Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Boosyuh Boosyuh (뿌셔뿌셔)

In seventh grade, I was in the school play. We had rehearsals every day after school, and at first we'd mostly eat snacks out of the vending machines. I remember eating a lot of Famous Amos cookies and Tato Skins. I'm not sure when it started exactly, or who started it, but for a while we were making our own snack and bringing it to rehearsals. Although I can't remember the snack's name or if we even named it, I do remember how we made it. We would take Kool-Ade, put it in a paper bag with (a lot of) sugar, shake it up, and then eat it. So ghetto Pixy Stix or Fun Dip, basically. We'd sit backstage waiting for our scenes and just lap this stuff up, our tongues bright blue or purple or whatever, and pucker our lips with every hit because only losers put enough sugar in to completely cloak the tang of the Kool-Ade. Eating that snack was ritualistic and communal. I can't ever remember eating it alone. We would eat it in a circle, discussing Sugar Ray's latest album or Adam Sandler movies or telling jokes from the inexhaustible dirty joke cloud that hangs above all middle school boys' conversations. If there were young ladies present, we skipped the latter of those activities. Usually.

Eating a mixture of Kool-Ade and sugar from a Ziploc bag is gross, at least from an adult's perspective. But from kid's perspective, there's some logic to it: Ziploc-Kool-Ade-Sugar (the term I just made up for the snack) offers the taste of Kool-Ade in a portable form. Further more, several packs of Kool-Ade and a sack of sugar is more economical than buying Pixy Stix or Fun Dip. It made perfect sense at the time. Forget buying a bag of Pixy Stix or a pack of Fun Dip for a higher price and ending up with handfuls of wrappers. Pixy Stix and Fun Dip, as far as we were concerned, were for people with no ingenuity, no DIY spirit. Kids who always used tracing paper and never drew free hand. Kids who bought Soap shoes, but never learned the best way to wax a curb and actually use the shoes. 

I don't want to eat Ziploc-Kool-Ade-sugar anymore. My refined palate (liking sushi means your palate is well-developed, right?) has no interest in it. In fact, thinking of eating the snack now makes me do the Michael Bluth face when his son describes the mayonn-egg. However, I understand the appeal of Ziploc-Kool-Ade-sugar for seventh grade me, and I especially admire the inventiveness of whichever of my Green Eggs and Hamlet cast-mates started the trend. 

Another snack I remember making, which reminds me of Ziploc-Kool-Ade-sugar, is raw-men. To make raw-men, you just get a pack of ramen noodles, smash it up on something sturdy with the heel of your hand, pour the seasoning in the bag, and then shake it like whatever the 2011 equivalent to a Polaroid picture is. A Wii-mote, maybe? Sure. Shake it like a Wii-mote. The trick is to add just the right portion of seasoning because the amount given in the pack is meant to be diluted in water, so it's much too strong to be dumped completely onto the dry noodles. If you use the whole pack, you'll end up with a belly ache. And nobody likes a belly ache. Like Ziploc-Kool-Ade-sugar, raw-men is portable and uses a Ziploc bag. Unlike Ziploc-Kool-Ade-sugar, however, raw-men isn't so much a cheap way to mimic other snacks. When I made raw-men as a kid, it was a way to circumvent the intended use of the food (is it okay to call ramen food? or is it like calling Sea Monkeys pets?) to get the exact snack you want at the moment. Sometimes I just wanted the crunch and taste of the raw noodles, and I wanted to eat it on the couch while watching Gullah Gullah Island, and I didn't want to worry about spilling the broth or dropping wet noodles on my Old Navy shirt. The essence of traditional ramen was there, but raw-men was more of a TV-time-snack-em than a makeshift meal.

Nevertheless, raw-men ultimately falls under the same category as Ziploc-Kool-Ade-sugar: fun and tasty for kids, but unappealing to adults.

Koreans are bonkers for ramen (pronounced more like "ramyeon" here), and their predilection for the stuff makes sense because ramen is much better here. The noodles have a bit more girth and the broth has more flavor. Furthermore, you can more easily tell the difference between the flavors (I'm guessing most of us don't notice or care whether stateside ramen is "beef" or "chicken" flavored), meaning you can separate wheat from chaff by exploring different flavors and brands. Which is kind of fun.

