Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kimchi Festival

To most people, there are few things more quintessentially Korean than Kimchi - well, okay, except for maybe Psy's Gangnam Style. For those of you who don't know, kimchi (김치) is Korea's traditional national dish. It is typically made of fermented or pickled spiced cabbage, although many other vegetables can also be used and seasonings vary widely across the country.

Some very finely chopped cabbage kimchi

This past weekend, Gwangju played host to its annual International Kimchi Festival. On offer were free kimchi tastings, gourmet kimchi supplies, a kimchi museum, free shows, many kimchi themed meals, kimchi pot making and art for the kids and, for the international visitors (though I saw many Koreans there as well), kimchi and kimchi meal making lessons!

Held near the Gwangju Folk and Art Museums, even at 5pm on a Sunday the festival was a thriving place to be.

Some of the varieties of kimchi on offer. Furthest away sits un-spiced (but still spicy) white kimchi. Next furthest is traditional cabbage kimchi. A little closer there is some young radish kimchi (my favourite). And, finally, green onion kimchi.
While I don't usually like Jeollanese kimchi - a problem since I live in Jeolla province - all of the kimchi I sampled at the festival (well, with the noted exception of ginseng kimchi - not a fan) was delicious!

Pottery class!

Traditional kimchi pots, still widely used to store kimchi while it ferments, sit outside of the Kimchi  Making Experience Hall.

One of many possible kimchi ingredients, a green pepper gets his groove on.

Pots for sale!

Our personal guide to the Five Senses Kimchi Museum. His English and knowledge of  kimchi were wonderful!
The typical ingredients of Jeollanese cabbage kimchi.  Napa Cabbage, raddish, green onion, and a paste made of salt, chilli pepper, ginger, brined and fermented anchovy, and anchovy paste (the latter two ingredients are not included in kimchi to the North.)
All seasoned and wrapped for fermentation. 
While clay pots are still used by many for klimchi fermentation, most urban Koreans store their kimchi in specialized 'kimchi fridges' which allow them to both control the temperature and ensure that the rest of their food doesn't come to smell like kimchi. My kimchi is currently sitting in a special double layered plastic container in my fridge for precisely that reason... or some of it is anyhow. I already seem to have eaten a great deal of it, cooking things such as kimchi-fried rice with peppers, mushrooms and local greens and kimchi ramyeon (라면 - Korean style ramen noodles) with tofu and rice cake. Turns out I much prefer my Jeollanese kimchi unfermented or boiled -who knew!

Our kimchi making instructors.

Oh, and regarding Gangnam Style? I guess some things just go best when together ;).

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