Mom? Gosh, you have to knock before you come in! I’m talking to my Minho oppa right n…oops! Ta-talk to you next time!
“Huh? Oh, sure.”
He replied, confused, but the phone hung up.
Minho scratched his ear and opened the Theory of Political Development, the book that was good to sleep on and the one Garam made fun of saying it was a pillow. Amazingly, the remedial effect of the textbook hadn’t worn out one bit so he was able to fall asleep in five minutes.
Minho’s daily life continued the next day as usual.
He practiced his game play and analyzed strategy or videos of other players. He dabbled with playing music and struggled to read books.
The reason Minho wasn’t included in the popularity of ‘Once’ was because the introduction of Minho was left out in the video and also because Iseol and Sanggun were more popular. But on the other hand, Minho’s name was becoming deeply ingrained among the musicians even though the public didn’t recognize him.
But the quiet times didn’t last long. Minho’s cell phone began ringing continuously the moment Youth Journal went on the air.
- Ring ring.
Minho was sound asleep but the phone rang earlier than his alarm. He silenced his phone and was about to go back to sleep but the door abruptly opened instead.
Garam woke Minho who was sound asleep on this weekend morning.
“Did you learn that in the army? Is there a separate assigned position for tractor driver?”
“Ugh~punk, what are you talking about all of a sudden?”
“There’s a bunch of articles about you, sunbaenim. Big News!”
Minho had no choice to wake up because of the commotion his junior was making. Garam brought his laptop and showed Minho the browser window.
<<The best farm village variety show, Youth Journal! Enter the Pentastorm!>>
[Today Variety] The strongest contender has appeared in Youth Journal, a real experience variety show where grumbly Dojin Lee and the seven fairies of the idol world struggle. He is Minho Kang, a gamer of the popular eSport Pentastorm. He made light of the missions of the producers by using the tractor that no one else could use.
Fresh to the variety show, Minho seemed to run with no traction at the staples team formed with Sunhwa Kim, Seungji Yoon, and Sora Oh. But he had one move that revealed his strong presence. It was the foreman’s tractor. The producers were taken aback by his skillful driving so ultimately the latter half of Youth Journal was filled with a party and a dance off between Girl Seven.
On the other hand, the viewers are showing much interest in Minho’s various charms in the preview of the Nokdu pancakes and the attack on the producers, and the stream vacation episode. Mr. A, a high school classmate, posted comments such as, ‘All fake. He couldn’t even make ramyun*,’ ‘the show is scripted,’ and ‘tractor my foot,’ and received much hate on the internet.
Reporter Minwoo Park Minaw@ytspeed.com
[Youth Journal, Daily Guest Minho Kang. Presented his awesome skill with the tractor]
[Producer Na, ‘About to do field work after eating fermented bean soup thanks to Minho’]
[Dojin Lee shows endless affection towards Minho Kang stating ‘Hope Hyunwoo doesn’t return from his tour’]
[Shocking! Hayeon Gu lovesick for Minho Kang?]
[Sora Oh reveals Minho Kang is just a good older brother from the same company.]
- Tractor??? Lol. This is crazy. Crazy. Is Minho Kang the grandson of the foreman?
- My Minho oppa won the quiz show too. He does farming as a hobby. Isn’t he so good looking when he concentrates on cleaning cow dung? Hehe ♡♡~
- Don’t you know it’s all scripted? The entertainment company probably secretly casted a tractor driver to support him. Why is everyone making a big deal about tilling a field with a machine?
ㄴDidn’t you see Minho start the engine himself? It looks easy but the engine won’t turn on like that if you don’t crank it right. Your arm will just hurt. Minho Kang is at least from the countryside.
- Why is everyone having such a hard time tilling just one field?
ㄴTry to make an open field into farmland. First remove all the weeds. The thick ones have to be taken out with a sickle. Then till the dirt lightly. That’s to get rid of roots and rocks. After getting those out you till it deeper. Then there will be big rocks that appear here and there. It seems like that’s it, right? Nope. Bring the compost. Spread it out evenly and thickly. Then till deeply again so the compost mixes. Amazingly, more rocks will appear. After it’s mixed, you create ridges in the field. Now it’s done. But there is more to do depending on the crop. Like using plastic to cover the ridges or build greenhouses over them.
Minho rubbed his sleepy eyes as he read the articles.
‘Huh? She likes me?’
He clicked on [Shocking! Hayeon love sick for Minho Kang?] and saw her interview saying ‘I slept well that day thanks to that~’ and clicked the ‘back’ button.
There were comments like ‘Flutter flutter.’ ‘Trash journalist!’ ‘I clicked on it even though I knew it was bait,’ from the victims.
