What is Kimjang?

I walked into school last week and my nose reminded me the day I had been waiting for all semester had finally arrived: Kimjang Day! There’s no mistaking the fermented garlic, fish and chili smell so indicative of kimchi. A quick glimpse into the science room gave me a preview of the students’ moms feverishly prepping for Kimjang. The Type A in me was bubbling over in excitement to see neat little stations for the students set up with sheet trays full of salted napa cabbage heads and the spicy gochujang mixture used to coat the cabbage leaves to make kimchi.

 

So what exactly is Kimjang? Kimjang is like a big ole kimchi making party held in the fall time close to American Thanksgiving. The weather is cool enough and the cabbage is plentiful and ready to make pots upon pots of kimchi to store and ferment over the winter time. Since this is a time to prepare enough kimchi for the cold months, friends and family members traditionally divide and conquer this task so that they can make enough for everyone. A lot of my students do this at home with their families, but I think it’s nice to incorporate this Korean tradition into the school schedule, too.

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Salted cabbage heads in the back and a kiddie pool-sized batch of spicy paste (gochujang, gochugaru, green onions, shredded radish, fermented fish paste and other seasonings)

The best part of my early morning preview was a taste of the good stuff. One of the moms came over to me with a shucked oyster wrapped in fresh kimchi in her hand. I gladly accepted this morsel of deliciousness and lost myself in the moment experiencing all the flavors. It was absolutely the spiciest thing I have ever eaten before 8am, but it was packed full of saltiness from the oyster and crunchy spice from the gochujang mixture. I don’t know if it was the kimchi or the oyster (by now, you guys know how much I love oysters) that made it the perfect bite, but it hit all the notes for me.

 

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Coating each leaf with spicy paste then neatly folding it back up to store and ferment over the winter

Do you have a traditional fall festival or activity you participate in, such as Kimjang? I’d love to hear more, so leave your comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and check in for my regular posts over on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

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