Cabbage glut? Be Korean – make kimchi!

Kimchi jars outside a house in Seoul.

If Korean, serve at every meal.

Fermented cabbage: sour, pungent and addictive.

To prepare … set aside whole day …

Ever since our holiday in Korea, I’ve wanted to make kimchi.  Every house had its earthenware kimchi jar, or jars, with various kinds of pickled vegetables fermenting happily away within.

This week I had a cabbage mountain, and two days ago, had the perfect excuse to get started, even though, strictly, it wasn’t the right sort of cabbage.  I watched this YouTube video by Maangchi, who’s the Korean cook to watch if you want to acquire a bit of know-how.  You can watch it too, but if you don’t feel like it, here’s my summary underneath.

Between soaking chopped cabbage, salting it for long hours; cooking and cooling a sauce base; preparing and processing onions, garlic, ginger; chopping piles of vegetables finely and adding Korean chilli flakes; mixing the lot together; packing it into an airtight container – you won’t be doing much else between breakfast and a very late lunch.

Now … now it’s beginning to ferment.  Sour already, it’ll become more pungent as the days and weeks go by.  Try a bit? If it’s your first time you may not like it.  But you may come to love it: fermented, sour, spicy, soft yet crunchy, it’s a meal in its own right or a fine addition to a simple plate of rice or noodles.  Just as well I made a lot.  It was a bit of a palaver.

Making kimchi takes a long time.

It’s worth it – don’t you think?

An offering for Six Word Saturday.

 

Power lines, South Korean style

You can’t beat East Asia for power lines.  When we arrived in Seoul for our South Korean adventure three years ago, we were stupefied by the skyscrapers, charmed by the traditional hanoks.  But what we couldn’t take our eyes from were these.

Are there enough lines here for you Becky? Hey Jude?  How about you?  It was your post that put me in mind of these beauties.

 

October Squares: Lines.

Pull up a seat…..

In the spirit of continuing to try to cheer us all up as Britain swirls inexorably down the plughole, here’s a photo I took exactly three years ago in Gyeryongsang, South Korea.  At least you might as well be comfy while waiting for a bus.

 

An entry for the Pull up a Seat Photo Challenge#38

Snapshot Saturday: a transient house in a temporary home.

If you go to London, and if you go to the Victoria and Albert Museum some time before next February, don’t miss a rather special temporary exhibition I saw there this week.

Find the glass lift, and allow it to sweep you upwards to the sixth floor.  Here, from this light and airy vantage point, you can enjoy views over the museum and beyond.

Contemporary Korean ceramics.  That’s what you’re looking for.  There are glossy ceramic tiles, reinterpreting Korea’s exquisite porcelain from the Joseon dynasty (you can see examples of these down on the first floor).  There are wonderfully lustrous translucent vases, in luminous reds, yellows and blues.  Oh wait ….  they’re carved from soap.

But what drew me back, several times, was this house.

Here’s what its creator Kim Juree has to say about this, and the many houses she has created in the same idiom.

So what you’ll see if you visit won’t be what I saw.  Don’t wait too long.  This temporary structure isn’t long for this world.

If you peer behind the house, you’ll see a few of those vases carved from soap.

This post is a response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: temporary

Time travelling from my sick-bed

I’m pretty fed up.  I was sickening for something down in London, and once I got home, The Virus took a grip.  Goodness it’s malevolent: and it’s not letting go. The only consolation is that I’ve got through an astonishing number of books, including Min Jin Lee‘s Korean family saga Pachinko.

This is the story of several generations of one Korean family with roots near Busan, who emigrate to make a new life in Japan following the repressive occupation of their own country by the Japanese from 1911. It’s a compelling family saga taking us from 1911 to 1989; from poverty to economic stability, with sacrifice and hardship as constant themes.

How could I not be interested, since Emily’s just returned home to Spain from a year in Busan?  And yet the world in which the book begins is not one she or we would recognise.  A time traveller from 1911 or 1930 London, Liverpool or Leeds would find a lot that’s familiar in those same cities today.  A time traveller from Busan?  Not a chance.

The story starts in Yeongdo, which is now part of Busan, but was in 1930 a fishing village on an island set apart from the mainland.

 ‘…..the market ajummas squatting beside spice-filled basins, deep rows of glittering cutlass fish, or plump sea bream caught hours earlier – their wares arrayed attractively on turquoise and red waxed cloths spread on the ground.  The vast market for seafood – one of the largest of its kind in Korea – stretched across the rocky beach carpeted with pebbles and broken bits of stone, and the ajummas hawked as loudly as they could, each from her square patch of tarp.’

