|▲ Kim Nam Hee Institute of Traditional Korea Food|
Koreans have enjoyed rice cakes for many years. It almost always appeared on the table to pay a respect to ancestors or to celebrate 1st and 60th year birthday parties. Regretfully, the frequency of eating rice cakes has dropped significantly these days due to the invasion of fancy western cakes and cafes. Yet there is still someone whose passion in traditional Korean rice cakes have never once been discouraged by the trend: her name is Kim Nam-hee aka a master of Korean rice cakes.
From a housewife to a master rice cake maker
Kim loved cooking since childhood. She felt happy while making gimbap (rolls), songpyeon (half-moon rice cakes) and mandu (dumplings). She could forget everything but just indulge in the world of creating something of her own.
Many years passed and she married, had a child and moved to Daejeon City. There, she found her love for cooking still alive and felt this irresistible desire of making something professional rather than the cliché of home cooking.
She enrolled a course at a women’s center, worked really hard and proved her ability at a traditional food exhibition after 2 years. Feeling thirsty still, she went to Seoul and met her teacher Yoon Sook-ja, the president of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food, whose fame was built through various occasions including the APEC Summit, Royal Court Cuisine Exhibition and Korean Food Festival New York.
Kim worked hard again and proved her ability one more time and found favor with Yoon. Making a journey back home with confidence, Kim opened Kim Nam Hee Institute of Traditional Korean Food where you can get the same certificate issued by its Seoul headquarters.
In 2007, Kim won the excellence prize at the 4th Seoul International Food & Tableware Festival in the carving category. In 2010, she won the gold prize at the 2010 Korea International Cooking Contest followed by another gold prize in 2012 in the traditional liquor category as well as the ministerial prize from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Equipped with knowledge, experience and award winning ability, Kim has rolled up her sleeve to spread the excellent taste and the look of traditional Korean rice cakes, snacks and liquor with special focus on pyebeak (ceremonial food for wedding) for many years. Pyebeak food requires a high level of skill in both making and displaying and it is noteworthy that the orders are constantly made and keep her busy.
Promoting rice cakes to the world
As the head of the Federation of Korean Traditional Food Associations Daejeon, Kim is proactively engaged in fostering talented young rice cake makers through lectures and support for them to start their own business.
“A good rice cake needs good rice. So you should have an eye to discern good rice from the bad first of all. Then you should have skilled hands to cook and make it into a good rice cake that satisfies both the quality and the look” says Kim.
When asked about future plan, Kim said “I wish to build a brand that can promote the excellence of Korean rice cakes to the world. It is really encouraging that my daughter is joining the same profession soon and I believe we can make a great synergy in achieving that.”
안정희 기자 email@example.com