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Thread: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

  1. #1

    Default Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    So I haven't had much Korean food since I was a kid (friends house).

    Frequenting a local family Korean restaurant, I'm finding and rediscovering all kinds of tasty things. And each time I go, they ask if I want Kimchi. If I order without and someone walks about, not seeing the Kimchi boll, they offer it again.

    So I'm starting to wonder about this and making this post in the hopes that someone can enlighten me. I'm not looking for the recipe or ingredients or other information on Wikipedia. I'm after its cultural importance. Like if I were explaining hot dogs, I might mention baseball or cotton candy, carnivals.

    What is it about Kimchi that makes it special to those who enjoy it?
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    I'm not Korean (I'm actually Japanese), but I think kimchi is a significant staple of the Korean diet. I would guess it's kinda like our bread 'n butter. Personally I didn't like the stuff when I first tried it because of all that fermented garlic, but now I love it. I really like fresh kimchi with bibimbap and bulgogi!
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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    It's spiced fermented vegetable - kind of like sauerkraut. It gets its tangy flavor from the lactic acid byproduct of fermentation.
    Like dudemar said it is a stable of the Korean diet and there are many different kinds of kimchi made from many different recipes.

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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    I'm not Asian, but my daughters are.
    Looks like Korea has been making Kimchi since around 400 A.D. They were expert in fermenting things, and likely still are.
    Other than availability and tradition, I don't know the cultural significance. I just know I've tried a bunch of different kinds, at a bunch of different places, and though it may look or smell different, it's always delicious. It preps the palette for what's to come, and is a good taste-restorer, like ginger between bites of sushi.
    Great. Now I'm hungry.

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    Flashaholic* MarNav1's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    The Kimchi I tried was nasty. But to each his own.
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    Flashaholic* egrep's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    Kimchi is one of those foods that predates ubiquitous modern conveniences of refrigeration and other preservative methods such as canning. In days of yore there were many foodstuffs that were popular because they were possible. That is, when crops are out of season and animals are in their dens for the winter how are you going to eat?

    Kimchi (and other foods around the world) are I guess what I'd call 'stable decomposition'. That is, they take advantage of the lack of preservation by embracing the fermentation that provides safe long term storage of foodstuffs without benefit of artificial cooling and vacuum packaging.

    Kimchi is put in jars and buried in the ground. This makes it possible to put a lot of it in a lot of places. If you're [semi] nomadic or even if you're not it can be useful to have nutrition caches available for your use. During periods of availability there may very well be a glut of foods like cabbage, onions, cucumbers and so forth. It would be unfortunate to let spoil what you don't eat, like we do in much of modern society.

    Kimchi's cultural legacy starts in these roots of necessity and goes on through acquired taste where it embeds itself in culture. It transcends the Basics of Maslows hierarchy of needs and becomes a luxury.

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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    It is goooooooooood. Why ask why?

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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    Good posts!

    I enjoy a variety of food and love discovering new foods. But stronger tastes take more time/experience. Like ginger was almost love at first taste, but wasabi took multiple tries to even get the hang of for anything but small amounts (controlled breathing).

    I don't know yet if there is a 'trick' to enjoying kimchi, but it sounds like its worth the effort to find out. So much of food preparation starts with preservation; pickling, smoking, fermenting, drying, salting. Makes you wonder how bland food would be if refrigeration had come along much sooner.

    BTW, bibimbap is wonderful stuff, just make sure to order it 'for here'. I'll have to see if they have bulgogi!
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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    I gifted some quart jars of it for Christmas. found it while looking for munchies in an asian grocery store. sales lady said it was fresh (refrigerated), and suggested eating it within two weeks, or it would get strong.

    iirc, was made by a Chicago company. which got me wondering,........how does a business make large quantities of kimchi here in the states?

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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    Quote Originally Posted by ElectronGuru View Post
    Good posts!
    I enjoy a variety of food and love discovering new foods. But stronger tastes take more time/experience. Like ginger was almost love at first taste, but wasabi took multiple tries to even get the hang of for anything but small amounts (controlled breathing)....
    Maybe slightly off-topic, perhaps (hope it's OK, though, since this thread is in the Cafe?), but what many or most people think is "wasabi" is really just (western-style) horseradish, sometimes with mustard, plus green food coloring.

    True wasabi is pretty amazing stuff ... it's apparently rather difficult to grow, so of course, it is much more expensive - it costs maybe a hundred times as much (about $100/pound).

    The real thing tastes quite different - there is some heat, but also a fresh "citrus" component to it (as best I can describe it).

    Anyway, food is always a great topic for discussion
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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    Quote Originally Posted by archimedes View Post

    True wasabi is pretty amazing stuff ... it's apparently rather difficult to grow, so of course, it is much more expensive - it costs maybe a hundred times as much (about $100/pound).

