Dae Jang-geum is Watching: Episode 1 Recap

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I don’t intentionally pick up dramas that place their central premise around food, but somehow I always end up finding myself watching or recapping a drama centered around it! Titled ‘Dae Jang-geum is Watching’, the drama stars Shin Dong-wook (Live), Kwon Yuri (Defendant), Lee Yeol-eum (My First Love), and Kim Hyun-joon (Hwarang) and is essentially about… you guessed it: FOOD!

Shin Dong-wook, Lee Yeol-eum, and Kim Hyun-joon play siblings who are descendants of the prestigious Dae Jang-geum, a palace court maid during the Joseon Dynasty who was extremely well-known for her cooking skills, palate, and sense of smell. The drama follows the siblings and their relationship with food as well as Shin Dong-wook’s interactions with Kwon Yuri.

I was already extremely excited when I heard the news about this drama. I was sold the moment I learned that Shin Dong-wook was going to be in it. Then I knew that I had to absolutely watch the drama once Kwon Yuri was revealed to be the female lead (she’s my bias in SNSD). I’ve been anticipating another project from Shin Dong-wook since his last project ‘Live’ so I’m excited to see him back, even if this drama is heavily different from what we saw from him in ‘Live.’

I would also like to note that this drama is quite different from your typical Korean dramas in the way that it’s not as high quality compared to others. The directing to ‘Dae Jang-geum is Watching’ is actually quite dry and uninteresting and consists of mainly one-shots. However, with that being said, I suggest you still give this drama a try for many other reasons.

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Some viewers might go into this drama thinking that it’s filmed on an extremely fancy budget with great editing and filming and cinematography. It’s actually not many of those things at all, but is still a great show to watch regardless. I just don’t want you to be surprised or even turned off by the production of this drama because there’s so much this drama offers that shouldn’t be overlooked. The drama also airs on Thursday’s at 11:10PM – being the first of its kind ever – so this could also partially be a reason for low production.

Regardless, I hope you enjoy this drama and my recaps 🙂

Dae Jang-geum is Watching Episode 1: Dae Jang-geum, Oh My Grandma!

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The episode starts off with youngest sibling Han Jung-sik (Kim Hyun-joon) cooking some delicious bibimbap in the kitchen. Once he finishes cooking, he delivers the food to the dining table where the rest of his family sits and waits for him. They’re intrigued and fascinated by his amazing cooking skills and decide to dip in. However, Mom recommends that eldest sibling Han San-hae (Shin Dong-wook) eat first.

After giving the dish a try, San-hae prepares to list the ingredients that were used, but middle sibling Han Jin-mi (Lee Yeol-eum) beats him to it. The two then engage in a battle of identifying the ingredients used only for San-hae to be the one to have guessed the ingredients correctly.

As San-hae relishes in his win, he stares at the drawing of Dae Jang-geum hung up on the wall not too far away from them. The drama then introduces to us the history of the well-known and prestigious Dae Jang-geum: she was a palace court maid from the Joseon Dynasty known for her great cooking skills as well as perfect sense of smell and palate. Over the generations and years, her cooking skills and recipes were passed on to her descendants.

Our Han family too are descendants of Dae Jang-geum and each sibling is gifted with multiple skills:

  • Eldest sibling Han San-hae: Identifying ingredients and knowing the exact amount used in each dish
  • Middle sibling Han Jin-mi: Has a perfect and sharp sense of smell
  • Maknae Han Jung-sik: Has the best cooking skills and can use any ingredient in his dishes

To utilize each of their talents as best as possible, it is the family rule that the family must share at least one meal together everyday. Let’s see how well our family lives up to this rule. Puahaha!

San-hae is out at a karaoke session with his co-workers, but he rushes home so that he and his siblings can share some late dinner together. Jin-mi leaves her dance practice with her girl group (Momoland) to also rush home. As they make their way home, they both encounter Bok Seung-ah (Kwon Yuri) who has just bought some peaches from a merchant and is sharing them with passerbys. Seung-ah merely manages to dodge Jin-mi, but her luck doesn’t hold out for too long. San-hae bumps into Seung-ah as he runs home, causing both him, her, and the peaches to all fall. NOOO, NOT THE PEACHES!

Seung-ah panics to find all her peaches and wants San-hae to help her, but he has other plans. He has a family rule that he has to follow and uphold so he runs away as fast as he can. Lol. Back at home, Jung-sik utilizes his cooking skills to cook some supper for his two siblings. It’s another night of bickering, fighting, peach allergies for San-hae, and informal talk until Mom calls to check in on the three siblings. The trio quickly rush to the dinner table to FaceTime their mom, lol.

