“Minari” is not just a movie, it is an ancestral part of South Korean cuisine

CINEMA – A story of family and cuisine. This Wednesday, June 23, the new feature film by American director Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”, will be released in theaters. The film, eagerly awaited on our screens, earned one of its heroines, the South Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung, the title of “best supporting actress” at the last Oscars.

Its story is that of an American family of South Korean origin who, on the decision of a father wanting to become a farmer (Steven Yeun), left California to move to Arkansas. The son (Alan Kim), a 7-year-old kid, will have to get used to this new life in the countryside and the arrival of his grandmother Soonja, an old woman with traditions very different from his he never knew. ‘had never met.

Check out the trailer for “Minari” below:

Authentic and moving, “Minari” mixes life in a mobile home with arguments between parents, against a background of questions of integration in the United States of a family of modest immigrants. This set did not come up on its own, it is the autobiographical story of its director, anxious to recompose his childhood memories and honor the culture transmitted to him by his elders.

“It’s a poetic plant”

Starting with its title. “The year of her arrival, my grandmother, [qui a quitté la Corée pour venir garder deux gamins chahuteurs au milieu de nulle part parce que leurs parents jonglaient entre un travail à plein temps et une ferme à cultiver], planted a Korean vegetable that for years grew on its own, ”says Lee Isaac Chung in the production notes.

It is the minari, a name given by the Koreans to the watercress. Said plant, continues the filmmaker, “grows in isolated places, ditches or muddy streams buried in thickets. Often its seeds come from far away, hidden in the pockets of immigrants, who bring it as a gift to their families ”.

He specifies: “The watercress dies the first year and flowers the following year. Once it takes root, the soil and water around it all become clean. I know it. I saw it grow. ” His film transcribes each of these moments. “We see the plant extend without being touched, adds the filmmaker in the columns of The Wrap. In a way, it’s a poetic plant in my eyes. ”

Decades of culture

To the taste, it has a grassy and peppery flavor, able to invigorate a spicy fish stew or accompany a full Korean dinner, according to Irene Yoo, founder of Yooeating, a YouTube channel that celebrates Korean cuisine. On the site of Slate, it looks back on the long tradition of the minari.

Like many foods during the Joseon Dynasty, a period of Korean history from 1392 to 1910, minari has long been cultivated to cure various ailments like fever, dehydration, and high blood pressure, given its properties. detoxifying. At court, it was used to wrap eggs in a meat and red pepper dish called Minari-ganghoe, which is still cooked today.

Because it is rich in vitamins A and B, but also in potassium and calcium, the minari has not lost its appeal. It can be used nowadays as a hangover remedy or anti-inflammatory ointment. “When my sister as a child got hives on a trip to Seoul because of a fish allergy, she was prescribed a powdered minari drink,” says Irene Yoo. [Il] is supposed to neutralize all potential poisons present in fish and in your alcoholic blood system. ”

Journalist Michelle No remembers it, a little more bitter. “Everyone who grew up with a Korean grandmother or parent remembers being force-fed this kind of foul-smelling liquid solutions, sort of Hanyak [nom donné à la médecine coréenne à base d’herbes, comme le minari, NDLR]. Do you have a cold? Hanyak wood. Do you have muscle aches? Bois du Hanyak, she says ironically. Buzzfeed. […] No one really likes to drink it, but parents swear by its restorative powers. ”

All the sauces

For its part, the minari is cultivated largely in the south of the country, but can proliferate everywhere, according to the character of Youn Yuh-jung in the film by Lee Isaac Chung. However, that of a village called Hanjae in the district of Cheongdo, whose stem is thicker and purple at the end, attracts many foodies. The harvest, which is done there in February, heralds spring. There, grills are set up everywhere to allow visitors to prepare their side dish with minari, such as samgyeopsal, grilled pork belly.

In everyday cooking, it is usually the stems of the plant that are used as a vegetable or herb. This is the case with kimichi, a traditional dish made with peppers and vegetables soaked in brine, but also with bibimbap, a dish based on rice, beef, sautéed or blanched vegetables, then seasoned and assorted with ‘an egg. Everything is spiced up with chili paste. In Japan, where many citizens of Korean origin have lived for decades, minari is also eaten there, but usually in a dish that is eaten in winter called sukiyaki.

Before directing his film, Lee Isaac Chung mobilized his memories. He remembered his father and “that romantic dream of a land capable of fulfilling all promises” he had when he moved to the United States. He was able to see how much the reality was harsher. In “Minari”, he does not omit this truth, but delivers, thanks to the dreamlike nature of the ancestral plant, a message of humility which is not limited to the family fable. As Soonja says during a scene with her grandson: “The wind is blowing, the minaris bow as if they want to say thank you.”

See also on The HuffPost: The big winners of the 2021 Oscars ceremony

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