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Fermentation Family: Episode 1

The wonderful PD-writer duo that brought us Resurrection and The Devil bring us a new drama. This one is definitely lighter than their past two works, but from looking only at episode one, things seem okay. Characters are introduced and the plot is being developed. The main plus is that visually, the drama is prettily shot. Candy to my eyes.

Episode 1 Recap:

Ki Ho-tae (Song Il-gook) runs down the halls of an abandon warehouse with a stampede of gangsters right behind him. The group surrounds him yet our protagonist won't go down without a fight. He quickly knocks down the first few but their numbers aren't decreasing. As he punches and kicks, he voiceovers, "I've been through numerous amounts of wars, but my life's real war might be starting now."
The scene zooms away and flashes white. Ki Ho-tae, sporting his thug look, stands in front of Chunjiin, a restaurant.
 He walks around and is taken by surprised when Lee Woo-joo (Lee Min-young) pops up. She's super perky and bright and begins to welcome and explain their food to him. He takes a step back and simply looks at her as if she's an strange animal.
Flashback to yesterday.
Lee Kang-san (Park Jin-hee) is working in the kitchen of an expensive restaurant. She is in charge of salads and there won't be any slacking while she's in command as she reprimands one of the cooks and tells her to redo the salad.
In the dining area, Ki Ho-tae is outside with his gangster lackey, his fist in front of the man who needs to pay back his loan. He sits down at the table and proceeds to snack on the salad left at the table. However, it isn't to his taste, and he says out loud, "This doesn't taste good."
Lee Kang-san happens to overhear his comment while stepping out to visit a customer, and her pride won't let her just pass by some third-rate gangster bashing her dish. She walks over to them and promptly asks if there's a problem with the salad. He brushes her off by saying it doesn't taste good.
Lee Kang-san won't back off, though, and asks again what exactly might be the problem. Ki Ho-tae blatantly ignores her and tells the man in debt to make money rather than waste it here. As he gets up, Lee Kang-san steps close and continues to drill him about what's wrong with her salad. The two start to bicker, parrying chide remarks one after the other.
She is eventually told to stop, and Ki Ho-tae receives a call from his hyungnim who wants to see the man. At this news, the man yelps, "If I go there, I'll die! I'll die!" which grabs the attention of everyone in the restaurant including Lee Kang-san.
As they try to take the man away, she runs down and blocks their path. She threatens Ki Ho-tae and his lackey and tries to call the police, but the man stops her and silently gets into their car. Before he leaves, Ki Ho-tae turns back to Lee Kang-san and tells her that the sauce was too sweet. She bites back that the sauce was suppose to be sweet, to which he huffs that what she said about listening and changing to the customer must have been lies. He advises her that all it needed was some vinegar and drives away.
The man is kneeling in front of the gangster boss while Ki Ho-tae leisurely cuts his fingernails in the background. His hyungnim is visibly annoyed with his behavior as he repeatedly looks back and gives him death glares.
After some intimidation factor, the man in debt finally relents to putting his half a billion won apartment as collateral for borrowing 50,000,000won, but before he can sign the contract, Ki Ho-tae comes over and drags him out of there.
Hyungnim walks over to him and reveals to us that the head leader is in a coma which explains Ki Ho-tae's insubordination to him; he's not the real leader. Hyungnim starts to slap his face and asks, "Why'd you become a gangster? You should have been a cop or a pastor or a priest or a monk. There's a lot of things to do."

He's finally has heard enough when his hyungnim tells him to lower his gaze and head butts him full force. This means rebellion as the gangsters start to gang up on him but are no match. They swiftly fall, one by one, until the final boss is knocked out with one punch.

