Nearly Thames Festival time again, and I can’t help but think back to the bibimbap-inspired event at last year’s fest.
Firstly, allow me to set the scene. The Thames Festival is a celebration of London’s diversity and community spirit. It’s completely free, and aims to engage and entertain those of all ages and from all walks of life through all manner of media, performances and art. The colourful, multicultural event climaxes with a carnival parade and spectacular firework display courtesy of the mayor.
Of course, the festival wouldn’t be the same without a glimpse of Korea granted to Londoners.
Last year offered stalls and demonstrations focusing on various crafts and traditions, but the main event focused very much on food (I thought that this was a very clever way of attracting hungry Londoners to take a peek!)
We were invited into a marquis and seated at beautifully laid tables. There were video images of Korea projected around the place, which perfectly introduced the context of the culture we’d be exploring.
Before being served with the dish of the day, some very informative short talks were given, and we learnt that this was so much more than just a yummy (and pretty) bowl of vegetables. Bibimbap is a symbolic dish as well.
I never knew that bibimbap consisted of five colours, and that these represented five different virtues:
1) Red=good fortune
2) White=proficiency at work
In England, we are always told to mix as many colours as possible when eating veggies, so bibimbap has health benefits too (as so many Korean dishes seem to.) In fact, Koreans believe that each of the five colours corresponds to a different organ’s health.
Considering this and the symbols of luck it carries with it, I’ve since included all five colours when cooking at home (ensuring carrots are included to substitute the red of the meat for my veggie-friendly version).
The tables were shared, which meant that groups and individuals mingled and got talking about the food and Korea in general. It was really cool to meet people who were trying bibimbap for the first time, and see their interest in Korea ignited. We could also interact with the event organisers, and feed back our opinions on the dish as well as stories about both Korea and London.
After the meal and a tombola-style competition, we were left with full stomachs, and the lasting taste of Korea. We were presented with gift packs that included paper lanterns, a pamphlet full of information and gorgeous photographs of Korea and a recipe book that has since come in very useful.
The best things about the day were:
- Learning in depth about one of my favourite dishes.
- Having a delicious free dinner.
- Talking about Korea and sharing experiences.
- Meeting new people and embracing the community spririt.
- Don’t miss Korea Calling this weekend (10th and 11th September). It’ll take place next to the OXO tower. Enjoy 🙂