Celebrating Korea’s Favorite Side Dish

Insadong (인사동) is known as the home for many traditional Korean arts. Streets are lined with vendors selling handmade products from processes the date back to the beginning of Korean crafts. It’s no wonder that traditional Korean food also found everywhere in Insadong. After all, what good is art if there is no good food to enjoy with it? Of course, there is no other food that is more synonymous with Korea than kimchi (김치). There have been few times have I seen a Korean meal served without the side dish. Kimchi has such a profound influence on food here that they’ve built a museum in honor of Korea’s favorite side dish.

As I said before, Museum Kimchikan (뮤지엄김치관) is located in Insadong. I had stumbled upon it by when I was searching for a book café that specialized in books in English on Korean culture. I saw the sign “Museum Kimchikan,” and immediately knew that my plans for the day had changed. I was expecting the museum to have strange and intriguing art inspired by kimchi, but instead I obtained a deep appreciation for it. You see, this museum celebrates and the rich history of kimchi. There are many unique items that may interest you if you’re an amateur historian.

The museum is spread across 3 floors. The first floor houses most of the exhibits with. There are many interactive screens that you can use to explore various aspects of kimchi. The best part of all these screens is that they can be read in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and English. The second floor has a small theater that plays a short documentary on making artisan kimchi. While the film is in Korean and has no subtitles, I found watching the entire process mesmerizing. The actual of preparing kimchi is quite meticulous, especially at an artisan level. There is also a small café on the second floor of the museum, and in it there is a small display of traditional Korean clothing or Hanbok (한복). There is also a display of different variations of kimchi. These are real batches that are in the process of pickling. It was incredible to see how many variations of kimchi there were!

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The third floor is used to hold special events. There is a fully operational kitchen that is used for what I can only assume as a place to allow visitors to learn how to make their own kimchi. Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in this activity because they weren’t holding it that day. So if you’re interested in participating in that kind of thing, be sure to check ahead and see when they are happening. There is also a room that is used for giving samples of kimchi. When I was there, I believe they were testing a new product that was a type of kimchi salad.

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Fortunately for me, I was visiting on the week of their birthday so I was able to enter the museum for free! If you aren’t so lucky, normal admission is 5000 Won. To get there from Anguk Station (안국역), use exit 6 keep walking until you arrive at Insadong Street (인사동거리). Turn left and keep walking until you see a sign for Museum Kimchikan, which will be on your right.

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Article by Eli from the U.S.A.

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