All About Minari, the Peppery, Bright, Wonderful Vegetable – Sam Sontag

If you haven’t seen Minari yet, drop everything now and go watch it. Writer-director Lee Isaac Chung’s award-winning semi-autobiographical film is a profoundly moving tale of a multigenerational Korean American family setting down roots in the Arkansas Ozarks of the 1980s. The father, Jacob (played by Steven Yeun), dreams of success as a farmer after a decade of grueling labor in the poultry industry in California. But the move strains the family’s bonds, particularly on the arrival of Jacob’s mother-in-law Soonja (played by the legendary Youn Yuh-jung), from South Korea. Amidst the current wave of anti-Asian hate crimes across the country, part of a long legacy of violence toward, and erasure of, Asian communities and identities within the broader American story, this film is all the more powerful and urgent.

Once you have finished watching Minari, though, the next thing you should do is eat it. The film’s namesake, which halmoni Soonja plants on the bank of a stream early in the film, is a hollow-stemmed, leafy vegetable with a green, peppery flavor and a hint of bitterness. As director Chung explains, “[t]he interesting thing about it is that it’s a plant that will grow very strongly in its second season after it has died and come back. So there’s an element of that in the film…. It’s a poetic plant in a way for me.” It is also delicious. If this is the first you’re hearing about minari (or Minari), let this serve as an introduction.


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