Here’s an ajumma, 2016 style, at Jagalchi market.

Well, I doubt if the market is still there – it certainly won’t be on the beach.  Instead, the immense Jagalchi fish market is on the nearby mainland, together with ajummas, certainly, but these days it’s all plate-glass buildings and the ephemera of modern port life.

As for Yeongdo.  No longer is it an island fishing settlement, with small wooden houses surrounded by productive vegetable patches.  I can’t find any pictures, so instead must rely on Min Jin Lee’s word pictures of empty beaches, densely wooded hillsides rich in edible fungi.  Those hillsides still exist – but look down over the settlements and the docksides below. And Yeongdo is linked to the mainland by a bridge.  Sunji and her family  wouldn’t recognise a thing.

 

Apart from my photo of an ajumma selling fish, all other images are from Wikimedia Commons

Snapshot Saturday: A Korean cultural heritage – against the odds

palace11592 was a terrible year for Korea.  The Japanese invaded.  They raged through the land destroying all they saw.  They burnt ancient temples and state-of-the-art palaces as well as ordinary homes.  Little was left.

Imagine an England in which every cultural icon was destroyed in WWII – Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, York Minster, Salisbury Cathedral, Chatsworth….. that’s the kind of morale-destroying disaster Korea faced in 1592.

Rather than accept these losses, Koreans rolled up their sleeves and built everything again, on the same site, and to the same design.  Not just once, but in some cases several times, as a consequence of later invasions and revolts.  Unlike our own historic buildings, these structures are made not from stone or brick, but from the wood from monumental long-lived trees with statuesque trunks and mighty branches.  These palaces and places of worship are carved to traditional patterns and painted in an accepted range of colours with time-honoured designs and images.  To our eyes, these palaces and temples look fairly similar.  But once we overheard a group talking – ‘Look, anyone can see that’s twelfth century: not a bit like the 15th century style we were looking at earlier’.

Here’s Seoul’s Changdeokgung Palace.  It was first built in 1408 for the Joseon royal dynasty and designed with an extensive natural garden in harmony with the topography of its surroundings.  The Japanese burnt it down in 1592.  It was rebuilt in 1608, burnt down during a political revolt in 1628, and again by the Chinese Manchu-Qing.  Each time it was faithfully restored to its original design.  The long Japanese occupation of Korea from 1911 to 1945 saw it heavily damaged yet again: once again it’s been restored, though only about 30% of the original buildings remain.

Against the odds,  this palace and its grounds together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognised as a fine example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design in harmony with their natural setting. This is a fine and tranquil place.

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is ‘Against the odds’.

Snapshot Sunday: Magic at Igidae

The view from the Igidae Trail to Busan and Haeundae

Life’s complicated just now.  I don’t need any more challenges.  But here I am, taking on one which is entirely self-imposed. It’ll help me reflect on the good moments in life, or at least on interesting times.

The challenge is one provoked weekly by WordPress, my blogging platform.  Once a week, they provide a word.  Just one. To respond, I and fellow bloggers choose one of our own photos to interpret the theme.  Just one.

This week’s challenge is ‘Magic’.  Other bloggers have published photos of sunsets; a cube magically suspended from a buildinga fairy-tale castle in Schwerinscacciaguai, or benign demons; a butterfly; pebbles; flowers; scenes from distant lands – all magic in their own way.

My own magic moment is from South Korea.

Imagine Busan, the city where Emily’s living just now.  Imagine busy streets, crowded markets, streaming traffic, a high-rise metropolis of three and a half million people.

But it’s a coastal city too, and one day we took the path at Igidae. Here were views across the bay to those high-rise towers at Haeundae, to Gwangan Suspension Bridge, and to a jagged, rocky coastline.

As we walked away from Haeundae, we replaced city bustle with solitude, with crashing foaming waves, salty spray crusting our hair and faces, rugged paths leading us first up craggy cliffs then down again. The busy city was never more than minutes away, but we were at the edge of a primitive, savage untamed world, unchanging since time began.  That was a kind of magic.

The sea crashes to the cliffs of the Igidae Trail
The sea crashes to the cliffs of the Igidae Trail

My challenge posts will appear on Sundays.  Hence ‘Snapshot Sunday.’