I finally made kimchi! It was on my bucket list to make kimchi and I finally made it. And honestly it was one of those moments that wasn’t planned but somehow all turned out perfect. The past month or so I’ve been volunteering at an after-school program helping to teach the kids English. The students come here after school and study. It’s not like an academy but more like a fun huge house for the kids to play and study. It’s about 30-40 students ranging from ages 6-12. I was planning to go there after work on Thursday and got a message from one of the teachers who also volunteers asking if I was okay if we make kimchi – of course my response was YES! Exciting!
The school building (more like an apartment building) is on the outskirts of Gwangju near my apartment. It’s surrounded by farm land and the mountains on the outside. It feels like you are in the middle of nowhere when walking to it but it’s nice to hear birds and walk through farms. The first time I took a taxi there the taxi driver looked at me like “Really? Are you sure this is where you’re going?” 🙂 The building is filled with beautifully painted walls with trees and forests with little hidden animals along it. The floors are made of flower designs made into the paint and colorful tables and chairs. It’s such a welcoming building and hard not to feel anything but happiness inside. The building is owned by this really nice family and the mom is actually a principal. In the back of the building there is another house that is an original traditional Korean home which is called a 한옥 (hanok). It’s amazing. It was also a bucket list of mine to visit one of these homes and little did I know there was one right in the backyard. It’s been there for hundreds of years and has been passed down from generations of this family. So not only did I get to make kimchi but I was able to make it in a traditional Korean house! It was amazing.
Every fall families across Korea spend a weekend making kimchi. It’s called 김장 (Kim jang) and hours and hours of preparation and work go into it. It’s hard work but they’ve been doing it for hundreds and hundreds of years. They prepare enough kimchi for the full year and store it in kimchi refrigerators. Back in the day they stored it in kimchi pots that are called onngi. These are still found on many families rooftops but most families now have a refrigerator meant for kimchi. Just like we have separate refrigerators and freezers in our garages. Kimchi is fermented cabbage with spicy red sauce on it. It’s eaten with breakfast, lunch and dinner. We joke that Koreans have kimchi DNA while Americans have cheese DNA. Ah how I miss cheese… kimchi is definitely an acquired taste and I can never explain or compare the taste to any food back in Minnesota but I’ve grown to really like it.
We split the boys and girls up and I was asked to join the boys’ team so I did! Ah they were so cute and excited. We were making this kimchi specifically for the after-school program so they could have kimchi stored there for the next year. The kids dived right in and showed me how to make it. There was no complaining “ah not again we have to make kimchi againnn!” – Nope. They were all very patient and excited to show their tradition. I was impressed. The boys were so excited they kept eating the kimchi will making it. Every once in awhile one of the boys would pick up a piece of kimchi and feed me it. “Here Caroline…It’s delicious, isn’t it?!!!” After we finished making kimchi the parents picked up the children and then the teachers had dinner. The traditional meal after making kimchi is bossam (보쌈) which is boiled pork and you eat each slice with a piece of kimchi. It was so delicious!!! It was a really special day to me. It was one of those unexpected days that turn into one of your favorite memories. So now I can officially say I have made kimchi in a Korean traditional home.
Love from Korea,