Think of a Korean food and what comes to mind?… KIMCHI! Korea is the land of kimchi!
Kimchi is preserved vegetables seasoned with spices and fermented seafood. It is the main side dish or banchan 반찬 which is essential to every Korean meal. Since kimchi is essential to every meal, Koreans have been practicing Kimjang 김장 since… no one can really say when this practice has begun but a description of the practice can be traced as early as the Goryeo Dynasty (918 – 1392) (source).
These days, Koreans may not strictly practice some of their culture but 김장 김치 Kimjang kimchi remains as one of their well-preserved food culture. In December 2013, UNESCO inscribed Kimjang and kimchi into its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. This is in recognition of the communal and year-long effort that it takes to make it to Kimjang season.
Preparation follows a yearly cycle. In spring, households procure shrimp, anchovy and other seafood for salting and fermenting. In summer, they buy sea salt for the brine. In late summer, red chilli peppers are dried and ground into powder. Late autumn is Kimjang season, when communities collectively make and share large quantities of kimchi to ensure that every household has enough to sustain it through the long, harsh winter. Housewives monitor weather forecasts to determine the most favourable date and temperature for preparing kimchi (source).
It’s Autumn and it’s Kimjang Season!
My friends and I participated at the Kimjang arranged by Mapo-gu last October 20. It was held at the Nanji Park beside the World Cup Stadium. It was a well-attended festival. Aside from Kimjang, there were other activities and kiosks selling kimchi-related products. There were tents of traditional food surrounded by tables and chairs filled with people enjoying the festive spirit.
It was my first time to do Kimjang. I’m glad I had the opportunity since I have always wanted to do it. I could just imagine how much hard work (and love) is exerted in making kimchi. In our case, the ingredients were all ready so we had it easy. Here’s a part of our fun experience:
And since its Kimjang season, there are opportunities for expats to join this activity.
On November 3, there’s the annual Seoul Kimchi Festival at Seoul Plaza:
Click here for registration: Seoul Kimchi Festival
The Itaewon Global Village Center is also looking for volunteers for November 14 from 9am-12pm. You can sign up here:
I hope you’ll enjoy your Kimjang as much as we did!
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