The Ways I Enjoy Kimchi Posted by FlyHighOyster on Feb 12, 2019 in Korean food
Kimchi is one of most common topics of interest that people bring up when I introduce myself as being a native Korean. Most people I have met expressed their love for the spicy cabbage food from Korea. Although I admit that Kimchi is a kind of food where you either love it, or you hate it because of its spiciness and rather unforgettable odor. When I was in college, I had a roommate who freaked out because of the strong smell from our refrigerator. I could tell he hated it at first, but kimchi somehow slowly grew on him. By the time when I left the dormitory, he surprised me by asking me where to get them.
I personally like freshly made kimchi because I like the crunchiness from the cabbage. However, fermented kimchi contain a lot more minerals and probiotics than the freshly made types. These strengthen your digestive and immune system. Traditionally, people used to dig the ground and bury big pots of kimchi to get them fermented for a couple months. I think this way is organic and healthy, but it takes a lot of effort.
In my grandmother’s time, all the housewives in the neighborhood would gather around to make kimchi during 김장철(kim-jang-chul: a special season when Koreans make kimchi, approximately from late fall to early winter). While the women made kimchi, men in the neighborhood started digging the ground to bury it for the fermentation process. At the end of all this intensive labor, everyone could bring their shares to home. What teamwork!
I haven’t watched it, but someone told me that on the TV show MASH they showed how Koreans used to make kimchi in this traditional way.
Nowadays, most young Koreans I know buy kimchi from stores because it takes tremendous effort and time to make kimchi at home. In fact, most Koreans have a 김치냉장고(Kimchi-Nang-jang-go: a specially designed refrigerator for kimchi. With it, they can control the speed and the quality of fermentation process without digging up the ground in the winter.
Since I have been living outside of Korea over a decade, I don’t have easy access to kimchi. My husband and I occasionally want to make some Korean food for dinner, which involves several trips to different stores to buy all the ingredients, including a jar of store-bought kimchi from an oriental grocery store. I am grateful that I can get kimchi in this way, but I often wish I could get different kimchi since there are so many varieties of kimchi.
For instance, I want some 열무김치(yul-moo-kimchi: kimchi made of young radish), and 오이김치(oh-ee-kimchi: kimchi made of cucumber) for 냉면(nang-myeon: a delicious cold noodle dish) which is so refreshing in summer. Or I want some 동치미(dong-chi-mi: a non-spicy kimchi with radish juice) in the winter because 동치미 helps with 입가심(ip-gah-sim: to remove garlicy or other strong food taste after meals).
Regardless of the season, you’ll get the best out of 배추김치 (bae-choo-kimchi: the most common kimchi, made of cabbage) if you grill them first and wrap with barbeque meat, particularly with 삼겹살(sam-gyup-sal: a Korean style bacon). Oh, yum. Try it next time when you happen to go to Korean BBQ restaurants. You won’t regret it.
In fact, my experience in kimchi is probably limited since I am from just one area of Korea. There are more than 30 different kinds of kimchi from Korea. Each providence in Korea has different local produces to make their own authentic kimchi.
Kimchi can leave a strong first impression whether it is a positive or negative, but I strongly recommend you give it a try. I personally need to muster up courage to try some other authentic food as well, but I would never know unless I try it. Who knows? You might be sucked into the “kimchi blackhole” like my ex-roommate.