Kimchi – Korea’s national dish, which comes in hundreds of variations. We spent the day smelling, preparing, and eating Kimchi at the World Kimchi Festival.
It’s said that the average Korean consumes approximately 40 pounds of Kimchi per year, which is a lot of fermented cabbage.
The kids at school rave about it, and we’ve heard stories from coworkers who packed Kimchi in their luggage because they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to get good stuff while traveling abroad.
It’s no surprise that Koreans adore Kimchi, therefore the World Kimchi Festival is held in Korea.
So what is Kimchi?
Allow me to introduce Korea’s national treasure to those who aren’t familiar with it. For those of you who may not be aware, allow me to introduce it.
The traditional side dish is made from cabbage (or sometimes radish, pickles, and cucumber), garlic, salt, vinegar, ginger, fish sauce, and other spices.
Families gather each September to produce kimchi in bulk, often enough to last the entire year. Families would bury their fresh kimchi in huge pots underground during the winter months back in the old days.
(Yes, a refrigerator just for keeping their beloved Kimchi is now found in most Korean homes.) Most Koreans keep a second fridge at home for storing the spicy side dish (yes, a whole refrigerator dedicated to it.)
Believe me when I say that this superfood is a acquired taste. The pungent cabbage, which has been labeled as the healthiest food in the world by experts, contains a beneficial microbe called Lactobacilli. Kimchi, according to some scientists, may even help prevent cancer from developing. It’s packed with vitamins A.
Now, when I say that I’ll be honest, I was hesitant at first to embrace the Kimchi fad. Dave was instantly enthralled by the sour crunch, but the pungent taste was unlike anything I’d ever experienced and certainly not what I wanted to start my day with.
I’m presently eating the spicy side dish and not just because I’m supposed to, but also because it’s delicious — let’s just say it’s a grower.
We were delighted to learn about the World Kimchi Festival in Gwangju, Korea (광주세계김치), a celebration of all things Kimchi, and felt obligated to go and promote the Kimchi affection.
The World Kimchi Festival was held in Gwangju, South Korea, at the Kimchi Town (I kid you not), with a World Institute of Kimchi museum, a Kimchi mixing competition, a Kimchi photo exhibition, Kimchi cooking classes, and the presentation of awards for best kimchi. Is that OK with you?
The Kimchi market, as expected, had a wide selection of different types of Kimchi to sample and purchase.
For us, the highlight was having a go at creating our own Kimchi, which we could take home and try.
There were a variety of Kimchi-related activities going on throughout the day, but we particularly liked the Kimchi-making race and the Kimchi expert cooking session.
We felt a little defeated by Kimchi, so we went for a stroll around the main square, where there were several children’s games and vendors selling street food and snacks.
We spent around three hours at the World Kimchi Festival, which was plenty of time to get our Kimchi fix.
It was a fascinating day full of hands-on experiences to learn more about Korean culture and, of course, Kimchi.
Tastes great, is fun, and is completely free! (But) In my opinion, it’s not worth traveling to Gwangju just for the Kimchi festival (unless you’re really into Kimchi!) We spent the whole weekend discovering Gwangju and only visited the event for a few hours on Sunday.
When: The Kimchi Town website will have more information around September.
The easiest way to get there is by taxi or bus from Gwangju Bus Terminal (check the times at the Tourist Information Center in front of the bus terminal). Alternatively, take a taxi to Jungoe Park.
Have you ever tried kimchi?