Posted by: edibleplanet | April 25, 2008

Trying kimchi

On Thurday we opened our first package of kimchi—a Korean condiment made of fermented vegetables and spices. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but we was thinking maybe something like sauerkraut with chilli.

Kimchi is made by packing heads of cabbage with spices and grated vegetables. The cabbages are then packed into jars and allowed to ferment for a specified time. The commercially available kimchi has been fermented and then packaged with a small sachet of “gas absorber”. The warning on the pack was really cool. It said that “Kimchi was a fermented product, and may bubble on opening”.

We opened the package but disappointingly there was no monster movie-style bubbling. As we opened the package a very distinctive aroma wafted out at us. I have to confess that kimchi is not the most attractive of foods. The process of fermentation seems to leave the cabbage with a slightly grey colour (it looks a little like cooked fish), covered with bright red chilli powder and other bits of miscellaneous vegetables. In fact, with the dead-flesh cabbage and the blood red sauce it does somewhat resemble a murder scene. It smelled really good though, and we quickly grabbed forks to taste this much revered condiment.

It turns out Kimchi is a flavour all it’s own—nothing like sauerkraut at all. The tang of the cabbage hits first, followed by a wave of chilli heat. Once you have got over the chilli, there is a remarkable complexity with lots of different flavours vying for space on your palate. I can see why Koreans think about Kimchi like a fine wine or scotch with different areas producing Kimchi with unique character and flavour.

OK, so we have a whole 500g packet of Kimchi open, so what do we do with it? Well, after hunting around on the ‘net the next day, we found this recipe for Kimchi fried rice. It was lovely. The kimchi gives an amazing flavour to the rice and the chilli colours the dish to a rich red. We put a whole fried egg on top and the runny yolk mixing in with the rice and kimchi made for a very pleasant Friday night meal.

If you haven’t tried kimchi then you need to acquire some and see what you’re missing. It can be used in Korean stews, fried rice (as above) or simply put on the table to be eaten with rice and other food as part of a Japanese or Korean meal.

–Karl

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