‘It still paid off working hard for the broadcast, huh?’
There were a lot of articles about Minho and the viewer count was better than usual. When he looked at the time frame, he had even reached rank one on the search engine right after the show aired. They were all delightful stories in many ways.
Garam pushed his face forward at Minho who was reading it to himself.
“What, what are you doing?”
“Um, sunbaenim. Make us some Nokdu pancakes!”
“What are you talking about? Wait… the Nokdu pancake episode airs next week.”
‘What nonsense is he saying when he hasn’t even seen it yet?’
“Ehh. There’s a way to know everything.”
Garam opened the web page of Yuchiri village and showed it to Minho. There were the pictures of the village elders having a festival with well-cooked golden Nokdu pancakes and rice wine and the staff delivering ingredients. And there were postscripts of handwritten words from the elders saying ‘Young Minho, we enjoyed the meal’ posted.
“I can find out even without watching the broadcast. The Nokdu pancakes were a hit. Hehe. Show us these breathtaking Nokdu pancakes.”
Minho, dumbfounded, gestured to Garam. When Garam came closer Minho hit him with his knuckles.
“Punk. You wake up your hyungnim who was sleeping so well for what? Make pancakes for you?”
The images of the Nokdu pancakes that were posted on the Yulchiri website were breathtaking but this wasn’t right.
“I really wanted to eat it….”
Garam begged a second time after observing Minho.
“Ah, Make me some, please!”
“Be quiet! Let’s end it here after you get hit just twice.”
As Minho pushed the blanket aside and got out of bed, Garam ran from the room with his hands covering his head.
“You bothersome punk. Come here. Where are you running off to?”
Minho grabbed a pillow and ran after him. He looked around for Garam, but the mood of the gaming house was disorderly. There were bags of Nokdu powder with peppers, green onions, cooking oil, frying batter, flour and such on the dining room table.
“Minho hyungnim, have you awakened?”
“Sunbaenim, do you feel wholehearted after you have awakened, sire?”
The juniors all bowed 90 degrees.
“Wholehearted? What nonsense are you talking?”
Minho’s face went red as he was dumbfounded by their extreme politeness. ‘Why are they like this when they won’t be this polite even when the coach shows up?’
Then the front door opened and Chulsoon walked in. His arms were full of rice wine bottles.
“Garam definitely wakes you up so well it’s amazing. Haha. Here’s all the ingredients delivered~”
“The cook just needs to come. We await your presence!”
“The ingredients for Nokdu pancakes are all here. Heh heh. Fry us some too.”
They were all like dogs wagging their tails at him.
Minho who was wearing his pajamas looked over the whole assembly. Then he spotted Garam who was behind the table unable to hide because of his bulging stomach, and asked,
“You got everyone together, didn’t you?”
“We all wanted to eat the Nokdu pancakes that appeared in the Nokdu Mukbang* preview yesterday. Right, guys?”
When Garam said that everyone nodded ‘yeah, yeah’ as if they were in a trance. The main culprit was none other than the king of gluttony, Garam. It seemed like he really wanted to eat it seeing that he had prepared the ingredients this early in the morning.
“It’s tiresome. I’m not someone who just cooks carelessly.”
“Don’t be like that and make us a little bit. We’ll just have a taste. Everyone’s waiting.”
“Be quiet. Just go to a restaurant and eat it there. There’s a traditional restaurant that gives pancakes as side dishes right in front of here.”
Minho couldn’t even if he wanted to. How could the Nokdu pancake that would make people drool just by looking at it and received the praise of the elders be created with just the ingredients? It wasn’t just frying it with oil in the pan. He had to grind the Nokdu on a millstone and needed the cast iron pan to at least mimic it somehow. On top of that, he needed subtle control of the fire and to proportionately mix the batter. So with all this in mind there were a lot of details to pay attention to.
“The merciful and benevolent Minho Kang sunbaenim! No, Chef!”
Garam gathered his two hands together and shouted with all his sincere desire.
“Guys, Chef Kang is going to just leave!”
“Chef Kang! Chef Kang!”
Seeing the hungry expression on Garam’s chubby face made Minho sigh but also chuckle.
‘I don’t know if I’m taking care of my junior or raising a pig, gosh.’
Either way his body had already made 100 Nokdu pancakes consecutively in Yulchiri. He thought he would at least be able to mimic it.
Minho made a decision and spoke.
“It won’t taste the same because the ingredients aren’t directly delivered from the Yulchiri mountains. Is that okay?”
“Move all the ingredients to the kitchen.”
There’s a saying that practice makes perfect and it’s true. Minho began to prepare to fry the pancakes by skillfully cleaning all the ingredients, still in his pajamas.
Nokdu powder and fern, mung bean sprouts, and pork.
