As members of Philly’s Korean community work to get National Kimchi Day officially recognized in Pennsylvania, they’re kicking things off with a party.
On Saturday, the Kimchi Festival returns for its second year at Love Park. Organized by the Korean Cultural Foundation, the daylong event brings workshops, cooking demonstrations, folk games, and live performances celebrating Korean cuisine and heritage.
Last year’s inaugural fest attracted over 1,500 attendees. “This year, we’re hoping to get twice as many,” planning committee member Gail Allen told Billy Penn.
A traditional drum performance and dance will start the festivities. There will be an open kimchi-making demonstration, followed by DIY workshops with chefs — many of whom work in local Korean restaurants, per Allen, and are volunteering their time. They’ll be starting a day in advance to cut, salt, and brine the cabbage for the celebration’s namesake dish.
Along with kimchi, there will be other traditional Korean foods, like kimbap and hotteok.
Seaweed-wrapped slices of rice and vegetables, fish, or meat, kimbap differ from sushi partly due to the “nutty flavor” that comes from sesame oil, Allen explained. “It’s a good lunchbox food,” she said.
Hotteok is on the sweeter side, a popular street food compared by Allen to “mini-pancakes” with a filling of brown sugar, honey, peanuts, and cinnamon. “They’re so good,” she raved.
Along with food tables, cooking demonstrations, and free tastings, the festival will have arts and crafts options and traditional Korean folk games like yut nori, where players determine how many spaces they move on a gameboard by throwing sticks instead of dice. There’ll also be jeggichagi — similar to what we call hacky sack, per Allen — and ddakji, where players try to flip their opponents’ folded paper square, as seen in the popular Korean show Squid Games. “I have to cut more paper for that,” Allen remembered.
A K-pop dance performance is also part of the event lineup, as is a taekwondo demonstration, and a display of hanbok, traditional Korean clothing.
Founded in 2012, the Korean Cultural Foundation exists primarily as a “healing project,” said Allen, 70, to address the cultural gap between first-generation immigrant parents and their children. At least 42,000 people of Korean heritage live in the Philly region, putting it among the top 10 U.S. metro areas in population.
The idea for the Kimchi Festival came after the cultural foundation noticed similar events popping up in other states — “We wanted to be a part of that,” Allen said — and this year serves as launch point for their campaign to have Nov. 22 declared as Kimchi Day in Pennsylvania.
The date, she explained, is a reference to the 11 main ingredients that go into traditional kimchi, and the 22 health benefits associated with them. It’s been recognized in California since 2021.
Allen said the organization already has appointments scheduled with “the powers that be” in Harrisburg to further discuss the initiative.
In the meantime, she advises kimchi lovers and anyone who wants to get to know Korean cuisine and heritage to keep their calendars clear for Saturday’s celebration.
“It’s a great way to spend the day with your family,” said Allen, “and learn about a different culture.”
Love Park | Saturday, October 7, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. | Free admission | kimchifest.com