▲ Left, people sample food served at the Jeju Folk Village. Center, pumpkin porridge. At right, a mother and daughter give a traditional millstone a try. Photos by Kim Jung Lim
The Jeju Folk Village, in Pyoseon, Seogwipo City, held its annual Traditional Winter Food Experience and Tasting Event from Jan. 13 to 15.
According to Yoo Kwang Min, the art and science researcher for the Jeju Folk Village, each house within the folk village has a vegetable garden where the staff grow crops including pumpkins, beans, and buckwheat for display. During winter, these organic vegetables are harvested, cooked, and consumed as traditional Korean dishes by visitors during the event.
Among the roughly 100 reconstructed traditional houses within the folk village, one in particular was crowded with onlookers during the event as a wonderful aroma floated up from inside. In the traditional kitchen, a woman stirred a pot of bean soup that would coagulate into tofu, while another staff member poured mashed pumpkin into a traditional Korean cauldron filled with hot water to make pumpkin porridge.
Lee Haeng Ja, who was making the tofu, told The Weekly that when she was young she used to watch her mother make these traditional dishes. The first time she attempted making the dishes herself for this annual event she failed, but through perseverance and hard work, she eventually became an expert in cooking them.
“I always feel proud of working for this folk village. I’m so pleased to make food with the crops that we grow every year specifically for visitors. They really love this food,” she said.
Lee said that cooking these meals calls for many hands. Yoo said they try to use traditional cooking methods and antique cooking tools like millstones and cauldrons, so the food is as authentic as possible to what was consumed by Koreans many generations ago.
Two families sitting in front of the house enjoying bowls of pumpkin porridge and a plate of sliced tofu all agreed that the event was very enjoyable. As for the food, Park Seong Ho, a father of one of the families, said, “The tofu is harder than usual and the porridge is really delicious.” A staff member added that the reason the tofu is hard is that they use a traditional millstone, which makes it difficult to produce finely ground grain.
Along with tasting food at the Traditional Winter Food Experience and Tasting Event, visitors also had the opportunity to experience traditional household chores like pounding grain with a stone mortar and grinding soy bean with a millstone.
Sin Soon Hwan, a mother who visited the event with her family, skillfully worked the millstone. She said, “I have used this in the countryside when I was young. Doing this for long [stretches of time] is very hard.” She explained to her daughter that the purpose of the millstone is to grind the soy bean between the two round stones. Her daughter Song Jae In said, “I feel the old people’s wisdom is great.”
Yoo said around 300 people visited the event this year, and that “They really liked it. They can watch making traditional food. Also, the adults got to tell [their children] that they had eaten this kind of food when they were young.”
According to Yoo, there were several difficulties in managing the event this year. Because the Lunar New Year falls earlier than usual and would have overlapped with this event, they had to shorten the festival, resulting in fewer visitors than originally expected. Also, they had fewer crops this year, but next year they expect to have a plentiful harvest.
He concluded saying “When visitors eat the food with pleasure, we feel happy, too. In addition to today’s event, we prepare other events every month. We always do our best to offer good events, so please check our program schedule and enjoy the Jeju Folk Village.”
This free event will be held again from Jan. 27 to 29. Pumpkin porridge and tofu will be offered on Jan. 27, and cooking bingtteok will be on Jan. 28. On the 29th, the program will be molding boiled soybeans into meju (a lump of soybeans that will be made into Korean soybean paste after fermentation).
Jeju Folk Village 631-34 minsokhaean-ro, Pyoseon-myeon, Seogwipo City Phone: 064-787-4501
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