WHETHER IT is queuing up for the Shake Shack in Gangnam or uploading a delectable bowl of pasta on Instagram, the Korean society’s love for all things culinary cannot be overstated. Amid the economic downturns, people have turned to food for comfort and endure the doldrums in life. This embrace of culinary culture permeates through all levels of society, college campuses being no exception. The Yonsei Annals interviewed three food clubs here at Yonsei to explore how diverse students are networked under the art of gastronomy.
Yeon-nam-dong is a club that gathers undergraduates attending universities near Sinchon to visit salmon mat-jib*. The name Yeon-nam-dong is an acronym for the Korean phrase “a dong-a-ri** that eats up salmon.” “Alluding to King Solomon, Salomon is our English name. For the club members, salmon is always our optimum choice for food,” said Lee Ji-on (Soph., Dept. of Instrumental Music, Ewha Womans University), the founder and the president of Yeon-nam-dong.
Annals: How was Yeon-nam-dong founded?
Lee: To be honest, Yeon-nam-dong was born with an accidental opportunity. Like every other day, I planned to meet a friend to eat salmon at a mat-jib near school. Since the waiting line was unbelievably long, we headed to a hamburger steak restaurant right next to the mat-jib. When the food was served, I was absolutely disinterested. I just kept peering at the mat-jib through the window and regretted not waiting. Then, Eureka! I thought, why don’t I make a club with salmon-lovers around Sinchon to share my passion for salmon? The intention of this club is pretty extravagant.
Annals: Can you suggest some salmon mat-jib around Seoul?
Lee: The combination of nigiri, completely raw, and aburi, partially grilled sushi at Kiku Sushi in Sinchon is heavenly. Plus the tartar sauce as a garnish is mind-blowing! I hope the owner of Kiku Sushi would give Yeon-nam-dong some discount since we go there almost every week. Also, in Seollung, there is an all-you-can-eat salmon restaurant called 705 Sake. Although slightly overpriced, the harmony of salmon, crackers, and whipped cream is totally gnarly. Needless to say, the quality of salmon is outstanding. A sip of sake with the steaming fish cake soup will amaze you as well!
Annals: What is unique about Yeon-nam-dong?
Lee: Our club is new. In fact, we recruited our second group of members last month. We are not big in size. We do not have a long-rooted tradition or strict regulations. Yet, all of the members are mingled with a concerted interest for salmon. The club is more than just eating salmon. Students from different backgrounds are brought together under the roof of salmon. Anyone willing to wholeheartedly share their affection is welcomed. Through spontaneous hangouts, the members are adding myriad tints of orange to their university lives.
“Fried chicken is not food. It is culture,” states the slogan of Phoenix, a club that eats fried chicken. The name Phoenix indicates the everlasting cultural phenomenon of fried chicken. “Phoenix itself is an undying bird. And we thought Yonsei’s symbol eagle well suits the name too,” said Hong Joon-hwa (Sr., Dept. of Earth System Sciences), the president of Phoenix.
Annals: How was Phoenix created?
Hong: It is quite simple. Since fried chicken is often eaten by a group, rather than individually, the upperclassmen created this club to gather more people to eat chicken with.
Annals: I am sure Phoenix does more than just eating fried chicken. What are some other activities?
Hong: We are actually involved in various events. First, every month or two, we evaluate new chicken menus of the franchises. We also suggest general ideas regarding the name of the menu and its competitiveness compared to other brands. Second, we participate in interviews and TV shows related to fried chicken. Third, we contact other chicken clubs in different universities and basically eat chicken together. And interestingly, last winter, we visited the Chicken University, a fried chicken franchise, and literally fried chickens!
Annals: What is your favorite type of fried chicken?
Hong: I personally consider the fried chicken from Ssal-tong-dak as ideal. The crispness and the tenderness of the chicken is balanced out perfectly. Even imagining its taste is mouthwatering!
Annals: How is Phoenix different from other clubs in Yonsei?
Hong: I guarantee that Phoenix is the most comfortable club in Yonsei. While most clubs are concerned with preparing for employment and academic conferences, we aim for a relaxed environment where students can casually meet up and eat chicken. Also Phoenix is the most well-known chicken club in Korea. There will be many opportunities to cluster extraordinary memories by appearing on TV shows and partaking in chicken-related events. Anyone can join if they are ready to indulge in fried chicken!
Gwan seol cha hwe
Seeing the aroma of tea implies Gwan seol cha hwe. “The name Gwan seol cha hwe was given by Monk Yeoyeon, an alumnus who is acclaimed for popularizing the tea culture in Korea,” said Jeon Seong-hun (Soph., Dept. of Biotech.), the president of Yonsei Tea Club. The club was originally co-founded with a tea club in Ewha Womans University. Yet, as time passed, the clubs gradually grew apart and coordinated independent events. The two clubs, nevertheless, hold occasional gatherings for interaction.
Annals: What are the main activities?
Jeon: The club’s principal objective is to disseminate the culture of tea ceremonies and heighten Yonseians’ enthusiasm for teas. So we arrange an event called ‘one day teahouse’ for students to become more familiar with tea and the culture. We rent Muak Seo-dang for the whole day and sell teas and rice cakes. In addition, we also learn how to brew tea using the Chinese Gaiwan tea set, which consists of a lid, a cup and a saucer.
Annals: Which type of teas do the members enjoy drinking?
Jeon: Actually, tea is divided into two categories: ‘real’ tea brewed with tea plant leaves and substitute tea that uses other plants, such as the herb tea. There are six types of ‘real’ tea, green, yellow, white, oolong, red and black, which all originate from an evergreen plant called Camellia sinensis. Our members particularly favor black tea since it is bolder and richer in scent than any other teas.
Annals: Any interesting facts about the club?
Jeon: The first impression of our club may seem quite traditional and passive, or even extremely boring. Yet, believe or not, we are very talkative and exuberant. The little chats we have while sipping teas can be heart-touching, hilarious and even outlandish! Seats are reserved for those willing to explore the exceptional tea culture.
*Mat-jib: Restaurants that sell famous and delicious food
**Dong-a-ri: School club