Back at the expensive restaurant, Lee Kang-san puts vinegar in the sauce per Ki Ho-tae's suggestion and likes what she tastes. One of the other cooks comes up to her and congratulates her on her promotion. She disregards it saying nothing is finalized.
She gets a call from her dad who asks her to come down and despite her reluctance, he says its important.  
Ki Ho-tae is eating with his lackey who advises him to apologize on his knees just this once. This puts his undies in a bunch and firmly states that he won't even kneel to God if he hasn't done anything wrong.
As they get up to leave, a documentary starts on the television about Chunjiin. Ki Ho-tae's face grows dark as he watches slacked-jaw.
At Chunjiin, Lee Woo-joo and two regular customers, doctor Han Pyung-man and grandpa Sul Gook-hwan watch with fascination and comment about how they look on screen.
The day is over, and we are back to the scene of thug faced Ki Ho-tae in front of Chunjiin. However, this time he flashes back to his past remembering when he was a little boy and standing in front of this very same restaurant. He peeks inside the restaurant and sees his past self sitting at the table coloring.

We see the scene again of Lee Woo-joo popping up and surprising Ki Ho-tae. As he turns in exasperation and sighs, "I'm the crazy person." She gives him an empathetic look and says, "Crazy? Who? That's too bad. [You] look fine on the outside." He looks back at her wide-eyed with disbelief.
Ki Ho-tae gets a call from his lackey and goes out to meet up, but it's a trap. His lackey can only bow his head in shame as Ki Ho-tae takes in his situation. Once again he's outnumbered, and they've learned from their past mistake because this time they have weapons.

Ki Ho-tae is quickly knocked down and beaten but before they can really beat him to a pulp, sirens are heard and getting louder. As the gangsters scurry off, a single car pulls up and out comes... Lee Kang-san! Is she an undercover cop who acted as a chef, or does everyone just carrying around a siren in their car?
She helps him up and gets a good look at his face and is taken aback by who it is. "Vinegar gangster?" He falls to the ground again and while barely conscious, says, "I'm hungry."
Ki Ho-tae wakes up to the smell and sound of kimchi and bolts up wondering where he is. He recognizes the room from his memories: it's Chunjiin. He walks out of the room and out to the yard where a hand suddenly grabs his shoulder. He jumps and twirls around to be surprised by the chef from two days ago.
Lee Kang-san notices a petal in his hair and takes it out. She blows it out of her hands, and Ki Ho-tae is smitten by her beauty...
until she starts to yawn and his fantasies are promptly broken. His face kills me.
He asks what she's doing here, and she tells him that this is her house. He then asks her why she didn't take a hurt man to the hospital clearly having forgotten about telling her last night to not take him to the hospital. She tells him, though, that she didn't take him to the hospital because there was a 98% chance of him going to the police station, and the other 2% was because she was impressed. She looked up the customer's contact information and called him. He informed her that Ki Ho-tae had saved his life.
Lee Woo-joo comes running up to them her trademark smile on her face. Behind her, though, comes their father and owner of Chunjiiin Lee Ki-chan. He's stoic as Lee Kang-san says she's sorry about last time. She didn't mean it when she told him that she was never coming back. She was drunk and wasn't thinking. Lee Woo-joo adorably parrots what her sister says to try and have her father talk to Kang-san again but is told by both her father and sister to stop.
Dad asks Ki Ho-tae about his injuries and calls everyone for breakfast. Ki Ho-tae tries to get out of it, but Lee Kang-san tells him that he'll have to eat if he wants to leave because a hungry person won't be allowed to step out of this house. Lee Woo-joo asks if he's the "crazy person" from last time and pushes him down to breakfast.
While everyone eats and chatters, Ki Ho-tae blankly stares at the food until he is told to hurry up and eat. He takes a bite and another and is completely blown away by the taste.

