By Lee Hyo-won
A Korean meal is never complete without kimchi, and the spicy fermented vegetable dish continues to be prepared during the wintertime, when the cold weather provides natural refrigeration.
Despite snowy road conditions, reporters flocked to a movie theater in downtown Seoul, Wednesday, for a taste of the most anticipated kimchi product in the making for 2010 ― "Le Grand Chef - Kimchi War
", the sequel to the 2007 hit culinary comic-book-turned-film "Le Grand Chef"
Unlike the first film, which featured various episodes from cartoonist Huh Young-man
's "Sikgaek", "Kimchi Wars" is a spinoff with an original story. Instead of showcasing a wide variety of local dishes, the new movie focuses on the many facets of kimchi, said first-time director Baek Dong-hoon
"I was initially worried about how I could propel a two-hour-long story with just kimchi, but it wasn't a problem once I learned how rich and diverse the types of kimchi and kimchi dishes are", he said.
"The movie features not only the common red kimchi made from cabbage, but also various regional kimchi and modern fusion recipes such as salads made with white `nabak' (water-based) kimchi", said Kim Jung-eun, who plays the role of Jang-eun, a world-renowned chef who is determined to globalize Korean food.
"Le Grand Chef - Kimchi War
" is about Seong-chan, a cooking genius and advocate of tradition, who must compete against Jang-eun to make the best kimchi dish.
follows in the footsteps of Kim Kang-woo
and Kim Rae-won
, who played the lead in the first film and TV series, respectively.
"I felt pressured because the previous works were hits and both actors received favorable reviews as Seong-chan. But my worries disappeared once I saw the script, because it features more dramatic elements, such as Seong-chan's dark past. And I think my image works as a plus in that regard", said the 29-year-old, who is known for playing strong, moody characters, most notably his critically acclaimed supporting role in Bong Joon-ho
's "Mother - 2009"
He added that the film was a great pleasure to make since cooking is a hobby of his, though emulating a professional chef meant undergoing "200 hours of chopping radishes" in order to perfect the motion. After the filming he was able to make kimchi with his mother, which proved to be a memorable experience.
also had some trouble since her experience in the kitchen had been limited to making coffee and "ramyeon" (instant noodles). "But now I can actually make kimchi ― my mother is absolutely amazed. I feel like I should have paid to participate in the movie, for such amazing cooking lessons", said the 33-year-old actress.
The kimchi competition in the movie also hints at a culturally sensitive matter by featuring "kimuchi", what the Japanese say is their version of the side dish. But the director and actors said that more important than addressing political implications, is the need to inspire local interest in, and the development of, traditional Korean gastronomic culture.
They also agreed that kimchi should always be associated with fond memories. The director said the best kimchi he has ever eaten was the batch his mother sent him while he was studying abroad, while Kim said she is sad she could no longer taste her late grandmother's special recipe.
The movie is slated for release at the end of January 2010.