I recently bought myself a tub of doenjang, to make hot soup. Sometimes I add dollops of it to my rice, and I always eat more, enjoy my food more, when I do that.

It must be true, what they say about smells evoking memories and odours having a power of persuasion stronger than words.

Because these fermented bean pastes – they are the smell of Korea to me, they bring me back. The smell of warm food after the trying -20°C cold.

Oedesan National Park, Korea

I lived in one of those green tents.


Walked through knee-deep snow.


The lady on my right in the photo was my instructor, but I don’t remember her name. A quiet lady who taught me how to sing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes in Korean; who asked us to bow to fishmongers at the market; and who told me the story of how she climbed Mount Everest never thinking she could ever do it.

When I smell my soup, I’m brought back to the bitter cold of the wilderness and the warmth of friendship; the quiet grace of the Koreans and hearty meals of bulgogi and bibimbap.

P/s: Grace writes about the five virtues (?!) of doenjang here.