this feels like an odd question to ask in these times, but it’s one i lead with anyway: how are you doing? are you feeding yourself, are you sleeping, are you holding up? are you as starved for human touch as i am? are you worried for the world and angry at the government and wishing you were elsewhere? have you been baking bread?
last week, i became fixated on the idea of figuring out the bing recipe at majordomo — it’s fluffy but sturdy with a bit of a chew and nice flavor. at majordomo, you order bing based on the thing you want to eat it with, whether it’s a chickpea hozon dip or thin slices of pork neck and grilled pineapple laid out on a plate by a puddle of hot sauce or a brunch platter with maple coffee butter and roe on egg salad and thick slices of bacon. my one gripe with any of the bing options across the momoverse is that they never build enough bing into any of their prices, so we always have to order more and pay for more.
which don’t get me wrong — i don’t mind paying for the bing at all because who says bread should be free, but i do mind knowing that i’m paying more for extra bing. it’s a weird mental thing, like the egg in ramen thing — if you serve ramen, build the price of the fucking egg into the ramen. don’t let me know i’m paying $2.50 for an egg and just build it into the price. this is the hill i will die on.
so, anyway, i spent last week working on this bing recipe, and maybe you’re scoffing, thinking, how the hell does anyone figure anything out in one week?! i can’t say this is truly like the bing at majordomo, but it’s still damn good bing, and i am satisfied with it. i am also bored with tinkering with this for the sake of sharing a recipe, so here it is.
this bing is very forgiving and very flexible. the measurements are rough — i did buy a food scale, but i decided that the fun thing about bing is that it’s not about precision. i make modifications to this as i go, and i’ll keep tinkering with it in the future, but here are the rough measurements i start with when i make bing.
1 cup lukewarm water
2 tbsp sugar
1 ½ tsp yeast
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
it’s been six years since the tragic sinking of the sewol ferry on 2014 april 16, and, if you aren’t familiar with the incident, i highly suggest you watch the short [oscar-nominated] documentary, in the absence. you can watch it in full for free on youtube, and it’s only thirty minutes long. i’m sure you’ve thirty minutes to spare.
much has been written about how korea’s swift, effective response to covid-19 was because of korea’s experience with sars/mers, but i’ve no doubt that the embarrassment that was the korean government’s handling of the sinking and its aftermath also play a part. as the ferry sank, the blue house basically did nothing. three hundred people died in the sinking, and most of those victims were high school students on a school trip to jejudo. of the 170 survivors, over half of those rescues were conducted by fishing boats and commercial vessels, not by the korean coast guard, with private divers spending days after the sinking to try to find any potential survivors. one of those divers died by suicide months later because of trauma brought on by those long dives.
the sewol ferry tragedy was one of the key incidents that led to the impeachment of park geun-hye, who was nowhere to be seen as the ferry sank. she showed up at the disaster control center late, her previous whereabouts unknown, and she was more concerned about the optics than anything else. i tried to find the article about this, but i distinctly remember that she had survivors brought back to the control center for a photo op, survivors who had been connected with family and okayed to go home.
there’s a lot more about this tragedy that is truly rage-inducing because the government continued to fail the families who had lost their children. there still aren’t clear answers about why the ferry sank; there are probably layers of corruption that will never be uncovered. some justice was meted out, like when it came to the captain of the ferry who abandoned ship, but it all seems woefully lacking in the face of so much loss.
please watch the documentary.
like i said, this bing recipe is flexible and forgiving. you can use either active dry yeast or instant yeast, and you can use all purpose flour, bread flour, any combination thereof. you can play with the amounts of sugar and salt, and you could omit the olive oil altogether if you wanted — you may need to add a little more water then, if you find your dough to be drier than you’d like. to be honest, i wonder if i could up the water or oil in this, if that would give me a softer dough. i wonder if i even know what i’m talking about, what i’m doing, if i’m even qualified to put together a recipe. i wonder if i’ll ever stop second-guessing or doubting myself.
anyway, so this recipe — you can use the same amount of yeast whether you’re using active dry or instant; i’ve made it with both. the only difference would be how you bring the ingredients together — like, if you’re using active dry yeast, dissolve your sugar in water, then sprinkle your yeast over that. give it a little stir and set aside for 10-30 minutes, until the mixture is nice and foamy.
while you wait for it to foam, combine your flour and salt. i like making a little well in the center, where i pour in the foamy yeast mixture and the olive oil.
if you’re using instant yeast, combine all your dry ingredients, make a little well in the center, and pour in your water and olive oil. make sure your water isn’t too hot. you should be able to stick a finger in very comfortably.
sometimes, i want to know why youtube suggests to me the videos it does, and, last night, i watched a video of a vlogger about her weight loss. she was korean and had gone from like 70-ish kilos to 50-ish kilos at 168 cm tall (i couldn’t convert those numbers for you without google even if i wanted to, but i guess, as far as height goes, i’m 172 cm and 5’8”), and she, at least, seemed to have gone about losing weight gradually in a healthy manner, not using some freak diet.
there’s a lot i could say about diets and weight and bodies; i’m not thin, have never been thin, will never be thin; and i was intensely body-shamed for over 15 years. even now, i still get the shaming because, again, i am not thin and i love food, which has always been couched as the obvious, shameful thing — of course, i love food; i wouldn’t be so big if i didn’t love food. whenever i bring up wanting to go visit korea again, to move there for a year or so, i’m told that i’d need to lose weight first, remember what happened the last time i was in korea? remember how i fled the country ten days early because i couldn’t stand how koreans would openly judge me for my body? remember that?
