Oran Man Ida
Five years since I’ve had the best food in the world.
The restaurant looks the same: the same line of 50 people waiting to get in. I get in line, the smells bringing me back: appetite and nostalgia winding a tight braid inside me.
“The special, please,” I say as a waitress comes up the line, taking advance orders. No time for looking at a menu.
I wonder how many have eaten here in the last five years. Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands?
I spot the owner as I reach the door. She looks up. “Where have you been?”
This is actually a true story. When we were in Korea, we lived in the city of Jeonju. In the old market, there is a restaurant called Nammun Pisundae (남문피순대). It is famous all over Korea and has been in business for decades. There is seriously a line outside of at least 50-100 people at every single meal time and it is always busy. They really only serve one thing: a spicy soup of blood sausage and pig organs. You might not think that sounds great but that’s because you haven’t tried it. It is seriously my favorite food in the world, specifically from that restaurant.
I got a chance to go back to Korea in 2019 and made a point to go to Jeonju to see old friends and to eat at this restaurant. Even after all that time, the owner recognized me right away and asked where I’d been. I explained I’d moved to the US 5 years before. To be fair, there probably aren’t many non-Koreans who were regulars there.
(You might wonder about the title: what an Oran Man is or who Ida is. This is a transliteration of the Korean expression meaning “long time, no see”).
April 8th, 2021 at 8:48 pm
Fascinating story, David. I’d love to try it sometime. Sounds delicious.
April 11th, 2021 at 2:29 pm
Thanks, Russell. If you ever get the opportunity, you should. It’s the sort of thing you have to go there to get. Korean restaurants in the US almost never have it and when they do, it’s not the best, at least the ones I’ve tried.
April 9th, 2021 at 3:21 am
The recognition was probably as satisfying as the food
April 11th, 2021 at 2:29 pm
It really was. I was quite surprised and pleased by that. I stand out in Korea, to be sure, but it had been a long time.
April 9th, 2021 at 3:55 am
I loved this…love…“The special, please,” I say as a waitress comes up the line. I saw her with a pad…a towel stuffed in her apron, little cotton flats on her feet. A pencil stuck in her hair.
I see you absorbing the atmosphere, inhaling its aroma.
I am such a fan of these pithy pieces because I know, they’re not so easy to write. Loved the picture too and how you added some Korean to give it even more texture. 🙂
April 11th, 2021 at 2:32 pm
They basically just serve the soup and you can get the regular or the special one (abbreviated ttuk-bop in the restaurant jargon, literally “special rice”), which has this other kind of organ meat in it. Anyway, really glad you enjoyed it.
April 12th, 2021 at 4:06 am
One of your very best, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Look at all those LIKES. WOW!!!!!
April 9th, 2021 at 5:04 am
Lovely how they still remember you and miss you – Nice story.
April 11th, 2021 at 2:33 pm
Thanks, James. Glad you liked it.
April 9th, 2021 at 10:04 am
It’s wonderful to be remembered in such an unexpected way! Good on the owner.
April 11th, 2021 at 2:33 pm
Thanks, Dora. Yes, it was a pleasant surprise. I’ll have to bring her a present from the States next time I go. 🙂
April 9th, 2021 at 1:59 pm
What a heart-warming story. I love this: ‘appetite and nostalgia winding a tight braid inside me.’
April 11th, 2021 at 2:34 pm
Thanks! Glad you liked it and thanks for reading.
April 9th, 2021 at 7:47 pm
Very cool story. The first story leaves you wanting to know more. And then you tell the back story, which is awesome. And the photo, too! Neat!
April 11th, 2021 at 2:36 pm
I don’t usually do non-fiction, of course (not being called Friday Non-Fictioneers, after all), but I felt like I had to explain the context. 100 words is a small window to view through properly sometimes. Thanks for reading!
April 9th, 2021 at 11:45 pm
What a fabulous story, both of them. I bet you still miss the food. 😀
April 11th, 2021 at 2:37 pm
Thank you! And yes, I do miss it a lot. These days I get to go to Korea about once a year for business (pandemics excluded), so that helps at least.
April 10th, 2021 at 4:14 am
David I have tried commenting but WordPress will not let me.
April 10th, 2021 at 4:15 am
My comments included pigs trotters soup and tripe shops
April 11th, 2021 at 2:39 pm
Hi Michael, thanks for reading and sorry that WordPress was being obstinate. Glad you were able to comment finally. I’ve never heard of pigs trotters soup but sounds like a British thing. I’d love to do some traveling around Scotland and England and try all the local delicacies.
April 10th, 2021 at 12:26 pm
Wonderful you chose to share your life experiences. Great title. They say you can never go back. I disagree.
April 11th, 2021 at 2:40 pm
Thanks for reading. Glad you liked it. I guess you can never go back in time but you can often circle around in unexpected ways. You can turn back the page, but it’s fun to describe the surprise sequels of wonderful periods of our lives.
April 11th, 2021 at 5:49 pm
Well-said and you’re welcome 🙂
April 10th, 2021 at 12:48 pm
A lovely story. It’s good to be remembered. And the soup sounds good. Where I live we have our own version of blood sausage and are eating pig’s organs.
April 10th, 2021 at 2:28 pm
Thank you. I’m sure there are similar things around the world. It would be great to travel more to experience all the varieties. This particular dish has a lot of variety in different parts of Korea. I don’t like the one near Seoul at all, but I guess I got spoiled. 🙂
April 10th, 2021 at 7:48 pm
I remember when you were sending your stories from Korea. I’m a lover of Asian food. Not sure about the pig organs though since they’re not Kosher. 😉 Your story is the real deal. Nicely done.
April 11th, 2021 at 2:52 pm
Yeah, I remember starting FF in Korea in 2012. Actually the first picture prompt you used (this story here: https://greenwalledtower.com/2013/02/13/the-wrong-tourist-friday-fictioneers/) was just a few hundred feet from the restaurant in this story.
April 11th, 2021 at 2:54 am
Excellent piece, David, both parts.
April 11th, 2021 at 2:53 pm
Thanks! Glad you liked it.
April 11th, 2021 at 4:10 pm
Those long lines are there for a reason. I love this story. It reminded me of all the Asian cuisine, and the friends who run the shops, that I’ve been missing lately! I hope travel begins again soon.
April 12th, 2021 at 8:08 pm
Lovely story, and I suspected it was true. Just had that feel about it 🙂
April 20th, 2021 at 6:38 pm
Yes, I know what you mean. Glad you liked it and thanks for reading. 🙂
April 21st, 2021 at 12:31 pm
With that many people it’s so nice she recognized him
April 22nd, 2021 at 6:42 pm
Yeah, it really was. I was touched.
July 4th, 2021 at 6:26 am
This is very interesting 😋😋😋
July 5th, 2021 at 2:35 pm
Thanks! I’m glad you liked it.