Learning all about hansik

Interest in hansik, or Korean food, is growing among local and foreign diners as Korean culture spreads rapidly around the world.

Opportunities to learn about food culture in public spaces, however, are rare due to intermittent exhibitions and programs dealing with the subject.

Plenty of opportunities to learn about Korean food will be offered during this summer and throughout the rest of the year, as various organizations are holding noteworthy exhibitions.


National Folk Museum of Korea

Held exclusively during this summer, "One Summer Day's Repose: Taste, Palate and Healing" is offered at the National Folk Museum of Korea on the grounds of Gyeongbok Palace, central Seoul, from July 20 to Aug. 22.

The exhibition illustrates the traditional summer repose of Koreans through their food culture — how they used food to beat the summer heat, how they used kitchen utensils and how they relaxed outdoors.

The exhibition displays relics, modern craftwork and digital media to bring to life the traditions of Koreans of the past.

"Good tableware is just as important as good food. We wanted to spotlight and share the value of Korean food culture — the value of space for cooking and dining and the meaning of cuisine — through holding this exhibition," said Choi Jeong-cheol, president of the Korea Crafts & Design Foundation (KCDF), during a press conference, Tuesday. The KCDF collaborated with the museum on creating crafts to display.

The exhibition is divided into four sections. In the kitchen section, cooking traditions are reenacted through a digital visual art display on the wall and through a display of relics such as white celadon and the "dimibang," Korea's oldest cookbook.

In the second section, a summer table setting in the main hall recreates how a Korean meal was served while relics and modern craftwork in the storage room show how tableware looked in the past.

The repose section has a large media table in the center of the exhibition hall with a digital show showing audiences how to set up their own meals.

For the outdoor section, set in Ochondaek, a separate 125-year-old hanok (traditional Korean house) next to the museum, a hansik cooking and tasting program will be held on weekends until Aug. 15. Chef Yoo Jong-ha of restaurant Amiwol will conduct the program, demonstrating simple Korean summer dishes for participants.

K-Style Hub / Courtesy of KTO

K-Style Hub

The K-Style Hub in Cheonggyecheon, central Seoul, is also a place for immersion in the hansik experience.

The center, run by the Korea Tourism Organization, offers a variety of Korean cultural experiences, notably a Korean food exhibition on the third floor and Korean food cooking program on the fourth floor.

The permanent exhibition on the third floor offers a general overview of Korean cuisine. A display wall showing how different foods were developed for different seasons is lined up along the corridor from the entrance to the main hall.

When reaching the main hall, an ingredient table is on display for visitors to touch, smell and taste ingredients such as salt and spices widely used in Korean foods. Visitors can even take some of it home. Next to it is a display of jangdokdae, earthen jars used to store food, to show the fermentation process along with digital images of different kinds of kimchi projected on their lids. Information on each type of kimchi is offered with a photo.

In the middle of the hall lie several exhibits such as a book containing information about Korean food and culture that only flips when someone turns a handle beneath it. Another display is of a large chest of drawers containing ingredients used in Korean food. The exhibition offers free docent services at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. in Korean and at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. in English.

On the fourth floor of the K-Style Hub is a learning zone where visitors can cook and taste various Korean delicacies. A sampling area is also offered where visitors can buy some Korean foods.

The cooking program is offered regularly Monday through Sunday (except Tuesdays)and is based on prior reservations and fee payment.

The Cook-N-Dine program offers bulgogi, bibimbap, gimjang (kimchi-making), and jongga (head family house) food preparation classes that are two to three hours long, with participation fees ranging from 33,000 to 120,000 won. The Cook-N-Play program offers traditional dessert preparation and a traditional performance (44,000 won). The Cook-N-DIY program offers traditional dessert preparation and wrapping gifts with hanji (traditional Korean paper) (33,000 won).

Available in this floor is a sarangbang (resting area) where various food-related information, books and recipes can be viewed for free. Modern and traditional tableware are also on display.