If you’ve ever visited Korea, read about Korea or eaten at a Korean restaurant in the west, then you’ve probably heard about kimchi.  This delicious and sometimes spicy dish is the culinary staple of the peninsula.

Kimchi is such a source of pride and national identity to the people of Gwangju that once upon a time, seventeen years ago or so, they decided to honor it by throwing an annual autumn festival on its behalf. Thus being fall, it is once again the time of year to set aside a moment of respect for this sloppy crimson victual.

This year the event took place just a stone throw from the Biennale Hall in the Jungoe Park area, a lovely space with sycamores aflame in the yellow and red hues of the season. Spread out over five fall days, the revel showcases musical acts, a kimchi museum, as well as an opportunity for foreigners to try their hands at making their own kimchi.

The free museum paid homage to the long and storied past of kimchi in its various forms.  The exhibit was quite visual, yet it would have been far better had there been a bit more information available to foreigners. Even though the event was heralded as a “World Kimchi Cultural Festival”, the majority of the museum’s information was written in Korean only, and what English was available was quite poorly translated. Regardless, it was a feast for the eyes  and was nicely organized between the past and the present, as well as by the relative social statuses of those who consumed certain types of Kimchi. From the ancient kimchi gruel of the peasant class to the palatial kimchi cuisine of the royal family, nothing was excluded.

One of the more exciting parts of the festival was the “make your own Kimchi” tent, in which festival going foreigners were invited to take part in this ancient, traditional and somewhat messy process. For five thousand won the sauce and the pre-pickled cabbage were prepared and the only thing left for one to do was give the ingredients a steady massage and then bring home the delectable result inside a special kimchi-pot-shaped party favor. In the center of all this kimchi madness was the main stage, which hosted concerts with traditional Korean stringed instruments, cooking competitions, dramatic performances (most of which, of course, featured kimchi), speeches and even a magic show.

Although the festival is overshadowed by more exciting revels taking place around the same time, it should not be overlooked.  Whether you eat Kimchi three times a day, or abstain entirely, it is an interesting way to see the pride Koreans take in there national dish made manifest.



One Response to “KIMCHI FEST 2010”
  1. Maria Lisak says:

    Seth – thanks for your write up. I appreciate the info about museum’s posts. The shades and tastes of kimchi abound and info really helps a visitor value the food in a savorful new way. It’s sad that more time is not spent on quality translation when their are so many great Korean nutritionists out there who speak awesome English!

    And I’m so glad that the cabbage shortage did not cause undue stress on the festival!

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