Updated: Apr 26, 2022
When the Korean British Cultural Exchange (KBCE) organised its first Korean community festival in 2016, kimchi was only beginning to be recognised as a superfood. Soon, there were many food stores including non-Korean specialised shops and online retailers, selling kimchi. Regrettably what was often sold as ‘kimchi’ was more of an imitation rather than the authentic, traditional kimchi. Consequently some kimchi tasted different and lacked the nutritional benefits found in authentic kimchi. Therefore in late 2016 KBCE set up an action plan to promote authentic and original kimchi recipes in the UK.
In 2018, the KBCE conceived the idea of organising a ‘Kimjang Festival’ as part of the Kingston Korea Festival in New Malden, home to the largest Korean population outside of Korea. Eventually in the summer of 2018, KBCE applied to The National Lottery Heritage Fund for a small grant for the festival. With their support and encouragement, KBCE expanded the project brief to record 21 kimchi recipes by residents living in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and to hold the Kimjang Festival in November 2019. This met with their approval and in November 2018 we were delighted to hear that The National Lottery Heritage Fund had decided to award us a grant to fund the project under the title, ‘Kimjang: Making and Sharing Kimchi’.
The Kimjang Project started in February 2019 with a launch event at the Methodist Church in New Malden. From spring to summer, many kimchi recipes were researched and finally 21 recipes were shortlisted by the World Institute of Kimchi (WIKIM) and Chef Hyung Soo Yim. In September 2019, those 21 recipes were filmed. 18 of them were from Korean housewives from North and South Korea, as well as Yanbian in China. When the filming started, all of them were shy and unsure what to do. However once the filming was done complete, they became very confident and proud to share their recipes. More importantly, the North Korean recipe providers were proud to take part in this project, because they realised that they were making an invaluable contribution to the project, providing recipes that would otherwise not be available to the public. Through kimchi and Kimjang culture, Koreans from all backgrounds united to celebrate this unique culinary cultural heritage. Furthermore, we discovered that kimchi has become localised and the tradition of Korean Kimjang has been practiced in a variety of new ways in the UK!
In November 2019, the first Kimjang Festival was organised with various cultural activities. There were kimchi making classes for children and adults, two distinctive exhibitions about kimchi, a community photo display and food stalls to sell locally produced kimchi and other Korean food. There were several charity organisations that also attended to promote their work to the local community. Later in the day, a fundraising event for Kingston Hospital, the ‘Care,’ was organised. The weather was unfortunately not ideal, but many spectators came to New Malden from the north and south of England to take part. They enjoyed the experience and asked for an annual Kimjang Festival! After the festival KBCE focused on finishing this recipe book along with the recipe videos. It was a slow process, but the team worked hard to produce everything on time. Each of the recipes in this book has an accompanying video showing how to make that particular kimchi and these are all available on the Kimjang Project and KBCE websites and social media including our YouTube channel.