Shin Gwangha – Cooking Meat on an Iron Pan

NanrohoeShin Gwangha (申光河, 신광하, 1729-1796) was a Chosun literati scholar. He was of the Goryeong Shin Clan (高靈申氏, 고령신씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Muncho (文初, 문초); and his pen name (號, 호) was Jintaek (震澤, 진택). He was particularly fond of nature and wrote many poems on the mountains and rivers of Korea, especially Mount Baekdu (白頭山, 백두산) and Mount Geumgang (金剛山, 금강산).

In the poem below, Shin Gwangha describes a type of culinary practice where people gathered around an iron pan and cooked meat or meat broth to eat. This was called “meeting around a charcoal brazier,” or Nanrohoe (煖爐會, 난로회), or alternatively “meeting around an iron pan,” Jeoncheolhoe (氈鐵會, 전철회). This scene is very common in the Korean restaurants and is closely identified with Korean culinary culture today; however, it was surprisingly foreign in 18th Century Chosun, as Shin Gwangha hints at in the poem. The Nanrohoe originates from a culinary practice in Beijing (北京, 북경, Bukgyeong). According to the Various Records of the Years and Times (歲時雜記, 세시잡기, Seshijapgi), a Chinese work which details different customs in China, the Nanrohoe took place on the First day of the Tenth Month on the Lunar Calendar.

詠氈鐵煮肉 영전철자육

Cooking Meat on an Iron Pan

截肉排氈鐵 절육배전철
分曹擁火爐 분조옹화로
煎膏略回轉 전고략회전
放筯已虛無 방저이허무
擧國仍成俗 거국잉성속
新方近出胡 신방근출호
衣冠甘餔餟 의관감포체
君子遠庖廚 군자원포주

Cutting the meat and arranging them on the iron pan;
Dividing the group and putting them around the charcoal brazier;
Boiling the grease and at approximate times turning the meat over;
I extend my chopsticks and already there is nothing!
All over the nation, already, a custom has been made:
A new method has recently come from Barbaric Chinese.
Wearing a Gat (갓), I eat sweet things:
If one is a gentleman (君子, 군자), he should keep away from the slaughter house.

Notes:

  • The last line is a reference to the Liang Hui Wang I Chapter (梁惠王上篇, 양해왕상편, Yang Hae Wang) of Mencius (孟子, 맹자):

曰: “是心足以王矣. 百姓皆以王為愛也, 臣固知王之不忍也.”
왈: “시심족이왕의. 백성개이왕위애야, 신고지왕지불인야.”

Then Mencius said, ‘The heart seen in this is sufficient to carry you to the royal sway. The people all supposed that your Majesty grudged the animal, but your servant knows surely, that it was your Majesty’s not being able to bear the sight, which made you do as you did.’

王曰: “然. 誠有百姓者. 齊國雖褊小, 吾何愛一牛?
왕알: “연. 성유백성자. 제국수편소, 오하애일우?
即不忍其觳觫, 若無罪而就死地, 故以羊易之也.”
즉불인기곡속, 약무죄이취사지. 고이양역지야.”

The king said, ‘You are right. And yet there really was an appearance of what the people condemned. But though Qi be a small and narrow State, how should I grudge one ox? Indeed it was because I could not bear its frightened appearance, as if it were an innocent person going to the place of death, that therefore I changed it for a sheep.’

曰: “王無異於百姓之以王為愛也. 以小易大, 彼惡知之? 王若隱其無罪而就死地, 則牛羊何擇焉?”
왈: “왕무이어백성지이왕위애야. 이소역대, 피오지지? 왕약은기무죄이취사지, 즉우양하택언?”

Mencius pursued, ‘Let not your Majesty deem it strange that the people should think you were grudging the animal. When you changed a large one for a small, how should they know the true reason? If you felt pained by its being led without guilt to the place of death, what was there to choose between an ox and a sheep?

王笑曰: “是誠何心哉? 我非愛其財. 而易之以羊也, 宜乎百姓之謂我愛也.”
왕소왈: “시성하심재? 아비애기재. 이역지이양야, 의호백성지위아애야.”

The king laughed and said, ‘What really was my mind in the matter? I did not grudge the expense of it, and changed it for a sheep! There was reason in the people’s saying that I grudged it.’

曰: “無傷也, 是乃仁術也, 見牛未見羊也. 君子之於禽獸也, 見其生, 不忍見其死.
왈: “무상야. 시내인술야. 견우미견양야. 군자지어금수야. 견기생, 불인견기사.
聞其聲, 不忍食其肉. 是以君子遠庖廚也.”
문기성, 불인식기육. 시이군자원포주야.”

‘There is no harm in their saying so,’ said Mencius. ‘Your conduct was an artifice of benevolence. You saw the ox, and had not seen the sheep. So is the superior man affected towards animals, that, having seen them alive, he cannot bear to see them die; having heard their dying cries, he cannot bear to eat their flesh. Therefore he keeps away from his slaughter-house and cook-room.’

Translation from James Legge.

Characters:

  • 氈(전) – Rug or carpet (毛氈, 모전).
  • 擁(옹) – To stick in (끼다).
  • 筯(저) – Chopsticks (젓가락).
  • 餔(포) – To eat (먹다)
  • 餟(철) – To carry out rites (제사 지내다).
  • 庖廚(포주) – Kitchen (부엌); slaughter-house (푸주).
  • 觳觫(곡속) – Shaking from being afraid.
2 comments
  1. Sam Kim said:

    I was just reading this passage of the Maengja coincidentally. Haha. So is the author expressing disdain for this way of cooking?

    • 歸源 said:

      I thought he was trying to be funny in the fourth line (放筯已虛無 방저이허무).

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