There was a difference from Madam Yoon’s recipe but he had all the things it needed.
‘Mince the ingredients and mix it into a thick batter, then…’
Minho began to cook as he recalled the memories of that day. He moved the way he remembered, the way his body moved. He moved truly expertly.
The frying sound. The smell of the oil melted the men with empty stomachs. The Pentastorm players of KG Phoenix including Chulsoon all sat at the table filled with anticipation.
Something golden that was cooking in the oil flipped once on the frying pan. And in no time a Nokdu pancake was cooked to its golden color and was plated.
Minho used the chopsticks to take the first taste.
‘Em, not quite right.’
The scent was similar but the texture was different. It sounded like a Nokdu pancake while sizzling in oil just now. But it would surely turn into something mushy like a rice cake when left for a bit. This Nokdu pancake was greedily absorbing all the oil.
‘It’ll get better as I fry it.’
He was slowly recalling the day he fried endlessly. And he felt he would be able to grasp the frying time as he cooked three or four.
“Chef Kang! We’re hungry! Why aren’t you giving it to us?”
Garam couldn’t wait for that time and shouted as he shook his chopsticks.
“Hey, this one I messed up.”
“It’ll be the same when it enters our stomachs.”
Minho, thinking these were guys who would eat anything, placed the first Nokdu pancake in front of Garam.
“It’s not the ingredients from Yulchiri so it definitely tastes different. So understand this much.”
He smiled brightly, completely caught up in cooking and forgetting his anger. The juniors, a bit nervous, laughed awkwardly at Minho’s smile.
“Thank you, sunbaenim.”
“We’re sorry. We were seized with the idea, and really wanted to eat that Nokdu pancake.”
“Don’t you think you’ll be casted for a cooking commercial or rice wine commercial? Actually, we went to the mart today and everyone was buying the same thing.”
Minho nodded with the chopsticks in this mouth and kindly spoke to his juniors who were filled with anticipation.
“How many should I make for you guys? Is one for each person enough?”
Then his eyes met Garam’s.
“Garam, you need to eat like three plates, right?”
“What do you mean three? I have to eat five.”
The other juniors’ expressions changed due to Garam’s rude answer but Minho was having fun frying so he didn’t mind it and went back to fry another one again.
“Thank you for the meal!”
Garam ripped off a piece and put it in his mouth.
It was a very fresh-tasting food, with all the ingredients standing out as raw flavors. As he chewed it made sticky, smacking sounds. The inside and outside were cooked differently enough to make him wonder how it had been fried like that. A confused and perplexed expression came over Garam’s face.
Chulsoon tasted it as well and flinched in surprise. It was a strange taste that he couldn’t say was bad or good. All the other juniors took their chopsticks to taste and their expressions all changed with uncertainty as they looked at each other.
Then they all turned their gazes at Garam who had to eat not three but five plates of it.
“Excuse me, Chef Kang.”
Minho, humming as he fried the pancake, turned his head as Garam spoke.
“Yes? Wait just one minute. I’ll make it quickly.”
Minho’s face expression was so benevolent. It was too benevolent. Garam realized it was too late to say anything else now. Another plate was brought to the table. It looked normal on the outside but when examined carefully, there was a puddle of oil on the plate and the edge looked hard because it was over cooked.
“Here! I mixed some vinegar and soy sauce for dipping. Enjoy your meal~”
Minho turned right around and began to excitedly fry more Nokdu pancakes.
Garam began to feel anxious, thinking Minho was frying it with a lot of oil and making it taste bad on purpose because Garam had woken him up from his sleep and goaded him.
He regretted not asking before getting the ingredients. Everyone looked at Garam with pity and clicked their tongues.
The next Nokdu pancake and the next lacked any identifiable flavor. Garam’s anxiety slowly turned into certainty.
“Chef Kang. Can I only have three plates?”
“Why is a guy who can eat two whole chickens by himself backing out?”
“I want to leave some for my colleagues…”
Minho shook his head as he flipped the Nokdu pancake in the air.
“Don’t worry. There’s plenty so you can eat to your heart’s content.”
Garam’s face turned pale and sent signals for help to his colleagues. But there was no one who offered to eat a bite for him.
“You guys are gonna be like this?”
The episode that happened that morning at the gaming house concluded with ‘You’ll be in deep trouble if you make Minho sunbae do something he doesn’t want to do.’
Ramyun = Ramen
Mukbang – Mukbang (or muk-bang) is an online audiovisual broadcast in which a host eats large quantities of food while interacting with their audience. Usually done through an internet webcast, mukbang became popular in South Korea in the 2010s. Foods ranging from pizza to noodles are consumed in front of a camera for an internet audience.