The Intangible Cultural Asset

Cultural Asset, Nyeon-im Kim, Dorothy

So why can’t the U.S. Government have designations like “Intangible Cultural Asset?” I actually met one on my recent trip to Korea. As most foodies have read and some have been lucky enough to taste, Korean cuisine is different, delicious and comforting. One of their most iconic dishes, is bibimbap.

Bibimbap

Jeonju Univesity students

On my recent trip I was invited to speak at Jeonju University which is about 3 hours south of Seoul. Jeonju is the culinary heart of Korea (similar to Lyon in France). The university has a much respected hospitality program and the town is a food mecca. Right before I gave my lecture and met the wonderful and welcoming students, we needed to tuck into lunch. That is when I met the Intangible Cultural Asset and Master of Traditional Korean food, Ms. Nyeon-im Kim. So unassuming and so dynamic, she’s in her seventies and still gets up every morning to oversee her restaurant, Gajok Hwegwan. The restaurant is touted outside with a large sign saying that this where you will find “the intangible cultural asset.” Then you enter a corner stairwell walking up two flights above a CVS type store. There on the second floor landing is an entrance lobby stacked with an array of fermenting bottles. You turn a corner and you think half of Korea is having lunch. The packed restaurant is within arms distance of a room length kitchen.  She oversees about half a dozen cooks lining up the feasts. Waitresses are buzzing back and forth.

Old Fashioned Fermentation

We were greeted in a private room by two professors from Jeonju. J.C. is one of ICC’s culinary graduates. They were so excited to have me taste Ms. Kim’s exceptional cooking. Not only did we eat the outstanding bibimbap but I had an incredible soufflé, that was more eggy than the traditional French version and had a slight fishy, acidic bite. Believe me, it was good.

The souffle

Roasted Rice Soup

When Koreans eat, they put all the plates on the table at once. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but I got to really like it. You just feel like you pulled up a chair to a buffet table and could then concentrate on your conversation with people at your table.My favorite sound in a Korean restaurant? All the laughter. No waiters interrupt the punch lines! I’d also like to share two final photos of meals with friends, one with our wonderful host for the visit, Rose Hyejung Han, the CEO of DreamVille Entertainment, and her colleague Ethan Woo, who was our indispensable liaison.

Front: Rose Hyejung Han, Dorothy Back: Jin-A Cha, Associate Professor, Department of Traditional Food Culture, Jeonju University, Jung Soon Kim, ICC Alumna and Associate Professor of Wester Cuisine, Jeonju University

Our liaison Sung Bong "Ethan"-Woo of DreamVille Entertainment and The ICC's Assistant Dean of Student Affairs/International Student Adviser Leland Scruby

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