He continues to happily chow down, gulfing down the food until he takes a bite of the water kimchi. It sends him down memory lane and while the other person's face is hidden, we hear his voice which sounds similar to Lee Ki-chan's.
Breakfast ends and Ki Ho-tae tells himself that kimchi can taste the same. The ceramic jars in the yard, though, send him to another past memory, this time with a woman. He brushes it off as mere coincidence, but the uncanny similarities make him question his doubts.
Dr. Han Pyung-man breaks his train of thoughts and asks him what he's doing. He tells him that he seems suspicious and asks what are his reasons for being here. When Ki Ho-tae asks if he knows him, Han Pyung-man lifts his shirt revealing a dragon tattoo.
Their conversation is interrupted when they hear the owner yelling at someone to leave immediately. He's talking to a young man who's trying to get him to sell the restaurant. Lee Ki-chan goes to his quarters without even giving the man glance back, so he turns to Lee Kang-san to persuade her to think about it.

The developers are willing to give them anything they ask for to which Lee Kang-san says, "Ask them for 10 billion won. No wait, wait. If we want to pay off the restaurant's debt, get both of us married, and let dad live a comfortable life, we need at least 20 billion won."
Ki Ho-tae runs into the owner while on his way out. He looks at the menu which as a message to the mother of the abandon baby at their restaurant. He asks the owner if the parent who threw away his/her child would come back just because they wrote a message. He replies that they just want to give comfort to the parent that their child is alright.
Ki Ho-tae explodes and says, "Comfort? You're going to give comfort to the parent who threw away his/her own child? Is that kind of human, a human, too? [That] parent isn't a human. Why would you want to comfort that kind of person? Huh? That child, was he/she born because he/she wanted to be born? If they went ahead and had a child by their own free will, then they should have protected that child no matter what! Is a child garbage? Why would [anyone] throw [their child] away? Of course, there must have been a reason, but whatever the reason may be, a parent who throws away his/her own child cannot and should not be understood. Right?"
The owner asks Ki Ho-tae if he knows without a doubt why he's living the way he is now. He tells him that the person who gave the scar and the person who received the scar are both the same. In fact, may be the person who gave it is bigger because of guilt.
The owner watches tv. A woman, Jung Hyun-sook, is talking about her new project, Korean food town. She is the new developer who wants to buy Chunjiin. Her husband tells her in the car to rely on him to get the land. She tells him that she knows what she's doing.
Ki Ho-tae is getting acupuncture from the doctor. He asks him if it's this household's trait to help random strangers. The doctor tells him yes. Ki Ho-tae then proceeds to ask why he there doesn't seem to be a mother around anywhere. The doctor tells him that she died around ten years ago.
Lee Kang-san and Lee Woo-joo are outside talking while Kang-san drinks and Woo-joo folds clothes. Lee Woo-joo wonders why the parent left his/her child and thinks up of ridiculous excuses while Lee Kang-san simply states that there is no excuse for throwing away your child.
She listens to Woo-joo's silly ideas of maybe the parent got into an accident or caught amnesia and tells her this is why she gets swindled so easily. She warns her older sister to be wary of any man who approaches her so she won't be tricked like a fool. This makes Lee Woo-joo sad as she says, "because I'm slow."

