Friday, November 26, 2010

A Little Bit of Culture

The main purpose of our trip to Jeonju was to have a 'Korean Cultural Experience,' whatever the hell that means. The Buan Office of Education organised an overnight trip to the Jeonju Hanok Village for all of Buan's Guest English Teachers and their Korean co-teachers.

Part of the 'Cultural Experience' meant staying in a Hanok, a traditional Korean house. This was our first experience sleeping on the floor, Korean-style, although our 'Western' bed is fairly similar in terms of firmness. Tom and I got special treatment - a hanok of our own, which was nicer than our apartment.

The weekend was full of activities, but first we got to dress up in Hanbok and prance around for a bit. I am too fat for Korean clothing but Tom looked pretty dapper.

Steph Face, Hanbok Style
My favourite part of the weekend was making kimchi. It's Gimjang season here - the time to make kimchi before the long, cold, depressing (I'm really not looking forward to it...) winter. There was a huge pile of salted cabbage and we donned some plastic gloves and coated it with spicy red pepper sauce.

We got to eat the fruits of our labour for dinner that night, but we certainly didn't eat all of the kimchi we'd made - a pretty sweet deal for the proprietors. I like fresh kimchi but my coteacher says that most Koreans enjoy the older, more sour stuff.

The next morning we went on a tour of the village and then we got to try our hand at making rice cake and bibimbap. 

The most interesting part of the tour for me was the paper making. Below are some short videos I took - one of the pulp being pressed, the second shows the 'toasting' of the new sheets of paper.

To make the rice cake, freshly cooked sticky rice was put into a huge stone mortar and we used a heavy wooden mallet to pound the rice into submission. Personally, I thought about my sixth graders as I slammed that hammer down.

My coteacher, thinking about the sixth graders too, no doubt.
The bibimbap-making was a far more delicate procedure. Jeonju Bibimbap is the best around as the dish originates from here. A very composed Korean woman in Hanbok showed us how to place the varied ingredients in a circle on top of the rice - the colours aligning in a perfect harmony of yin and yang. The bibimbap was topped with a raw egg, and a ball of raw beef mixed with gochugang. The end result was beautiful.

However, ours looked nothing like that, and we cooked the beef and the eggs. It tasted amazing, nonetheless.


  1. Cheers. I don't think we were supposed to play with the hat and pipe but they were so classy that I just ran and grabbed them while no-one was looking.

  2. Uh, awkward question for Tom: Did you go to KWNS? I (former Karorian, on my way back to Korea) stumbled across your blog, and you look mighty familiar!

    Nice hanboks, by the way :)