Monday, 4 June 2007

Kimchi - Serious Business

"Did you know Korean people are rarely constipated?"

Japanese people may talk about how essential rice is to their daily happiness, but they've got NOTHING on the Korean love of kimchi. I couldn't venture outside the hostel without some well meaning person letting me know about its health benefits, such as the high concentration of lacto bacillic acid that keeps your digestive tracts clean and clear (see above). I even heard it credited with helping Korea avoid the SARS epidemic, though I'm reserving my judgement on that one.

One thing is certain - Koreans are more devoted to this one food item than I could ever be to one of my edible loves, even ice cream. I learnt that most Korean people eat kimchi at breakfast, lunch and dinner and most Korean households have a special kimchi fridge, perfect for keeping kimchi at its optimum temperature without spoiling other foods.

Kimchi is served as a side dish with almost every restaurant meal, and there are kimchi burgers, kimchi pizzas, kimchi hotdogs and all sorts of other fusion versions.

Of course, it makes sense that Seoul would have its own Kimchi Museum.

Kimchi Feild Museum
B2, COEX Mall, 159 Sameong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Adults 3,000won Students 2,000won

Hidden in the basement of a bustling mall that looks exactly like its Australian counterparts, the kimchi museum includes models of 80 different kinds of kimchi...

Kimchi Museum

...cute cartoons depicting the fermentation process...
Kimchi Museum

"Lactobacilli in kimchi create vitamin Bs during the fermentation of kimchi"

Kimchi Museum

"Kimchi has four times as much lactobacilli as other lactic acid drink yogurt"

... a tasting room, interactive video demonstrations of the cooking process, a microscope to examine the kimchi bacteria and a whole lot more that you never knew (or perhaps wanted to know) about kimchi.

I love these sorts of random, quirky museums and exhibitions, so I also popped into the Tteok Museum. As Sue had reported it wasn't up to much, but the cafe downstairs was lovely. Sunny, cool and calm, with display cases full of exquisite tteok rice cakes to choose from. I now wish I'd tried the ones that looked like a slice of regular cake, but I went for this delicate little apple blossom confection...

Apple Blossom tteok

Since I was just passing by on the way to my cooking class, I didn't mind too much that the museum didn't have a lot going on. The models showing special occasion foods and the evolution of certain dishes from past to present was interesting, and I dug these English translations of 15 Korean proverbs concerning rice cakes such as:

"Worshipping one's forefather with other's tteok" (Robbing Peter to pay Paul?) and

"By getting a little piece of tteok from one person after another you can gather a large a unexpected amount" (Many pennies make a pound?)

What proverbs and sayings do we have about cake in English? We all know that "you can't have your cake and eat it too" and something that's easy is a "cake walk" or "easy as pie", but there has to be more than that. Comment if you can think of one!

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