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All About Kimchi: Why Stumbling Upon the 2nd Seoul Kimchi Festival Was the Experience of a Lifetime!
It was November 6th, 2015 and I was on Day 3 of my weeklong vacation in Seoul. I was heading to Gyeongbokgung Palace and to my surprise, I just so happened to stumble upon the 2nd Seoul Kimchi Festival just as I exited Gwanghwamun Station. So, having known that Kimchi is recognized as the traditional dish of Korea, I decided to explore the event first in hope of learning more about the Korean cuisine and trying out some samples.
Having known that Kimchi was recognized as the traditional dish of Korea, I made my way inside the event posthaste in hopes of learning more about Korea’s staple cuisine and even gobbling down some samples.
But first, let’s get to the facts: Kimchi is a dish is traditionally made from cabbage, radish, cucumbers, scallion, garlic, brine, ginger, shrimp sauce, and fish sauce. Today, there are 185 versions of the delectable cuisine all together. You read right, 185! It is typically served as a side dish rather than a main course meal, but it is often combined with other ingredients to make stews, soups, sandwiches, pizzas, salads, you name it. It’s eaten at any time of day and is a low-calorie and low-fat food that is rich in vitamins A and C, fiber, and other antioxidants.
There. Now that you’ve been caught, let’s get back to my adventure.
At the entrance to the 2nd Seoul Kimchi Festival stood a nice Korean-American woman that politely greeted me with, “Do you like kimchi? Come inside and have a try.” After a rapid “Yes” she led me to a line that was queuing up for a free taste in front of a large tent where I was handed a small batch of kimchi and a rice ball, and both were placed on a large leaflet. I couldn’t believe it; this was exactly what I was looking for and it was right at the start. What an entrance!
Inside the tent lied a “Garak Market” area that served to reenact a popular agricultural marketplace in Seoul. I kid you not; there were bundles upon bundles of cabbage and varying sizes of bowls filled with spices laid out everywhere. The tent also consisted of numerous prop kimchi displays with descriptions, but the coolest item presented had to be the live-action display of two women in traditional clothing preparing fresh kimchi.
I exited the tent and landed on the grunt of the Kimchi Festival: a number of varying booths setup that allowed guests to not only learn more about kimchi, but also provided space for visitors to make their own kimchi, buy different types of kimchi, try delicious Korean wine, and even get their face painted.
I couldn’t leave the Kimchi Festival without tasting more delicious kimchi, so I ended up making my way over to a food truck where dozens of guests were knee-deep in making their own kimchi.
I skipped on getting my hands down and dirty in order to munch on a plate of kimchi, which I ended up getting only after making a contribution of at least 1,000 KRW. I happily obliged!
Perhaps the most entertaining portion of the event was the entertainment. The festival held several performances and acts on a stage located directly across from Gyeongbokgung Palace. The best show came from a group of talented performers, dubbed The Painters, that managed to mix a lit of bit of comedy, artistry, dancing, and surprises all into one fantastic presentation.
So, as the saying goes, “When in Rome … eat kimchi!” Something like that, right? I had a blast at the 2nd Seoul Kimchi Festival. What a wonderful cultural experience!
Here’s the official website for the 2015 2nd Seoul Kimchi Festival. Make sure to check for updates for upcoming festivals. Safe & happy travels!