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WWATD?! Kimchi Family

April 22, 2012

Kimchi Family poster

Wow, what a way to start the year of Kdrama! We’ve got a new player in the Korean network wars. This is the first drama we’ve watched from the jTBC network, and they started with a bang! Kimchi Family or Fermentation Family focuses on the lives of the people involved with a traditional Korean restaurant, Heaven, Earth, and Man, that is located in the mountains and utilizes kimchi as the centerpiece of its cuisine.

The main characters of Kimchi Family are Ki Ho Tae, played by Song Il Gook, and Lee Kang San, played by Park Jin Hee. Ki Ho Tae is a gangster with a good heart, who is searching for the truth to his past as an orphan, and the role the restaurant plays in that past. Lee Kang San’s father is the owner and head chef of Heaven, Earth, and Man, and has been trying to set her own path by working as a chef in Seoul for an Italian restaurant. As Heaven, Earth, and Man is threatened by financial challenges and an aggressive, large Korean food company seeking to buy out the area to create a new Korean food town for tourists, Lee Kang San is pulled back to the restaurant and away from Seoul and her dreams of becoming a renowned Italian chef.

A third major character in the drama is Heaven, Earth, and Man itself. The restaurant is in a hanok, a traditional Korean house, up in the mountains. The scenery is breathtaking. I mean, you want to live there. It just really makes you feel all of the promise of a simple, contemplative life surrounded by nature. Nature, and some super yummy food! Seriously, not since Dae Jang Geum have we had a drama make us this hungry. Sunnie kicked into kimchi making mode, and I can’t tell you how many times we would watch an episode late at night, and end up heading downstairs for kimchi and rice. Every episode is named for a type of kimchi and the wisdom it represents. Each episode Kang San and her sister, Woo Joo, played brilliantly by Lee Min Young, make kimchi and impart the lessons they were taught by their late mother -how the ingredients help each other to become delicious kimchi and how that serves as a metaphor for life.

One of the great things about this drama is that it effortlessly introduces plot lines about many characters, and you really are interested about each one. While the overarching plot is actually somewhat complex and mysterious, the side plots about each character and their day-to-day lives are really engaging. You learn about the lives of the two older men who regularly frequent the restaurant, as well as the assistant chef, a local school teacher, and other smaller characters.  Lee Min Young takes a part that could be horribly forced and corny, the incredibly naive and cheerful Woo Joo, and makes her endearing, while she laments how people take advantage of her while trying to remain true to her optimistic nature. All of the acting is top notch in this drama. Song Il Gook’s Ki Ho Tae is the soft hearted thug with a little pot belly, and Song Il Gook’s Kang San is ambitious and unafraid to lay into Ko Ho Tae with her biting insults. They make a fun couple, and the entire cast is populated with strong actors. Oh, and the cinematography is fantastic as well.

Kimchi Family poster

We really raced through this drama unlike any drama we’ve watched in a long time. Kimchi Family firmly put itself into our top 5 Kdramas of all time. The only disappointment we had was that they clearly ran out of time towards the end of the series. They had laid out so many plot lines that we were interested in, that when it came time to wrap up the drama in the last couple of episodes, they ended up laying a number of them aside and never really addressing them again, instead focusing on completing the main story arc about Ki Ho Tae’s past and its connection to Kang San’s family. It’s unusual for a drama to end at its strongest point, and its even more unusual for a drama to have really engaging pacing throughout. Kimchi Family had us hooked throughout, but we were left wanting more, and not getting all the answers we thought we would get about the side plot lines and the characters they were focused on. But we couldn’t recommend Kimchi Family more with one big caveat: have a variety of kimchi on hand before watching this drama because you will be craving it, and there’s also a chance you may end up giving up your life to move to Korea and try to live in a hanok in the mountains. Still, it’s worth the risk!

I’ll leave you with the theme song – a fantastic fusion of modern and traditional music that is so much fun. It’s about cooking yummy Korean food, and I love it!

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. Barbwirecowgirl permalink
    April 23, 2012 12:49 am

    Yay! I am so glad you loved this one! It really was awesome, and had me striving to find the ingredients for some of the wonderful kimchi recipes in it! It was rather hard and in the end I did not get any . . . boo.
    I love your kimchi recipes, I am so glad you put a few on, because now I just might be able to have some!