    The real thing tastes quite different - there is some heat, but also a fresh "citrus" component to it (as best I can describe it).

    I've heard that - but where can you find it in the states? I've tried 3 local asian markets and an online search, to no avail.
    One of them, I asked him for "real wasabi" and he says "sure", and proceeds to hand me a ketchup packet of green horseradish.

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    Flashaholic* shado's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    Kimchi
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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    Quote Originally Posted by tjswarbrick View Post
    I've heard that - but where can you find it in the states? I've tried 3 local asian markets and an online search, to no avail.
    One of them, I asked him for "real wasabi" and he says "sure", and proceeds to hand me a ketchup packet of green horseradish.
    What archimedes describes is taking a raw stalk of wasabi and grating it against shark skin nailed to a wooden block. This is only done in high class sushi restaurants in Japan. Wasabi grown in Japan tastes the best because of the environment they're grown in, kinda like French truffles. Wasabi is grown in Oregon, and while I heard it doesn't taste quite the same I'd love to try some anyway!

    It can be bought in tubes of 6 from Pacific Farms by Beaverton Foods. I think I'll order some!!

    So to taste the real deal or come close to it, you either have to go to Japan or order some from Oregon.
    Last edited by dudemar; 01-28-2012 at 10:12 PM.
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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    Not sure if we need a spin off Whats the Deal with Wasabi thread, but clearly Oregon rocks
    Last edited by ElectronGuru; 01-29-2012 at 03:06 PM.
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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    If it's a Korean restaurant they have Bulgogi. It's the Korean version of Mongolian Beef. I like Kimchi. It takes a little getting used to by that's what the rice is there for ... to neutralize anything that keeps too spicy for you.

    I think they keep asking if you want any (Kimchi) because it's a part of any meal in their eyes and they don't see it on your table. They probably would like to encourage you to try it if they see you don't have any as well. Just as they would do if you had no rice.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    The reason they keep asking you if you want any kimchi is because its such an essential part of any korean meal that it is a given that there is free kimchi on the table, no matter what food you order. You probably noticed that they give you an assortment of vegetable side dishes and such before your main courses. Kimchi is always the most common part of this ensemble among all Korean restaurants. I know cause Im Korean

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mags View Post
    its such an essential part of any korean meal that it is a given that there is free kimchi on the table,
    As a step to understanding this custom, I'm trying to come up with an English culture allegory. It's a staple unto itself but it seems closer to salt and pepper to how often it is served.

    Assuming its brought to the table and does not reside there (like say ketchup), is it an every meal thing or just say, dinner? And would a modern family have different kimchi for different meals/occasions?
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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    Having access to multicultural foods is one of the great things about living in the DC area. I havent tried it at a korean restaurant but I do get at the local grocery store. Great stuff. It has red pepper and anchovy juice in it among other things. Sounds nasty but its really good. One of these days I'm going to try it with some spicy sausage since it is sort of like sauerkraut.

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    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    maybe it's kinda like how a lot of people eat salad before dinner, except it is a salad for to clean your palate, or if you need a refreshing break from the main dishes..

    I can't say I remember trying kimchi, so if I did, I obviously didn't care one way or the other. I have, however, tried fermented bean curd. Like kimchi, but using bean curd instead of vegetable or cabbage.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Whats the deal with Kimchi?

    It would be like if your bread basket were empty or missing at a Southern restaurant.

    Lacto-fermentation is amazing, you can basically preserve most foods using these bacteria. It's a fascinating subject, most cultures around the world have formed using lacto-fermentation. Butchered reindeer even have been preserved in bogs for a year or more, the meat reportedly becomes sour and purple but completely edible and safe.

    I wanted to try it myself for a while but I was afraid of Botulism, but it turns out that botulism is more of a threat with canning, as the Botulism bacteria is very heat tolerant and improper canning can result in killing off all other bacteria that might have competed with and limited the growth of botulism.

    With lacto-fermentation on the other hand, which at it's heart is as simple as keeping the food item submerged in water, the ever present lactic acid forming anaerobic bacteria preserve the food from other bacteria's destruction as well as partially digest the food actually making some nutrients more available to us.
    Lacto bacillus are abnormally tolerant of salt, and this is probably why salt is traditionally part of many forms of pickling, in this way we further stack the deck in lacto-bacillus favor.
    Chopping, shredding the vegetables, mixing in a little salt, and then mashing them with some starter juice from yogurt or other friendly fermented food, And Keeping It All Completely Submerged virtually assures that the proper lacto fermentation will take over and prevent unwanted bacteria from growing.
    The process happens quickly in warmer weather, and the pickled food becomes stronger the longer the reaction occurs, so it's apparent that without refrigeration you would soon be concerning yourself with digging out a root cellar or locating a convenient cave, people also got by with simply burying smaller amounts in pots underground.
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