That night, Seung-ah has a short phone call with her mother. Both Seung-ah and her mother are excited for Seung-ah’s new job since Seung-ah’s quit her athletic career. Seung-ah sleeps early that night to get some rest. There’s no knowing what her first day of work will be like.

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The next morning, San-hae arrives at work with his team member Won Bin. He enters the elevator first only to hear someone desperately plea to keep the elevator opened. When San-hae realizes that this woman is none other than Seung-ah and her three boxes of peaches, he quickly closes the elevator in fear that he’ll suffer another allergic reaction. LOL. Seung-ah grows upset and confused at the sight of San-hae and recalls their interaction the night before. She quickly hurries so that she won’t be late on her first day of work.

Seung-ah enters the office where she meets Team Manager Lee Na-young and the rest of her co-workers. It takes a while for Manager Lee to finally notice and introduce Seung-ah to everyone else; she had assumed that Seung-ah was just there to sell peaches. Lol. Manager Lee shows Seung-ah her desk and gives her directions to wait in the conference room for her new trainer. She suggests that Seung-ah’s trainer can be Team Leader Won as she wants Team Leader Han (aka San-hae) all to herself. She’s a little creepy and weird, lol.

San-hae also arrives at the office and finds his desk accompanied by a peach. He throws the peach away (without using his hands of course) and is called to meet Manager Lee. He heads to the conference room assuming Manager Lee is there waiting for him, but he encounters an eager and anxious Seung-ah instead.

When the two recall their memories of each other, they formally exchange greetings. San-hae is the team leader of the sales team at the company while Seung-ah is the new hire. Before San-hae sets out, he is informed by Seung-ah that he is now her trainer. She follows after him. Hehe. Meanwhile, Manager Lee waits at her office for San-hae, but instead she’s greeted by Won Bin who has stopped by to train Seung-ah. Manager Lee quickly realizes that San-hae is training Seung-ah instead of Won Bin and panics at the mix-up.

Back at home, Jin-mi expresses her excitement in possibly getting to debut in a new girl group. She has high expectations for Jung-sik’s dinner later on when she returns home. Jung-sik himself gets right to cooking with ingredients sent from Mom. Today’s main dish consists of pork.

San-hae and Seung-ah head to a dance class to meet up with some middle-age ladies. After cooking them some delicious ramen noodles to their liking, the two sit down with two ladies to discuss a contract. One of the ladies expresses her interest in buying a car since she’s exhausted from having to take a taxi to dance class so San-hae heads to his car to grab some information for her.

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While San-hae is away, Seung-ah sparks up a conversation with the women. At first things go well and the ladies are fine with Seung-ah. However, when Seung-ah mistakens one of the ladies to be pregnant, the lady gets upset and runs out of the lobby. San-hae returns to the scene confused and unaware at what just happened. The other lady cancels her contract with San-hae and no longer wants to be affiliated with him because of Seung-ah.

As a way to recruit the same two ladies into liking them again, Seung-ah at first joins the dance class and endlessly compliments the lady whose feelings she had hurt. The lady doesn’t buy any of her antics at first, but eventually warms up to her thanks to San-hae who also joins the rest of the class in dancing. The two eventually succeed in winning over the two ladies again thanks to their hard work and effort. Lol. A good learning lesson for Seung-ah!

Back at the kitchen, Jung-sik finalizes things for dinner: boiled pork. He shows viewers how to prepare for and cook the pork. Meanwhile, Jin-mi receives unfortunate news: she isn’t debuting in the girl group. Her entertainment agency has run out of money and she’s too “old” to debut with the same members she’s been training with all these years.

However, this only means freedom for Jin-mi and she can now eat whatever she wants. Without having to worry about any more diets, she visits the nearest convenience store to fill up her stomach. Though she widely enjoys the ramen noodles she’s eating and manages to attract two audience members, the news of not debuting still saddens her and she begins to tear up.

After a long day of hard work, San-hae and Seung-ah decide to grab some food. They head to a noodle restaurant, but order some pork to grill and eat instead. While Seung-ah worries about accommodating to San-hae’s needs or the hole in her socks, San-hae is more concerned about the food itself. Since food is very important to him, he carefully assesses and savors every taste in both the side and main dish. It’s quite obvious that he has a lot of knowledge about cooking, but also many pet peeves when it comes to food.

As if pork wasn’t enough, the two eat some noodles afterwards. After finishing all the food (now I’m kind of hungry myself lol), San-hae pays for the both of them and then heads out first. He gives the restaurant a score of 3 and a half. LOL. He has high standards. Of course, nothing is ever free and Seung-ah is to pay San-hae back for the food.