    • Bill permalink*
      April 25, 2012 2:06 pm

      Let us know how they turn out if you do give them a try!

  2. Stephanie permalink
    April 25, 2012 12:52 am

    I agree with the previous poster regarding your recipes for kimchi. I live in a city with many Korean grocery stores but, unfortunately, none of the kimchi is anchovy or shellfish free :( Now I can make it myself! I have also taken interest in some of the K-Drama you’ve posted about and I’m curious if any of it is available with English subtitles? Thanks! ^_^

    • Bill permalink*
      April 25, 2012 2:08 pm

      Hi, Stephanie! Thanks for finding us. I know, it’s really frustrating looking for kimchi without shrimp or fish in it, and we try to not get any with MSG either, so while we can find some, we also like to make our own. Dramafever.com is where we watch most of our dramas, and they are subtitled in English there. We have a link to it on the right side of the site. Hope you enjoy the dramas and the kimchi!

      • Stephanie permalink
        April 25, 2012 4:43 pm

        Hooray! Thanks so much :)

  3. April 30, 2012 7:39 am

    I just finished watching episode 10! I’m late for work! I want to learn how to make all the kimchis in the show!

    xo

    • Bill permalink*
      April 30, 2012 8:21 am

      Ha, ha! I understand the feeling. We really raced through the show too! So glad you like it!

  4. May 2, 2012 11:35 am

    I am so glad I stumbled across your blog a couple of weeks ago, you cover three of my favourite things- vegan food, Kdramas and kimchi! I hadn’t seen anything about this show until I read this here and I am loving it, I am not going to admit how many episodes I watch a day. ;) I am going to make kimchi this weekend, I can’t afford to keep buying it since I am going through it so much faster watching this show!

    • Bill permalink*
      May 2, 2012 12:16 pm

      Glad you found us, Leah. Yeah, our kimchi intake (and kimchi making) surged during the show, and we really started missing Korea and its mountains (and its readily available kimchi). Glad to hear you’ll be making kimchi this weekend. Hope it turns out great!

  5. May 5, 2012 5:51 am

    I agree with your review 100%. One thing that drove me crazy is that at a certain episode (maybe around 10 or 11) the subtitles went crazy. I don’t know if it was just me version or if the copy I was watching was a bootlegged one or what but it was very frustrating. The names of the characters kept changing. Kang San became Country and her sister was at one point named universe and then raidrops!

    In spite of the translation issue I too watched it in record time!

    xo

    • Bill permalink*
      May 5, 2012 9:42 am

      Probably fan created subs, but that’s pretty funny. Are you able to access DramaFever.com? Their subs are usually pretty good. Glad you liked it!

  6. KonaBeans permalink
    May 7, 2012 10:19 pm

    I truly enjoy reading your review of Kimchi Family. I know I’m bias when it comes to Song Il-Kook, and I’m thrilled to know this drama receives a lot of love from the audience. Thank you for this post.

    • Bill permalink*
      May 8, 2012 9:02 am

      Thanks for finding us, KonaBeans. Glad you enjoyed the review! We loved Kimchi Family so much!

  7. Charmayne permalink
    July 10, 2012 9:19 pm

    I am on episode 22 and have loved every episode of this drama! I really wish I could go to Korea and get some of the delicious food that is in the drama. I didn’t realize there are so many types of kimchi and pickles. I can’t wait for more great suggestions.

    • Bill permalink*
      July 12, 2012 9:56 am

      So glad you’re enjoying the drama, Charmayne! We really loved Kimchi Family. I’ll have a post up about what we’re watching now very soon!

  8. rhai permalink
    June 26, 2013 12:56 am

    I’m totally enjoying this kdrama! Especially the plot twists and the pairing of Lee Kang San and Gi Ho Tae (all the feels!). Plus the dishes mentioned in every episode, which makes me want to eat kimchi! A must-see for those who love food and Kdrama combined.

    • Bill permalink*
      June 26, 2013 4:10 pm

      Yeah, that was our drama of the year for last year. The kimchi alone is reason enough to tune in! Glad you’re enjoying it. :)

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