The Kimjang Project launched yesterday in New Malden with congratulatory messages from the Mayor of Kingston Thay Thayalan and the local MP Sir Ed Davey among others. The project celebrates the various aspects of kimjang, for example the communal character of kimchi-making and its health-giving properties. New Malden, sometimes known as New Mal-dong (뉴몰동), as Europe’s biggest Korean community and the largest community of North Koreans outside of Asia, is the obvious place to hold such a celebration.
The project is run by Korean British Cultural Exchange – the charity that also brings us the Chuseok Festival in Kingston’s market square in September – and is supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as by the New Malden Rotary Club. The most public face of the project will be an annual kimjang event in New Malden High Street celebrating the annual late autumn kimchi making season, at which visitors will be able to make their own kimchi with partly prepared ingredients. But perhaps the more interesting aspect of the project is its plans for an archive of kimchi recipes culled from the local Korean community, which includes South Koreans, North Koreans and Chinese Koreans.
Kimchi making is a tradition that belongs to all Koreans. Although the South registered Kimjang on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage register in 2013, the North was not far behind, with an inscription in 2015. At a time when the Guardian reports that the Korean community in New Malden is divided as the peninsula itself, maybe kimjang can bring the two communities together.
At yesterday’s launch event several different varieties of kimchi were available for tasting, including an elaborate Kaesong-style wrapped cabbage kimchi and a North Korean pollack and radish dish alongside some of the more familiar varieties. Chef Yim also demonstrated how to make the traditional cabbage and cucumber kimchis.
As ever, such events could not happen without the energy and passion of the volunteers. Look out for more information on the project’s website, kimjangproject.com.