Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Food Festival of the Royal Court and Aristocrats 2012

 Waiting in line to try 인절미 (injeolmi) a kind of rice cake coated with soybean powder

The Royal Court and Aristocrat Food Festival (궁중과 사대부가의 전통음식축제) is being held today 9/25 and tomorrow 9/26. I headed down to the festival grounds at Uihyeongung, a small palace in the Jongno area, to check out the celebrations today.

I first arrived around 10:30 am and things were starting to pick up. A lot of school groups and seniors were around trying the various activities and checking out the food on display. My first stop was to try the 인절미 (injeolmi), which is a high quality form of ddeok (rice cake). Children were taking turns pounding the ddeok while this woman was serving the ddeok. If you've haven't tried ddeok yet, it's a kind of sticky rice ball with a consistency similar to dough.

Children pounding the ddeok with a heavy wooden hammer

Morning and evening refreshment tables

After walking over to the other side of the palace I found some impressive food tables on display. In the photo above, you can see 조다소반과 and 야다소반과. These are the king's morning and evening snacks and tea. Equally impressive as the food are the actresses here who sat still all day for all the visitors taking photos. Below is part of another display of King Yeonjo's birthday meal. Records of this king, the longest reigning king of the Joseon dynasty, still exist, and even details from his birthday meal in 1765 can still be recreated from the detailed records.

 Part of King Yeonjo's birthday meal

A variety of traditional drinks were being offered, but I decided not to get any because the line to get a glass or two of this stuff nearly reached across to the other side of the festival. 

For those interested in traditional Korean cuisine, the food and drink displays were quite impressive. But, for me, I prefer eating food to looking at food, so I moved on to the more interactive parts of the festival. 

I left the festival for a few hours and came back around 2 pm. I saw them setting up for some kind of kimchi making so I hovered about until they were ready to begin. They explained to us that this is 깻잎김치 (Sesame leaf kimchi). This is not a very common form of kimchi and so everyone was very curious about how to make it. 

To make  깻잎김치 (kkenip kimchi), you must first take your sesame leaves and soak them in salt water for 30 minutes. Then you must add the ingredients above. They are (from top left going clockwise): radish (무), chestnut (밤), garlic (마늘), ginger (생강), spring onions (파), watercress (미나리) and for a sauce, gochujang mixed with anchovy powder (고추장과 멸치가루).

Then you need to mix all the ingredients up until the gochujang is evenly spread and there is no clumps. Then place a small amount of the mixture into the sesame leaf and roll it up, folding in the sides so that nothing falls out. Finally, take it home and eat it for dinner! This does not have to ferment before being eaten!

 Flower-shaped ddeok

I was quite satisfied with my kimchi and I walked away from the experience table to relax for a few minutes. Suddenly I saw a huge crowd of people flock to the table again. I figured they were making another round of sesame leaf kimchi, but when I went over to check I found that it was time for making ddeok (떡). Not just any ddeok, but very decorative ddeok of the aristocrats. While snapping some photos one of the helper women handed me this beautiful piece of ddeok in the shape of a flower so I decided I had to give it a try. 

The ddeok making station I found myself at was making another style of ddeok, with yellow, green and pink swirls. These looked easy to make, but it turned out to be more difficult than it looked...

First we were given a big piece of white ddeok to roll into a cylinder shape. Then we rolled thin pink, yellow and green peices of ddeok and attached them to the sides by rolling them together. Then we cut them using the side of our hand and then pressed them into round shapes. Other folk's ddeok looked nice, but mine was a little sad looking.

The festival will continue until tomorrow 9/26, so if you have time from 10-6 pm tomorrow, make your way down and experience some of Korea's traditional food!