Review: Fermentation Family


This drama’s got a slower, more languid pace than most other dramas.

Populated by well-drawn, faceted characters, each with their own backstory and needs, this drama is a heartwarming, thoughtful watch.

As a bonus, there is a generous amount of gorgeous food porn. Be prepared to crave kimchi 😉


I went into this drama not knowing what to expect.

First, it’s a cable drama, and cable dramas have a reputation of being pretty different creatures compared to their network cousins.

Second, I didn’t have any prior experience with any of the actors. Yup, I had never seen Song Il Gook in action before, impossible as it may seem to some.

I had once attempted to watch A Man Called God and I must not have been in the right mood for it. I found it so over-the-top that I couldn’t even get to the end of episode 1.

Fermentation Family, on the other hand, seems to reside on the opposite end of the spectrum. Far from being over the top, I found it to be a subtle, quiet drama that takes its time to let us savor its substance and flavor.

One of the best things about this drama is that it is literally a feast for the eyes.

The scenery is breathtakingly gorgeous, and the camera gives it a wonderfully intense color palette that adds just enough kick to make everything look surreal.

The camera angles and frames are used skillfully to bring out the beauty of the surroundings and the poetry in the moment.

The characters are often shown in frames where they are surrounded by the lush beauty around them, and nature takes centerstage, making the humans look almost incidental.

Take a look at this:

And this:

And this:

Absolutely gorgeous and simply breathtaking.

Of course, there’s a story. Song Il Gook’s character Ki Ho Tae comes to work at the restaurant because he’s searching for the truth of his past. In the process, he learns about the meaning of life through the eyes of his new friends, and he also learns about love.

That’s the main plotline, but there are other stories too, and each character gets his or her own arc. The drama handles each arc gently and gracefully and in the process, we feel like we really get to know these characters and care for them.

There is an OTP, made up of Song Il Gook’s Ki Ho Tae and Park Jin Hee’s Lee Kang San.

What’s different is how the drama handles their romance.

Most other dramas treat the romance as a main plotline, and the majority of the drama centers around the OTP, their feelings, will-they-or-won’t-they get together and such.

Not so in Fermentation Family. Here, the romance is just one of several plotlines, and is handled in a distinctly matter-of-fact, subdued sort of manner. The attraction between the OTP sparks and grows in a very organic, natural sort of way, and when they do acknowledge and act on their feelings for each other, it is quiet, warm and gracious.

No fireworks or drama. Just gentle and warm.

In many ways, that is refreshing. Not only does it give us respite from our usual drama diet of intense feelings and heightened drama, it also gives us a sense that this kind of love is true to life, and something that we, too, can experience in our regular lives.

One of the motifs that I found particularly sweet was the chalkboard outside the restaurant.

Everyday, someone from the restaurant, usually Kang San’s sister Woo Joo (Lee Min Young), will write the day’s menu on the chalkboard, along with a report or update or comment for the day.

The chalkboard almost acts like a portal through which the family reaches out to the outside world, and through which the outside world gets to receive from the family as well.


In the beginning of the drama, Woo Joo updates the board everyday to say how the baby is doing.

At first, we wonder what that’s about, and why she’s telling everyone about her baby. But we later find out that it’s not her baby, but that they had taken in a baby that had been abandoned at the restaurant. Because Woo Joo deeply believes that the baby’s mother would want to know how her child was doing, she updates the chalkboard daily with reports on whether the baby had eaten or slept well the day before.

There’s just something so innocent and pure about that way of thinking.

True, Woo Joo’s character is written as being a little slow, but it is not because of that that she believes this way or behaves this way. As the drama progresses, we see that everyone in that household believes that way and behaves that way. And it is thought-provoking and affirming to behold.


Woo Joo’s character is used as a benchmark, almost, in the drama.

Because she’s written as being slower than most people, her nature is portrayed as particularly pure and childlike. And when, from that place of purity, she questions actions, decisions or motivations by other characters in the drama, she unwittingly holds them up to that standard of purity.

So ironically, we get to see that it is the “slow” one who actually has the highest and purest moral standards.

While all the characters play an important role in the drama, it would be remiss not to mention the food.

The food is such a presence in the drama that it’s practically an actual character on its own.

The preparation and presentation of food enjoys a fair amount of screen time, but it isn’t actually to teach us literal lessons about food.

Rather, the food is a metaphor for life, and Kang San and Woo Joo are often shown preparing kimchi while explaining the meaning and significance behind the ingredients. Often in that explanation lies a deeper life lesson that the girls’ mother had wanted to impart to them.

At the same time, food is also used as medicine in the drama.

