Wednesday, February 16, 2011

ADV - Would you like a bowl of Ttukbaegi?

Onggi, a traditional Korean pottery has a significant role as a container preserving food in Korean food culture. In fact, in the olden days when we were reminded of the rows of kimchi and doenjang (soybean paste) jars that used to be stored in the house yard. Nowadays as plastic and stainless containers became popular and the housing environment had changed, Onggi lost its popularity in daily life of Koreans. However, recently the cultural value and identity of Onggi has been acknowledged. Books written in English to promote a global use of Onggi have been published followed by attempts of contemporary interpretation on the traditional pot. Let’s take a closer look.

Onggi, traditional Korean pottery of daily life

Onggi, in Korean means earthenware or pottery with a dark brown glaze, which is a native Korean pottery of daily life. Often used as a kimchi jar, for its cheap price and long-durability has been generally used by Koreans. Onggi Folk Museum in Ssangmun dong, Seoul, possesses a variety of Onggi; the big ones mostly used for preserving soy sauce, doenjang, kimchi and water and others used in a more wide range of use e.g. chimneys, candle bottles, lamp-oil containers, Gi-wa(roof tile) and tea pots.

The common use of Onggi can be explained with the characteristics of the Korean food culture. Onggi perfectly suited to preserve fermented food. Made from coarse sand-mud, its breathing holes allows air to enter but block water out that helps the preservation of the food for a longer duration. It also removes toxic substance of foods and reduces the smell. By enabling effective flow of air that helps the fermentation and preservation of the food, Onggi is perfect to store doenjang, soy sauce, kimchi and Jeotgal (salted seafood) keeping it fresh until the following year.

Onggi is a ‘pot from nature,’ that when cracked or broken to be thrown away it simply transform back to earth as soil. The pot is made of soil, water, fire and wind that are harmless to our body. It is eco-friendly but also has traditional Korean scientific logics embedded, no surprise it was selected as one of ‘100 Cultural Symbols of Korea.’ Last year ‘Onggi Expo Ulsan Korea, 2010’ was hosted by Ulsan Oe-gosan Onggi village, the biggest Onggi trading center of Korea.

‘Onggi Expo Ulsan Korea, 2010’ under its theme ‘Onggi the Mirror of the Future’ introduced Onggi featuring the meanings found in its materials and decoration technology and also offering events to experience the difference between Onggi and other potteries from the world. It was the first international expo on traditional Onggi and event catered for visitors to make their own Onggi was a great success...

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