Generations of Koreans have grown up learning to make kimchi, says Montclair Nutrition and Food Studies Chair Yeon Bai, while delivering a guest lecture, “Kimchi: It’s Role in Korean Culture.” Bai shared the history and cultural significance of the Korean diet stable, which was followed by a tasting and hands-on workshop where students and staff were provided the vegetables and other ingredients to make the traditional salted and fermented food. A multicultural group of kimchi fans chopped, seasoned and massaged the vegetable mixture while listening to K-pop music.
Bai shared that while some ingredients and the spice level may differ by region, kimchi is regularly served as a side to other dishes. The fermentation process is key and must be done just right, she says, which is why it’s taught generation to generation. Bai says she has fond memories of learning to make kimchi alongside her mother. She and participants also discussed the use of cabbage and fermentation by other cultures, such as German sauerkraut. The kimchi workshop is more formally known as kimjang – the making and sharing of kimchi, which has been recognized by UNESCO as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage Item of Humanity.”
The lecture and hands-on workshop were sponsored by the Korean program of the World Languages and Cultures Department, the Food and Nutrition Studies Department, and the Korean Education Center of New York.