sometimes, i think my whole attachment to korea is masochism at its finest because koreans have never loved (or liked) me as much as i wanted to be liked by them. i still tend to seek more acceptance from korean koreans than i do from korean americans, and i couldn’t tell you exactly why that is, why i’ve generally wanted to have the korean part of me validated more than the american. maybe it’s because i know i’ll never pass for white and will always have my american-ness questioned, despite having been born and raised here. maybe it’s because koreans have rejected me for so long, because my body has never been considered acceptable by them — like i said, maybe it’s masochism, this desire to be accepted by the people who have hurt me most with their open cruelty and mockery.
that’s not why i brought up this youtube video, though. the vlogger closes her video by saying, “i’m not saying you have to lose weight to be pretty. it’s more that you can look prettier by losing weight.” she says that she hopes we, her viewers, can catch the difference in nuance between the two statements, and i think, yeah, sure, there’s a difference there, but that doesn’t stop either mentality from being colossally fucked up. you don’t have to lose weight to be pretty, and you don’t have to lose weight to be prettier. you’re pretty as you are.
i like to start bringing the dough together from the outside-in. i mix and knead my dough in a wide metal bowl because my countertop isn’t the greatest, not the kind that i feel comfortable kneading dough on, and i use just my hand. it’s a giant peeve of mine when recipes assume that everyone has a stand mixer. kitchenaid mixers are $300, and not everyone has that money or counter space.
with one hand holding the bowl down, i sweep the other around in circles along the edges, gradually mixing the flour with the water/oil. it’s not that the dough needs to be handled gently; i just like this method, though, when i’m impatient, i’ll just get in there and start mushing everything together. knead the dough for 10-15 minutes, pushing it out and folding it back over onto itself to help the gluten form. if your dough is too dry, add a tablespoon of water. if it’s too wet, add a tablespoon of flour. don’t be too hasty, though, because the dough might just be needing a little more work to come together.
when your dough feels nice and elastic, shape it into a ball, and place it in a lightly-oiled bowl. cover with plastic wrap. leave in a warm place to rise until doubled, roughly 2-ish hours. the first time i made this, i started my dough at 11 pm and decided i was way too tired to wait and cook my bing, so i left it to rise on a chair in front of my window (it was cold).
when your dough is ready, remove the plastic wrap and set it aside to reuse later. punch your dough down, knead it together lightly, then portion it out into even-ish pieces depending on how big/thick you want your bing to be. i like to make mine in two sizes, making a few thinner and bigger so i can use them to wrap around spam and cheese and eggs with tomatoes, as well a few thicker and smaller ones to get more of that flatbread-y texture and feel.
shape each piece into a ball, pinching down the seams. place the rounds, seams-side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, but don’t squish them up against each together. cover with the same plastic wrap from your first rise, and let the little rounds rest for 30-ish minutes. when they’re almost ready, heat a pan over medium heat. roll out your first round, or oil-stretch it — either method works, but i prefer the evenness of rolling. melt a pat of butter on your pan (make sure the pan isn’t too hot), then start cooking away!
next week, i plan to get on a plane and fly out to los angeles. i’ve been grappling with tremendous amounts of guilt over this because it feels irresponsible and selfish, though it is the best thing i can do for myself right now. if you’re new here, i live with major depression and anxiety that come paired with suicidal thinking, and i do not have the confidence that i will be able to spend another month alone in quarantine, no partner or family or animals.
that feels like such weakness to say out loud. it feels like such pathetic cowardice to admit defeat, to say that i can’t do this, i can’t, because i know that i have pushed myself past my breaking point and held out as long as i could. by the time i fly out, i’ll have been isolated for almost six weeks without physical contact with people, without my dogs, and i’m a little amazed i’m still here, still intact kind of, but i can feel myself splintering. for the first time in my life, i’m trying to take steps to protect myself before i hit the point where i’m so close to taking my own life, i’m blinded by sheer terror that this will finally be it. instead, now, i’m nauseatingly anxious from guilt.
living with a suicidal brain during normal times already feels fraught, but, during a crisis, it takes on different tones. like, i am not afraid of getting sick; i couldn’t really care less if i did fatally contract this virus; but i do care deeply about being a carrier and potentially getting someone else sick. just because i don’t value my life doesn’t mean i don’t value the lives of others, especially that of my parents, who would still much rather have me risk flying across the country so i’m there with them and my dogs instead of here alone.
and this maybe is the great duality of living with a depressive, suicidal brain, this simultaneous need to protect yourself and reduced regard for being alive. being suicidal isn’t necessarily the same as wanting to die; it’s not wanting to be alive anymore — or, at least, that’s how it manifests for me. wrestling with my suicidal brain is trying to convince it that it’s worth staying alive, that it’s worth pushing through all this pain and exhaustion, that it’s worth holding onto hope even if i despise hope because hope feels like weakness.
i hate talking about this shit so much, especially because i’m sure it’ll come back to bite me in the ass, both professionally and personally, but i’ve been living with this, and it’s been occupying my brain, and, if there’s one thing i learned last year, it’s that the non-suicidal really have no idea how to talk to or treat people like me who live with this. this substack was actually supposed to be about a korean drama i’ve been loving, but, after i changed my flight over the weekend, i think a huge part of me just relaxed, knowing that i won’t have to keep doing this alone anymore, which meant that my depression really unlocked and paralyzed me for a few days — and, so, here it is. drama talk next time.
i cook all my bing in one go, eat one or two while cooking, then wrap the rest in foil and refrigerate to reheat and eat over the new few days.