Banchan: 'Drunken Rice' is No More

Buried in this JoongAng Daily piece, it looks like the government has backed off on promoting makgeolli’s new punk rock name, “Drunken Rice.” Turned out there was an instant public outcry from both Koreans and non-Koreans. Basically, it went along the lines of, “Why do you think foreigners are so stupid they can’t pronounce ‘makgeolli?'”

No word yet on if they’re going to back off on topokki. And even though Drunken Rice is getting buried, the government still wants to have some standardized spelling by the end of June.

I don’t think anyone understands why the government feels this need to dumb down Korean products for the overseas markets. As the guys on Korean Taco Party commented on Twitter, let the food speak for itself.

I guess the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has been inspired by the success of other ethnic dishes introduced to westerners using the same method, along with this odd obsession with translating Korean foods into their literal English forms when the original Korean words would work just fine.

What? You don’t know? What about these popular items?

Raw fish slapped on vinegared rice with green horseradish

Fermented wheat powder with yeast mixed until glutinous and baked

Flat noodle substance layered with tomatoes and cheese

Drunken cock

Rotten milk curd

Sturgeon eggs

Little Spanish dishes

Thai-style noodles with coconut milk

Seafood marinated in an acidic liquid

Pita stuffed with rotating meat

Soybean curd (oh yeah, they already use that description in Korea in English)

Ground beef sandwich

Flatbread with toppings

Fizzy chemicals

Liquefied chicken in nugget form

Fried potatoes with extracted meat juice and curdled dairy

American mass-produced alcoholic carbonated water

Lips and asses in tube form

Feel free to list the real names of these or add your own in the comments.

Okay, and now the news and detritus from the web.

  • Royal court cuisine is starting to be served in blue collar cafeterias and universities
  • Not Korean but close and cool: Sushi push pops
  • Patty Patty — yet another trendy burger joint in Seoul
  • Fatman found some groovy cheap Hanjeongsik
  • Reading one of the reviews of this Korean restaurant in Santa Clara, CA, I’d like to mention that this move to make Korean food sound better to English ears can backfire devastatingly when trying to pretty it up. I’ve seen this in restaurants in Korea, too. Don’t call Budae Jjigae “Sausage Stew!!!” It’s a classic bait-and-switch. Yes, technically hot dogs are sausage. But when an American sees “sausage” on a menu, the diner’s expecting something other than a hot dog. Call it for what it is and be proud, dammit!
  • I was told by a high end galbi restaurant manager that Koreans don’t like what we call “flavor” in their beef. They only like grain-fed beef and can tell if any of the green stuff has ever touched their dead cow’s lips–and will complain. But if this New Zealand article is true, Koreans may well be discovering the joys of grass-fed beef.
  • This review of yet another Korean restaurant in Georgia shows, again, that Americans ain’t afraid of spicy food. They like it that way. Korean food promoters take note.
  • The Korean embassy in Oman is hosting a Korean food festival.
  • Kiss My Kimchi is being a brave man, attempting to make a list I can’t even start yet–The Top Ten Restaurants in Seoul.
  • Roboseyo tackles the food issue in the second part of his series on Who Owns a Culture.

Banchan: Hey Waiter, My Rice is Drunk!

Sorry about that Chicken Festival


6 thoughts on “Banchan: 'Drunken Rice' is No More”

  1. seouleats May 28, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    I think the article misquoted what the purpose of the names are.
    1. The official name is still Makgeolli.
    2. The English name of the drink is Korean Rice Wine (Beer was on the list of suggested names, but it wasn’t popular.)
    3. Drunken Rice is the “pet name” and the judges were told that it is only for marketing purposes and it is not the official English name. Think of it as the byline for the drink.

    The judges were not allowed to suggest names. This was a contest run by the Agro-Trade Center of Korea and the nicknames were suggested by the general public. The winner got a cash prize.

    I actually liked the name Takju, but Takju refers to a different drink and it wasn’t eligible.

    • Dan, at least you can tailor your comments to the original article, instead of posting the same comment on multiple places. You put the exact same thing on FatManSeoul.
      The original article maybe wasn’t as clear as possible, but there was no “misquote” and did actually say (as reflected in both the posts on and here) that “drunken rice” was intended as a nickname. We all get it. But we still think it was dumb, and apparently lots of people out there, both foreign and Korean, agreed.

  2. Joe! You’ve got to have been to way more restaurants than I have. Go make that top ten list! Of course It could be that I’ve just been to a lot of really bad places and thereby don’t even bother to review them unless its so bad that bile starts rise.

    • I do the same thing. I don’t review mediocre or even bad restaurants
      unless they fit an overall pattern or are just dangerously bad. I said
      that you got balls because I know I’d get in trouble as soon as I
      attempted a top ten list. I like your list, though, and I would pick the
      same #1.


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