泡菜比赛 Kimchi Competition
Yesterday, I was invited to take part in a Kimchi Competition. I was assured that I would be taught how to make Kimchi beforehand.
That didn’t really happen. There were several tables with 10 styrofoam plates and an associated bowl of chili paste to make the kimchi with. The table I was at was in the back (though we were the very first registrants in the competition), so we did not hear the instructions to start clearly. Besides not knowing how to make kimchi, I was also unclear about what the competition entailed – was it speed? flavour? presentation?
I actually was not thinking about the presentation aspect, so I simply made the kimchi as fast as I could. The other people in my group had already begun, though time officially hadn’t yet begun. With my big hands, I was having difficulty getting my fingers in without poking holes in the sanitary gloves. So once I did manage to get a pair on without holes, I went very quickly, slathering the chili paste everywhere I could.
It did not occur to me that I don’t necessarily need to use the entire cup of chili paste, but since I like it spicy, I used all of mine plus some other people did not use of their own. My method of filling everything on the inside spread the flavour, but the outside looked fairly dull in appearance. Other people moved the cabbage leaves around to make sure they had a smooth appearance. A girl at the next table even rotated the cabbage and wrote something (maybe her name) using some of the chili sauce.
In the spirit of not realising the appearance might be important, I tore off the ends of some of the cabbage leaves and tossed them into my mouth since I finished well ahead of everyone else time-wise.
The judges finally came around, and I could finally see what they were judging for. One was appearance and presentation. Another was flavour, though the head judge only checked one of the kimchi plates at my table – mine. The judge was making an example of mine to an assistant judge. My kimchi was apparently too spicy, salty, and sour. I got low scores across the board. Other people at my table did as well – this assistant judge handed out scores that totalled about half the points of scores from other tables. The head judge came back and started to fiddle with the scores.
I knew my kimchi was not that great, but I was the only European face in the competition. So I was called on stage along with other contestants that legitimately won a prize based on the the quality of their kimchi. They even interviewed me, in Chinese. I realised I probably should have prepared some sayings related to spicy food in Chinese, but being impromptu, I didn’t say much. Then again, until the competition began, I had no idea what it would entail.
In any case, I won a small picture frame and a bar of Dongwha Bamboo Salt Soap. Like other contestants, I also received a soju thingy to attach to my mobile phone, a VIP card (88% of the bill, or 12% off each time), a coupon only good for women, and another coupon only good at a far-away location of the Korean restaurant that put on this competition.
The competition attracted quite a bit of attention, so there were no seats available in the restaurant at the close of the competition. I went with my friend to their location close to Hainan University (about an hour away by bus). Besides going home with a lot of kimchi and the prizes, I also went home feeling content, and with the desire to live in Korea soon (even more so than I did previously).