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Making My “Jjapaguri” and Exploring Class Tension
Written by Kangmin (Jack) Lee | Published. 2020.03.23 17:28 | Count : 336

Bong Joon Ho’s Oscar winning movie “Parasite” has a now well-known satirical twist. When a housewife made a desperate phone call to her low-income housekeeper, instructing her to make “jjapaguri”, or black bean ramen noodles made by mixing the Korean instant noodle brands Chapagetti and Neoguri (spicy seafood-flavored udon), which are then topped with cubes of sirloin.

I personally tried to make my own parasite jjapaguri. I bought one Chapagetti and one Neoguri from a supermarket near my house. They cost 1,000 won (0.9 US Dollar) each. I also bought a pack of sirloin, which is 11,000 won (10 US Dollar), and I followed the exact recipe from YouTube: boil, fry, and stir.

[Preparing to make jjapaguri / Photo credit: SeoungHun Han]

How was the taste, you ask? Sirloin was the secret ingredient which helped to enrich the flavor of the junky noodles. It was just like tasting black bean sauce Italian pasta. At the same time, I focused on some other differences between the two ingredients of “jjapaguri” noodles and sirloin. The most important one was the nutritional aspect. The following is the nutritional value of Chapagetti: calories 510 kcal, carbohydrates 80 g, protein 9 g, and sodium 1,270 mg. Neoguri was roughly similar: calories 500 kcal, carbohydrates 82 g, protein 8 g, and sodium 1,760 mg. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends daily sodium intake of less than 2,000 mg because sodium may cause several health problems, such as hypertension, heart disease, or even kidney diseases. However, sirloin is in a totally different dimension. Per 100 g serving, it contains calories 243 kcal, carbohydrates 0 g, protein 27g, and sodium 56 mg.

As I tasted the cheap junk food with that was mixed with an organic ingredient (sirloin), I started to understand jjapaguri as a symbol of the main theme of the movie, class divide and tension.  Bong mentioned in a news conference that he came up with the steak-on-a-pile-of-noodles in order to show how the wealthy housewife wanted to please her son but how she also regarded jjapaguri as food for commoners. “This is something kids like, regardless of the rich or the poor. But the rich wife could not stand her kid eating this cheap noodle, so she added sirloin” said Bong.

[Tasting self-made jjapaguri / Photo credit: SeoungHun Han]

Even though South Korea is a developed country, there is still a nutritional gap between social classes that is often overlooked. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, just 12.4 % of low- income citizens are able to secure food stability. 

In “Parasite”, pizza and organic-looking salad dishes are other symbols of the nutritional gap between different social classes/levels. While there are types of pizza in the real world that are rich in nutrients, it is clearly regarded as junk food in the movie. The Kim family picks a few slices of ready- made, cold pizza. According to a certain pizza brand, the nutritional value of pepperoni pizza is not far from that of Chapagetti. If you slice a pizza into eight pieces, one piece (one serving: 87 g) contains the following:  270 kcal, with 10 g of protein, 390 mg of sodium. At the same time, a salad bowl of another brand contains 400 kcal (protein: 46 mg, sodium: 20 mg). 

Korean President Moon Jae-in invited the “Parasite” team, including Director Bong Joon-ho, to Cheong Wa Dae (“Blue House”, the Korean official presidential residence) on Thursday, February 20. As said by Moon “Inequality is so deeply entrenched in our society that it sometimes feels as if there is a new social class”- a question that is very subtle but well-posed by,- the foods in “Parasite”.

Kangmin (Jack) Lee
Freshman (9th grade)
Seoul International School

Kangmin (Jack) Lee  student_reporter@dherald.com

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