Now, Koreans have done what many youngsters do, combining ramen and junk food in a snack called Boosyuh Boosyuh, which means "smash smash" but should just be called raw-men. The key differences between Boosyuh Boosyuh and homemade raw-men are that the former is actually marketed to be eaten raw and the powder in the flavor pack has been optimized for dry noodles. When you think about it, making a product like Boosyuh Boosyuh is a smart idea; it makes money off of something kids have already been doing. 오뚜기 (Oddugi), the makers of Boosyuh Boosyuh, are selling to a demand that already exists, but has never been catered to this specifically. Oddugi just commercialized a DIY snack. People were already eating Boosyuh Boosyuh, but before they were buying it under a different name and preparing it contrary to the instructions on the packaging. Now they can just buy Boosyuh Boosyuh.

Here's the skin.

Here are the guts.

I know it seems like the idea of Boosyuh Boosyuh is stupid. Why don't kids just keep making raw-men? Is it really worth buying a new product just because it provides a slightly more streamlined way to eat what you've already been eating?

Also, adult me thinks Boosyuh Boosyuh is gross. To be more clear, I should say a whole bag of Boosyuh Boosyuh is gross, but it's fine in small doses. A handful or two of the dry, seasoned noodles brings me back to my basement, watching reruns of Saved By the Bell with my little brother Chase. Anymore than a couple doses, though, and adult mode starts up. My adult brain and taste buds remind me that, while it's okay to indulge in  pre-adolescent snacking practices occasionaly, Nostalgia alone can't get me through a bag of Boosyuh Boosyuh. Boosyuh Boosyuh is unacceptable.

I don't want to go into the socioeconomic or psychological processes that keep Boosyuh Boosyuh afloat (mostly because it's uninteresting and partly because I would suck at it), so I'll just present some evidence of Boosyuh Boosyuh's validity in the snacking world: One of my classes ate so much Boosyuh Boosyuh, and it became such a distraction during class, that I had to outlaw it for that class. P1B (the official name of the aforementioned class) is no longer allowed to bring Boosyuh Boosyuh to class as a snack, because for a couple months most of the nine kids in the class would bring a pack or two of it every day, and it became a nuisance. They would start preparing their daily Booshyuh Booshyuh fix as the bell rang to start class, pounding on the desks to break up the ramen bricks, and I'd walk into a class room full of thundering desks and spilled flavor packs. The students would approach me with zombie arms outstretched, holding chunks of dry ramen with their flavor-stained fingers, offering me a cut of their Boosyuh Boosyuh in hopes I wouldn't tell them to put the snacks away and get out their Reading Street books--in hopes I wouldn't kill their buzz. Usually I'd let the snack time rage for a couple minutes, and try to gain control once the students started asking to leave class so they could get a drink to relieve the Boosyuh-induced cottonmouth. I'd just let them all go at once, and then I'd get their books out for them while they were at the water cooler. When they came back they'd usually open their books, leaving red or orange fingerprint trails as they tracked down the correct page, and start studying.

However, after a few minutes they'd get the itch again, and I'd see them surreptitiously reaching into their backpacks for another bump. Once one kid grabbed a handful, it would send a wave of handfuls through the class. Then the unlucky few who didn't have their own stash that day would quietly try to score some from a friend who was holding. Small, whispered requests would give way to the kids standing shaky-legged during the middle of my lesson to hobble to their hookup's desk and beg for another handful--even just one chunk, they'd say. Even the chunk you dropped on the floor. The haves would lord their stashes over the have-nots. They would play mind games and make unfair trades: a pencil for a pinch, a Bakugan toy for a handful. I would ask them to sit in their seats and stay there, and the stash-less suckers would stammer, "Bu-but teacher...Boosyuh Boosyuh...I want."

I'm hardly exaggerating. I've seen The Wire, and these kids were season-two-Bubbs-level junkies, complete with rotted teeth. Boosyuh Boosyuh was a problem, and I had to shut it down.

So, yeah. I'm sure Boosyuh Boosyuh sells enough units to overcome adult bias and justify its seemingly redundant existence.


  1. I never saw the appeal of raw-men. And i stopped eating ramen after freshman year of college. So...I guess what I'm saying is that I have nothing to say but ewww. :)

  2. I eat ramen at least 3 times a week. Like I said, it's better here.

  3. Yeah, remember how I wanted to be in that play with you, but I botched the tryout and was rejected? Rejected from a middle school play? Whatever budding hopes of limelight were carefully planted in my tender heart were utterly obliterated that day.

  4. I was actually thinking about that as I wrote this post, Clayton. At least you don't have to live with yourself knowing you were in a play called Green Eggs and Hamlet.