Kimchi – the national dish of Korea that comes in over two hundred varieties. We spent the day smelling, making and eating the famous fermented food at the World Kimchi Festival in Gwangju
Served with every meal, it’s reported that the average Korean eats over 40 pounds of Kimchi a year – now that’s a lot of fermented cabbage.
The kids at school tell me it’s their favourite food; I’ve heard stories from co workers who’ve packed Kimchi in their suitcase because they’re so worried they won’t be able to get their hands on the good stuff whilst travelling abroad.
You guessed it – Koreans love Kimchi.
So what is Kimchi?
For those of you who may not be familiar with Korea’s national treasure, allow me to introduce it. The iconic side dish is traditionally made from mixing cabbage (or sometimes radish, pickles and cucumber) with garlic, salt, vinegar, ginger, fish sauce and other spices.
Every September, families gather to make kimchi in bulk – often enough to last them for the whole year. Back in the old days, families would bury their fresh kimchi in large pots underground to let the vegetables ferment during the winter months.
Nowadays, most Koreans have a second fridge in their home dedicated to storing the spicy side dish (yes a whole fridge just for storing their beloved Kimchi.)
Labelled by experts as the healthiest food in the world, believe me when I say this superfood is an acquired taste. Loaded with vitamins A, B and C, the tangy cabbage is filled with a healthy bacteria called Lactobacilli which helps with digestion; with some scientists claiming that Kimchi may even prevent the growth of cancer.
Now I’ll be honest, when we first arrived in Korea I was struggling to get on board the Kimchi hype. Dave was instantly hooked on the sour crunch, but the intense flavour was nothing like I’d ever tasted and definitely not what I wanted to be eating first thing in the morning.
Eighteen months later and not only do I feel compelled to eat the spicy side dish, but I also quite enjoy it – lets just say it’s a grower.
When we heard about the World Kimchi Festival in Gwangju (광주세계김치축제) a celebration of all things Kimchi, naturally, we felt obliged to attend and spread the Kimchi love.
The festival was held at Gwangju Kimchi Town (I kid you not), featuring the World Institute of Kimchi, a Kimchi Museum, a Kimchi mixing contest, a Kimchi photo exhibition, Kimchi cooking classes and the Kimchi show awards. An enormous source of national pride in Korea, do you believe me yet?
As expected, there were tons (literally) of different types of Kimchi on offer to try and buy at the Kimchi market.
The highlight for us was the opportunity to have a go at making our own Kimchi, which we could then take home.
There were several Kimchi-related activities taking place throughout the day, our favourites were the Kimchi-making race and the Kimchi master cooking class.
Feeling a little KO’d by Kimchi, we had a wander around the main square where there were a selection of games for kids and vendors selling street food and snacks.
A fun day out for all ages, we spent around three hours at the festival which was definitely enough time to get our Kimchi fix.
An interesting day with plenty of hands-on activities to learn more about Korean culture and of course, Kimchi.
Rating 6/10: Tasty, fun and free! But in my opinion, it’s not worth travelling to Gwangju solely for the Kimchi festival (unless you’re seriously into Kimchi!) We spent the whole weekend exploring Gwangju and just popped into the festival for a few hours.
When: Around September time, keep an eye on the Kimchi Town website for more information.
How to get there: There’s a free shuttle bus that runs from Gwangju Bus Terminal (check out the times at the Tourist Information Centre in front of the bus terminal), or take a taxi to Jungoe Park (중외공원).