This is due not only to the medicinal and healing properties in the ingredients, but in equal part, to the gentle healing hands that prepare them.

And so it is, that throughout the drama, the family reaches out to and brings healing to various people that cross their paths.

And it is while we observe the family going about their healing work with such gentle passion and grace, that we find ourselves drawn deep into their world, their mentality and psyche.

At its heart, this is a drama can affect you in the deepest of ways, if you allow it to.

All in all, a complex drama offering indeed.


Pleasant, unhurried and thought-provoking. Worth making time for.



Here’s an MV that really brings out the atmosphere of this show: friendly, inviting and just a touch quirky. Enjoy 🙂

24 thoughts on “Review: Fermentation Family

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  4. Lady G.

    I just have to say, I got my baby sister (25, married with 2 toddler boys though. lol) totally hooked into K-drama because she was so curious about all my little posts, likes, and K-related memes on facebook. She picked Kimchi Family to watch because the food looked so enticing and I sold her on the heartwarming story. And now she’s totally in love with it. She’s always bubbly and enthusiastic about things so it warms my K-fan heart to see her laughing out loud, getting teary-eyed, humming the soundtrack etc. etc. A new K-drama fan is born! Today she watched ep. 3-5! That’s amazing. Unfortunately for now we can only watch when she’s over our house, but she comes often. It’s fun.

    1. kfangurl

      Aw!! How fabulous is that?!??? 😀 How fun, that you now get to watch with your sister! And how sweet, that she’s enjoying it so much! And what a bonus, that while you’re having sisterly bonding while watching with her, you get more SIG on your screen 😉 It’s perfect!

      Now all you need to do is convert your other sister, and soon you girls can have group skype watches – THE POTENTIAL AWESOME!!! 😀

      1. Lady G.

        I know! Yesterday she excitedly asked my sister, are you gonna continue watching K-dramas in Florida?? lol. I’m surprised my other sis got through 2- Good Doctor and Rooftop Prince. Now all I have to do is explain some of the quirks of Korean culture that little sis might not understand. Like the big deal about ages and levels of respect in the language and titles like Noona, Unni, Ahjussi, Samchon, etc.

        1. kfangurl

          Ahaha!! Let the k-education begin!! 😀 This is why you need to watch with them, so that you can explain as you go. And yay that you’ve got your baby sister to help persuade your other sister now! Power in numbers..? ;D

          I’m rooting for group skype watches – that’d be so much fun!

  5. kaiaraia

    A very BEAUTIFUL drama about life. And quite HEARTWARMING too. Not so exciting yet not dull either, just enough to keep you going. It took me longer to finish this as I do drama of the same length as I often hit pause to think and reflect. And my! Those kimchis! It frustrates me so much because the traditional Korean restaurant we used to frequent closed a couple of years ago. Well, there are others but not as authentic as that. What a pity!

    1. kfangurl

      Yes, it’s quite lovely, isn’t it??? Such a different tone and feel from most of the drama offerings out there.. Unhurried, thoughtful and almost meditative at times. And yet so beautiful; in the scenery, the food shots, and the focus on life. It took me longer to finish this than usual as well – I’m thinking that is a good thing. More time to savor 🙂

      And yes, it does make you crave Korean food! Pity about your favorite restaurant closing though.. I feel your pain, kaiaraia!! That kimchi looks so amazing that you just really want some! >.<

  6. Lady G.

    Oh you’re gonna love all those!! Cyrano was so quirky and fun. Nice Guy very melo with a great soundtrack, it was my first drama because of Song Ki Joon. and King of Dramas I found the lead character so amazingly different than any other lead guy. Loved that one. I never watched a drama longer than 24 episodes, so right now I’m taking the plunge with the 81 part drama Jumong. I see nothing but rave reviews about it. I’m on episode 6 and loving it and fawning over Song Il Guk.

    I do most of my drama watching at night. I’m a big night owl, not always a good thing, but I also start work in the afternoons. Once I get hooked sometimes I can watch up to 5 eps. in one shot. I know that’s so crazy. lol.

    1. kfangurl

      Wow, leaping from a 24-ep cap into a 81 ep drama? That’s a lot of love you have right there, for Song Il Guk! XD

      Kim Myung Min is famous for his serious method acting, that’s probably why he stood out to you so much in KoD.. I’ve seen him in Beethoven Virus, and he’s excellent there as well.

      5 eps at a go is impressive!! I THINK I used to be able to do that, once upon a time 😛 Now if I go for 4 eps on the very rare occasion, it’s a cause for shock & celebration, LOL!