She gets depressed saying how she's stupid, and tells Kang-san that she feels sad not when the real estate agent ignores her but when Kang-san ignores her. The sisters start yelling and Woo-joo says that she knows that she's not smart and just a burden to everyone.
Their conversation is overheard by dad and everyone at Chunjiin. Woo-joo starts to cry and asks Kang-san to return to the restaurant. She needs to continue the restaurant's traditions, but Kang-san says no.
Dr. Han comes out and tells the girls that they're too loud and motions to their father who's listening in the room right next door. He listens to their conversation with a downcast look and stares at photo of him and his wife during happier times.
He grabs a book and takes out some photos. While staring at the photos, he says, "Is it time, now?"
Ki Ho-tae bolts up from his bed yelling and with a determined look, tells himself that he'll ask man-to-man. Morning comes, and he walks into the kitchen looking for the owner. However, there's only the other chef Kang Do-shik (Choi Jae-sung) and a letter addressed to Kang-san.
The letter says, "Don't look for me. There's something I must do. Do whatever you guys want with the restaurant. Father."
Woo-joo, Kang-san, and Ho-tae are riled but Kang Do-shik remains calm as he leaves to prepare food and get ready for the customers. He tells the girls before he goes that their father had prepared radishes and carrots before he left.
Customers pour in as usual as Lee Kang-san busily runs around trying to keep the restaurant afloat.
Ki Ho-tae leaves Chunjiin in a huff. He meets up with his lackey and promptly threatens him by dangling him off a building for his backstabbing behavior before. He saves his lackey's life and tries to go back to his home, but his lackey stops him. He warns Ho-tae that his home is crawling with gangsters and that hyungnim is trying to find him. He has nowhere to go.
Back at Chunjiin, Lee Kang-san asks her sister what she's going to do from now on, since she's leaving tomorrow. Woo-joo tells her that she can't go and says that she already called Kang-san's workplace to tell them that she won't be able to return.
Kang-san is furious and quickly calls the sous-chef to explain that she's coming back to work. However, he has already hired his junior who was studying abroad, and can't fire him now. Lee Kang-san can only bite her tongue and tell him she'll meet him at work tomorrow since he's too busy right now to help out with a single employee's personal matters. Yeah, busy dating.
Woo-joo worries about Eun-bi, a little girl who used to always come by and eat but hasn't come in the last few days. Kang-san can only sigh at her sister and her simple nature. Night falls and the two sisters and Chef Kang meet.
Kang-san explains how they're still short on cash and can't make their payments. Woo-joo is adamant and tells her sister that they can't sell the restaurant. Their conversation ends as Chef Kang tells Kang-san to do what she wants and starts to leave. Then, through the gates, enters Ki Ho-tae.
There was a lot of information given and hinted at in the first episode. Ki Ho-tae appears to have been an orphan seeing how 1) he gets really emotional about abandon kids, 2) he has flashbacks of his past memories but can't remember his parents, and 3) he's a gangster and in kdrama-land that means there's a good chance he's an orphan. In addition, a plethora of characters were introduced (and left), and story arcs are already being plotted. Up to this point, I have already seen five episodes, so I can see and appreciate how the writer has already set down the bricks to the story hinting subtly  to the viewers what's going to come next so when it happens, it doesn't seem sudden but neither is it totally predictable.
The directing is nice and some of the scenes are just beautiful. I enjoy Chunjiin and the environment it is in. The nature and traditional elements of the restaurant are stunning and match well with the image of the food which is crisp and clean. This leads to the kimchi which cannot go unmentioned in a drama named Fermentation Family. There aren't a lot of shots of kimchi or food in general but when they are on screen, they look good. It probably wouldn't look as appealing to viewers who don't like traditional Korean side-dishes, but to me, they look absolutely delicious especially because the food looks fresh and crisp just how I like it.
The acting, so far, is good. Song Il-gook can act outside of sageuks, and Park Jin-hee is great as the feisty Lee Kang-san who won't back down to a customer who complains about her food. Lee Min-young's Woo-joo is adorable as the kind and simple sister and is a great foil to Park Jin-hee's Kang-san.
I have decided to recap Fermentation Family, and though I really, really, really hope I will make it to the end, I can't hold any promises. I've seriously contemplated whether to recap this or not because while I might have time now, I see dark clouds full of stress and work in the distance. However, while watching episode five, I finally decided it would be such a waste to not recap this because it's just so good and pretty. I don't know who might be reading this (present or future), but I hope you'll enjoy this ride with me. Drama, you best not disappoint.


  1. Hi! I finally found someone who recap this show! \o/ Thank you! <3

  2. THANK YOU FOR RECAPPING!!!! Please continue to do so....

  3. I'm up to Episode 10 but I can't stop wondering about Episode 1 -- why did Kang San have a siren and police light in her car and why was she cruising around the junkyard? Driving me crazy! Anyone know why?

  4. Thanks for recapping, I'm only through episode 3, but love this drama so far!


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