When Koreaphiles get together for the first time, the opening conversational gambit is usually: “So, how did you get interested in Korea, then?” The answer is usually that friends, film or music, or a combination of all three, provided the entry into Korean culture.
With Antonia Mochan, it’s a slightly different story. “I was on Brownie camp near the DMZ when Park Chung-hee was assassinated.” You’re not going to hear that said very often. But as a daughter of parents who worked in the British Embassy in Seoul in the late 1970s some memorable years of her childhood were spent there, and of course it is there that she got her taste for Korean food.
We were chatting at the inaugural meeting of The Kimchi Project, Antonia’s ambitious enterprise to eat her way around all the Korean restaurants in Zone 1 of the London Transport Map, raising money for the Centrepoint charity as she goes. All the restaurants will be rated and reviewed on the basis of their cabbage kimchi. We started at Nara in D’Arblay Street on 23 January, just after the opening of Soon Yul Kang’s exhibition at Mokspace, and the next meeting will be at Soju in Soho on 1 February.
And the kimchi? Antonia awards it 3.5 out of 5. It was a shame that the kitchen didn’t want to make us some cucumber soju. I can usually get one if I ask, but not at Nara. If you go to a Korean restaurant in Central London often enough, you can usually find an annoying little quirk, and I’ve now found Nara’s.
Contact Antonia to join her on her spicy fermented cabbage odyssey via her Tumblr page: http://thekimchiproject.tumblr.com/. Or donate to Centrepoint via her Justgiving page, http://www.justgiving.com/thekimchiproject/