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Jung-sik finishes his recipe for today’s dinner: mustard sandwich. Using the boiled pork that he cooked earlier, he makes a sandwich using other ingredients. The youngest of the sibling anticipates his sister and brother’s return home. Meanwhile, Seung-ah and San-hae join the rest of their team at a company dinner later on that evening. Seung-ah ends up being the bartender and has a little bit too much fun. She accidentally throws some wet napkins into both San-hae and Manager Lee’s faces and they’re both not happy.

However, San-hae has other things to worry about. He rushes home and waits with Jung-sik for Jin-mi who’s a little late than usual. They congratulate her when she arrives home assuming she was accepted to debut with her girl group. Though Jin-mi doesn’t mention anything about it, the two brothers gain an idea of what happened when she later on starts to cry in front of them at the dinner table.

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Instead of asking her what she’s crying about, the two brothers cheer her up by feeding her some food. And just like that, Jin-mi cheers up and a smile is plastered on her face. Her brothers surely do know her best.

My Thoughts:

This first episode was a whirlwind of many different things. Though the premise is simple and quirky, I wasn’t so sure what the execution of everything was going to be like. Upon watching the first episode, I have to say that it wasn’t bad. This premiere episode was decent overall.

That final scene to this episode was what I believed best captured the heart and personality of this show: three funny, ridiculous, and adorable siblings just living their own lives and doing their own things but never forgetting to spend time with each other by sharing a meal together everyday. It was so adorable watching Jung-sik and San-hae cheer up a sad and sulky Jin-mi. Though they might bicker and fight often (like all siblings do), they also know each other best and genuinely care for the wellbeing of one another. For our three siblings, family love is the best love of all.

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Since this drama is also about food, I think there might be comparisons and similarities between this drama and the ‘Let’s Eat’ series. It’s not that I’m actively comparing the two dramas, but I do admit that some scenes in here reminded me of ‘Let’s Eat.’ It’s in the simple ways that San-hae has so much knowledge about food, eating, and cooking or the way the episode has the scenes with food porn. Though there are obvious differences and Jung-sik and San-hae are very different from Goo Dae-young of ‘Let’s Eat’, I can also see how they’re quite similar (in a good way).

This drama is different enough though and is enough of its own drama that I’m not constantly reminded of ‘Let’s Eat.’ Sure, there is food porn in here and all the food looks delicious and this is yet another drama you should avoid watching unless you have food or have already eaten. However, the role that food has in here is quite different than the role that food played in ‘Let’s Eat.’ In ‘Dae Jang-geum is Watching’, our siblings have a much more serious and formal relationship with food given that they are descendants of THE Dae Jang-geum. They’re held up to much higher standards because of this family history so while food does bond our characters to one another, there’s so much more history and reasoning behind that. In a way, it kind of feels like our three siblings are obligated and required to eat food together because of their family history and not because they simply want to.

It’s because of this family rule that I think will make the show interesting in the future. We already saw San-hae and Jin-mi struggle to make it home in time to share the last meal of the day together. I wonder what will happen if one (or two) of our siblings fail to meet up to eat that meal. It was mentioned in this episode that there would be severe consequences. Is it bad of me if I said that I want San-hae to miss a meal with his siblings just so we can see what these consequences are? Just once San-hae, just once.

Seung-ah is your typical hard-working, charming, sweet, and kind female lead. We learned a little bit that she has an athletic background, but quit for some unknown reason. I hope we can dig into her story a little bit more. I’m also looking forward to her interactions and moments with San-hae. The two had bad first impressions of each other, but will eventually get to know each other better thanks to the miracle that is work.

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While I found their learning experience at the dance class humorous, I was also a bit disappointed and saddened by their actions. I understand that customers and contracts are important especially when working in the auto industry, but I wished their intentions were a little bit more genuine and sincere. At one point, it seemed like San-hae and Seung-ah were trying to win over the upset lady not because they were genuinely apologetic for Seung-ah’s hurtful comment but because they wanted her interest again. That just rubbed me off the wrong way and it made me a little sad watching that. Regardless, I still like Seung-ah and San-hae, but maybe it’ll be a good learning lesson for them to be both genuine as well as respectful in their respective positions.

This first episode was charming and quirky and nothing too over the top. It’s a simple and breezy watch and it definitely won’t be something hard to catch up on. Along with the fact that only one episode airs every week (which makes things easier for me as a recapper), I’m generally just impressed with the premise, execution, and cast so far.

Bonus: Extra screenshots from this episode! Also, I apologize for the lack of activity. I’ve been feeling sick the past few days and it doesn’t seem like I’ll be getting better any time soon so there might not be as many posts (this recap alone took me a few days to finish LOL). I apologize for that!

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