  7. Lady G.

    Beautiful review. I agree with everything you said. I love Song Il Guk and he was wonderful in this drama. And the food, wow…I wish this restaurant existed! You really learn a lot in this drama, or at least grow a deeper appreciation for life and family.

    1. kfangurl

      Aw thanks, Lady G! And welcome to the blog! 😀

      I so agree – this drama makes you reflect on the goodness of life and family. Subtle and thoughtful, that’s what I thought of this show. And definitely – I wish this restaurant existed!! I’d love to be there to soak in the gorgeous surroundings while savoring that sublime-looking food! And the kimchi! My word, the kimchi looks heavenly!! *daydreams*

      1. Lady G.

        Thank you! I was led to this blog by someone on the Chuno Face Book group linking your Jang Hyuk post. It was great. I still have to try Kimchi. And ddukbokki and the BBQ…getting so hungry! Koreatown Manhattan, I’m on my way!

        1. kfangurl

          Haha! How funny! Coz I’m typing my Chuno review right this very minute! XD

          Y’know, I never tried Korean food until I got on the kdrama train, and now, I eat it every chance I get! Kimchi! Korean BBQ! YUM~~

          1. Lady G.

            Oh cool, look forward to reading it. I’m new to K-Drama since January, but I feel like I’ve been a fan forever. 🙂 Seen so much. Oh and LOVE LOVE LOVE Gong Yoo too. 😀 TTYL!

            1. kfangurl

              Oh! Welcome to the kdrama-verse!! 😀 How exciting, to be new to kdrama, with so many goodies to choose from! What have you liked so far??

              And yay for more Gong Yoo love in the house! He is awesome to the nth degree. When I see him in motion on my screen, I melt. I can’t help myself 😉

              1. Lady G.

                Thanks. You gave me a loaded question, but I just answered this on another blog, Stuck on Hyuk. So I’m gonna do a little copy and past. I’ve seen more but these are my favorites:

                Faith, The Innocent Man (Nice Guy), Cyrano Dating Agency,Ghost, the ongoing-I hear your voice, Last Scandal, City Hunter, The Third Hospital, Take care of the Young lady, Chuno, Midas, Greatest Love, The King of Dramas, Vineyard man, My Girl, Big, Rooftop Prince, All about my romance, Can love become money?, Heading to the Ground, Fermentation (Kimchi) family, A man called God, Crime Squad, Tazza, If in love like them (4-part drama) Single dad in love, Couple or trouble, My Princess, Thank You, It’s okay daddy’s girl, Secret Garden, When it’s at night, Powerful Opponents, Oh, my lady, I’m sorry I love you, He who can’t marry…

                More to be added nearly every week. lol. I really loved Gong Yoo in that Powerful movie, Silenced. I know he has a new film coming out, and hoping it comes to NYC. What got me into K-Drama was seeing A Werewolf Boy on the big screen and I loved it.

                1. kfangurl

                  Wow. One thing is clear, Lady G – you work really, really fast when it comes to drama!! XD I’m amazed that you’ve managed to watch this many dramas, considering that you’ve only recently gotten into kdrama!! And this isn’t even a complete list! Kudos! *salute*

                  I haven’t seen all the dramas on your list, but I do share your love for City Hunter, Rooftop Prince, Big, My Girl, Fermentation Family, Thank You, He Who Can’t Marry & Secret Garden. And Chuno – how could I forget Chuno?

                  I did also moderately enjoy My Princess, Oh My Lady and Last Scandal. I saw I’m Sorry I Love You but I didn’t really like it all that much. I also attempted a bit of Tazza – for Jang Hyuk – but I really just couldn’t get into it.

                  You’ve got some on your list that I’m definitely planning to check out: Nice Guy, Cyrano, & I Hear Your Voice. I’m 2 eps into King of Drama, and I really think I’m gonna like it ^^

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  9. Crazy For Kdrama

    I enjoyed your breakdown! I didn’t realize this was a cable network show, it totally makes sense. I do like the pace of the drama. Its nice to have a drama which isn’t ‘wacky’. It was well done and plotted, I wish though, they had done more with the heroine. They kind of dropped her as we reached the mid point of the story. And I wanted to try the kimchi. All of them.

    1. kfangurl

      I know right?? The kimchi all looked so amazing!! That kind of wide variety of kimchi is not something I can get here. I think I’d have to go to Korea for that! So gorgeous!!

      I have to agree that the heroine’s personal arc was more subdued than I expected, based on how they introduced her at the beginning of the show. I didn’t find it overly unnatural though, coz I think her time at the restaurant mellowed her and caused her to reorganize her priorities.


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