The Kimchi festival wasn’t widely publicised but I stumbled upon it online before we went. A festival? Thousands of people making Kimchi at the same time? We are there! We shifted the holiday forward a couple of days and found flights via Italy so we could get there in time. That’s dedication for you.
So what is Kimchi? Kimchi is cabbage fermented in spices. Normally the spices used are chili, garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, salt or similar. After the cabbage is rubbed in spices it is packed away to ferment. Kimchi is made in the autumn to preserve the vegetables as we head into winter.
Kimchi is also known to have health benefits – it is obviously low in fat and a source of fibre, as it is just veggies and spices. However it is also thought to have properties that promote a healthy gut and good health. I’ll let you do your own research and come to your own conclusions about the health claims!
What I do know is that it adds instant spice (and heat!) to any meal. The South Koreans eat it with every meal; you will always get a small side dish of Kimchi, and often other vegetables are used, apart from the normal cabbage.
The purpose of the festival is to make Kimchi en mass and then package it up and donate it to centres for homeless people. Apparently over 100 tons are made! It was quite amazing to see Kimchi made by so many people – reportedly around 5000 people, and in fact it was a Guinness world record attempt to get the most people making Kimchi at a time. However, they kept subbing in new people every half hour or so (not sure if that would count for the record?).
My favourite part was when we went on the roof of the library and were able to get a birds-eye view of the festival. They had quite the production line going; they worked in shifts and at the end of every shift the Kimchi was bagged up, boxed, and carried to the edge to be stacked onto crates, stickered, and wrapped. Then a line of people would exit and a new line would arrive for the next shift.
As well as the mass-Kimchi making, there was an exhibition showing the history and different recipes of Kimchi, and there were stalls selling – you guessed it – Kimchi! We sampled South Korean Kimchi and North Korean Kimchi.
We were pretty tired by this point having travelled for around 23 hours to get there, so we patted ourselves on the back for having made it to the Kimchi festival, and headed back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep!
Next blog: Hongdae, Seoul, South Korea.
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