Sunday, 30 December 2012

Eat your Kimchi

Since arriving in Korea I've acquired quite a taste for the country's national dish, kimchi. This sidedish of fermented vegetables might seem somewhat rudimentary to be a national dish but it actually takes a lot of time and skill to prepare, comes in hundreds of different varieties and has a long history stretching back to the middle ages. It's also loved by local Koreans, who eat it with almost every meal. They can't get enough of the stuff. In fact, during the Vietnam War, Korean troops so desperately missed their precious kimchi that they had to seek help from American forces in finding local ingredients so they could make some on the field. Also, in Korea, when having one's photo taken, one doesn't say "cheese!" but in fact, "kimchi!"

It so happens that Seoul has a museum entirely dedicated to the dish. The Kimchi Field Museum is located just beneath the COEX (Asia's largest underground mall) and my friend Angela and I recently paid it a visit.

Angela just outside the entrance to the museum.
There were lots of models depicting the traditional production of kimchi.

Me with a jangseung or Korean totem pole. These used to be placed at the edges of villages to frighten away demons and ghosts.
You can sample some of the salts and seasonings used to flavour the kimchi.

This screen showed local kimchi from different parts of Korea. It even included North Korean varieties.
Here I am being fed some plastic kimchi by a mannequin.
Apparently kimchi cleans your intestines and creates tiny green-haired superheroes in your poop.
Angela using a giant mortar and pestle as she prepares some invisible kimchi.
And what kind of kimchi museum would it be if it didn't let you at least try some real kimchi?
The Kimchi Field Museum is pretty small (there's only so much you can say about fermented vegetables after all) but both Angela and I enjoyed our visit a lot. It's definitely worth visiting if you have an hour to spare and are remotely interested in the history of kimchi. Plus, free samples!

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