If you haven’t heard of Minari already, you are missing out on one of the most heartwarming, Golden Globe award-winning films of 2021. It stars Walking Dead alum Steven Yeun and indie film actress Han Ye-ri. It also stars the legendary Youn Yuh-jung, who snagged awards for Best Supporting Actress at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, National Board of Review, and over 30 more organizations for her role in Minari. This film gives a front-seat look at the struggles of a Korean-American immigrant family as they attempt to lay their roots and start a farm in a rural town of Arkansas.
Watching the Yi family go through the hurdles of adapting to a new lifestyle really hit home for many who went through similar experiences growing up. Even more impressive was the attention to detail the film had in terms of culturally significant goods. Throughout the film, there were scenes filled with foods and beverages almost every Korean-American grew up around. For those without that experience, there were likely some cultural foods and drinks you were unfamiliar with. Let’s take a closer look at some of the cultural goods that stood out to us.
When the maternal grandmother arrives at the Yi family home, she gifts her daughter with ingredients often used in traditional Korean cooking; one of which was myeolchi (dried-anchovy). Receiving these ingredients from her mother prompted an emotional reaction as Monica (the wife) had become homesick and missed the taste of foods from her mother country. This ingredient is commonly used in Korean cooking to add flavor to basically every soup dish.
Known in Korea as "kim" or "gim", dried seaweed is another Korean staple that makes its appearance in the film. While this delicious snack does not get a mention or even a zoom-in shot during the movie, it is an item that any Korean can recognize at a glance. That is because dried seaweed is commonly eaten as a banchan (side dish) and used as the base of seaweed rice rolls called kimbap.
If you turned your head away from the movie for a second, you might have missed this one. Miyeokguk, a soup made from sea mustard, had a brief cameo in the film. This soup is often eaten by mothers after giving birth, then eaten by children on birthdays to celebrate their mother. Although this food is served on special occasions, it is also a common side dish eaten with rice throughout the year.
In Korea, a drinkable form of hanyak (oriental herbal medicine) is often used as a cure-all for various ailments and conditions. That is why when the grandmother comes to visit the family, she brings over some of this medicinal drink. As David, the younger son in the film, suffers from a form of heart disease, he is encouraged to drink hanyak throughout the film. Hanyak for patients with heart disease is traditionally made using red ginseng and has a slight sweetness to it with a very bitter aftertaste.