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Forget ‘chimmeliers,’ Baemin has crowned Korea’s first tteokbokki master

Nov 18,2019


Food delivery platform Baedal Minjok, known as Baemin, is no stranger to mixing food and culture. The company is famous for its annual “chimmelier,” or chicken sommelier, contest held in 2017 and 2018, and this year it took things one step further, hosting a music and food festival with Mystic Story in May.

Last week, Baemin returned with another culinary contest, Korea’s first Tteokbokki Masters Day. In Korea, Nov. 11 is best known as the romantic Pepero Day, but it is also Garaetteok Day, a day celebrating rice cakes. This year, Baemin decided to celebrate the date with tteokbokki, spicy rice cakes, by holding a competition that aimed to find the country’s top tteokbokki expert.

A total of 500 people took part in the competition at Sejong University in eastern Seoul on Nov. 11. Of the participants, 250 had passed a preliminary online test, which a total of 570,000 people took part in. The winners were each allowed to bring one person with them, taking the total number up to 500.

In the end, 26-year-old office worker Shin In-seon from Gyeonggi emerged victorious and was named the tteokbokki master.

As well as the formal competition, Baemin offered a range of tteokbokki-related games for people to enjoy and a tteokbokki buffet.

The participants ranged from high school students to middle-aged people who came along with their children. A lot of participants chose to wear red, the color of tteokbokki.

“I came here with the expectation to win the competition,” said ambitious 17-year-old high school student Jeong So-yeong, who came with a friend. “I’m a huge fan of tteokbokki. I eat it three to four times a week. I think this competition will mean that Nov. 11 reminds me of tteokbokki just as much as Pepero in the future.”

Another pair of female high school friends enjoyed the celebrities who made appearances.

“The games here are fun, and it’s wonderful to see Celeb Five in person,” said 17-year-old Hwang Soo-bin.

Celeb Five is a girl group made up of comedians like Song Eun-i and Ahn Young-mi. They staged a performance at the event.

“The way to differentiate tteokbokki of different brands is based on the taste of the soup,” explained aspiring master Hwang. “Some are salty while others aren’t. Teokbokki with both salty and sweet flavors are the most delicious.”

After filling up at the buffet that offered a range of tteokbokki from different brands like Jaws Food, School Food and Young Dabang, contestants took part in written and practical tests to assess their knowledge of anything and everything tteokbokki, including history, brands and even celebrities who have modeled for tteokbokki ads.

The 60-question test included: “Which celebrities is not the primary model of a tteokbokki brand?” and “Which brand sells the shortest tteokbokki?”

Except for a few entry-level questions on the first page, the test quickly proved that only a true expert had a chance of earning the coveted master crown.

During the practical part of the test, participants tasted tteokbokki and had to name which brand each were from, while in the listening test they had to guess the ASMR sound of someone eating tteokbokki.

Responses to the questions varied. Some argued the answers were centered on tteokbokki brands that supported the event, while others said they found the questions interesting.

Shin, who came all the way from Ansan, Gyeonggi, to take part in the contest, ultimately emerged victorious.

“Nov. 11 is referred to as Garaetteok Day, and it’s also Farmer’s Day,” said Shin after receiving the crown. “I’m really grateful [for the reward] on such a meaningful day.”

The prize included 365 Baemin coupons that could be used to buy tteokbokki or other dishes. Each coupon is worth 15,000 won ($13).

“We organized this event to contribute to the development of domestic food culture in a Baemin style by finding and recognizing food experts who are fond of specific foods in a serious yet witty way,” said a spokesperson for Baemin.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]