If you have been to South Korea or even know about it, you will have definetly heard about the super food called Kimchi. It is a traditional Korean food which has been deemed the key to living a longer life. I must also let those who enjoy spicy food, this super food has a bit of a kick to it. On November 18th 2018 I was invited to attend the Kimchi making festival hosted by the Cheonan City Council.
The Cheonan DoDream Festival is a youth initiative in partnership with the Cheonan City Council. The festival was held in support of ending the separation of the Korean peninsula and also exists as a youth program where students and youth clubs are given a platform to exhibit their work, whether it be in dance, singing or performance art. The festival also presented a kimchi making, this is a practice in Korea where families come together to make kimchi for the year ahead.
Waking up in the morning while getting ready to leave for the festival, I was so anxious to get going that I didn’t even have the opportunity to eat breakfast. I wasn’t all too worried as I knew that going to the kimchi making festival there would be multiple food stand which usually have great Korean street food such as Pajeon which is a scallion pancake and Eomuk Tang which a fishcake skewer with a soup to top it off.
On arrival to the festival at 13:00 I met up with Tom to which made us officially ready to experience the kimchi making. The first thing we saw when we approached was a mountain of cabbage. Being from South Africa I am familiar with rounded cabbage which is what I had always assumed it what they used to make kimchi, only to later discover it was a Korean cabbage also called Napa cabbage.
To start off the Kimchi process we were dressed in plastic aprons and given glove. Whith the quantity of Kimchi that had to be made it was important the the process be as clean and as hygenic as possible. Looking like Chef from South Park I was ready to embrace the Kimchi maker within me.
We approached a long table which was surrounded by the friendliest looking ladies. They promptly invited us to join them at the table. On the table there was a heap load of gojuchang sauce which is what give Kimchi its flavour and fiery. We began to follow their instruction as they showed us how to peel open each cabbage leaf and modestly apply gojuchang sauce then fold it and place it in a box lined with plastic for packing. The job was tedious and cold however the ladies around the table made it enjoyable. The ladies were laughing, talking and one even had me taste test the kimchi. Once I started chewing I was pleased with how fresh it was and how it crunched on every bite. What I didn’t expect though was how spicy it would be, about 30 seconds after eating the kimchi, my moth started to tingle as the kimchi started to slowly burn in my mouth. My taste went into shock and my sweat pours open up in distress. I looked around wondering why they didn’t warn me. Being the person I am I bursted out and said “hot….spicy!!!” they all laughed and disagreed with my suffering.
When we finished filling up one box of kimchi we were directed to a table where all the volunteers could go once they had finished volunteering. This is where you were served some rice, soup a variety of dishes and some of the soup freshly made that same day.
The satisfaction of eating your own kimchi is incredible considering that before today I was on the receiving end and today I got to make some of it from scratch. We sat down at 2pm and had our first meal of the day with some of the staff who had helped us get around. It is also important that I mention the staff throughout the festival was so incredibly kind and ready to assist where possible.
Fun thinks to do at the festival
If making kimchi isn’t for you then you can take a walk around the festival where you could learn how to conduct CPR, play VR games or even play traditional Korean games such as jegichagi or tuho. Personally we bolted straight to a lucky wheel which you could spin for free and hopefully win a prize. Some of the prizes included smartphone covers, hamburger vouchers, nothing and what I had my eye on the movie tickets.
Tom and I waited in line with other participants for a reasonable 7 minutes. While waiting we discussed the different prizes and how we would rank them. We both ended up ranking the hamburger voucher or CGV tickets as the top prize to take home. It was Toms turn to spin the wheel to which he would won the burger and on my turn I obviously won the movie tickets.
The Dodream Festival was a well worth the time and an insightful experience to a traditional food which plays an important role in the Korean diet.