Skip to main content

The Weather Was Hot and So Was the Kimchi

We took a quick weekend trip to South Korea to visit a cousin and, of course, to eat! And what we found on the table before us did not disappoint in the least.

Every meal came with an array of small dishes featuring a variety of kimchis and other pickled vegetables. I tried to keep track, but it soon became nearly impossible. Moments after sitting down a variety of bowls with unknown tasty treats landed on the table, and then once we ordered another bevy of bowls arrived to crowd out nearly everything else. And then the main dish meandered in and forced everything else to shuffle and bump out of its way.

The usual cabbage kimchi was always served, but other variations also appeared usually without fail - daikon tops; fish; daikon cubed or sliced and either spicy red or sweetly vinegared; eggplant; or mushrooms - to be joined by dried or pickled fish, a bean sprout salad, or perhaps battered fish coins or battered spam. (Yes, spam.)

Fermented sometimes for years (a friend, quite rightly I think, liked to call it Korea's version of slow food) in large jars (like these we spotted at a temple in Busan) kimchi comes in a variety of flavors and colors that vary from region to region. Yeosu, the city we stayed in, is famous for a particular kind of kimchi - jatkimchi or gatkimchi- made with mustard greens. Presented at the market in its pot fully stemmed one bunch is wrapped around again with a stem. It's a spicy little bundle, but worth the time to find. As another friend said, "When you bite, you feel fresh a little."


Martin J Frid said…
Korea has great food and especially their fermentation must be one of the world's best kept secrets. I don't like the kimchi sold in Japan's supermerkets (too many additives, especially MSG), but there used to be a Korean lady selling her own homemade stuff outside the station at night - she did it just right, not too spicy, with good ingredients.

The photo of the jars (slow food!) is classic. Looking forward to more reports from your trip.

Popular posts from this blog

Finding Heirloom Seeds in Japan

Drying pods of heirloom Hutterite Soup Beans. Since moving to Japan eight years ago, one of my greatest challenges as a farmer-gardener has been to find heirloom or open-pollinated seeds. The majority of seeds available are not GMO (genetically modified organisms) as Japan, at this point, doesn't accept this material. Most seeds, though, are nearly all F1 varieties. Heirloom and F1 Varieties In plant breeding, F1 is the name given to the first generation of a cross between two true breeding parents. For example, if I decide to cross an Amish Paste Tomato with another heirloom variety tomato such as Emmy, in hopes of getting a gold paste tomato, the resulting generation of fruit is F1. In order to get that tomato of my culinary dreams, I'll need to choose members of that first generation that are headed in a direction I like - early ripening, medium-sized fruit, good taste - and save their seeds. I'll plant them and repeat the process again and again over time unti

Satoimo: One of Japan's Favorite Slimy Things

Satoimo in all their hairy glory. This post first appeared in slightly different form on Garden to Table as part of the 2012  Blogathon . The website has since moved on to the ether, but the post is still a good one. After all, people here are still eating satoimo on a daily basis, and many others are just seeing these little potato-like objects for the first time. Enjoy! Satoimo is one of Japan's odder vegetables. Under it's rough, slightly furry skin is white flesh that is a little bit slimy even raw, and with a gentle nutty flavor.* Baked, grilled, steamed with dashi, or deep-fried satoimo stands well on its own or paired up with other vegetables and meats in a wide variety of soups and stews . (The leaves are also edible.) Satoimo stores well, and like any root crop worth the effort, stocks are just running low on this household favorite as the farmers in my area of Tokyo get ready to put a new crop in the ground in May. I cannot say I was a fan of this l

Goma Ai Shingiku - Sesame and Chrysanthemum Greens

Last week I had the pleasure of helping some friends work in their parents garden not too far away. Tucked behind the house, the garden sits on a former house lot. When it came up for sale about five years ago, my friend's father jumped at the chance. Open land in Tokyo can be hard to find and expensive, but for a retired professional looking for a little spot to till in the city it was an opportunity to good to pass up. Now, it is a garden to envy. As we came through the gate rose, lily, and peony blooms greeted us with great shouts of color while rows of vegetables stood tidily at attention on the sunny center stage. Small fruit trees along with one of the biggest sansho trees I've seen yet stood quietly here and there. Near waist-high sweet corn, bushy young potato plants, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, and beans were preparing their summer fruits, while a handful of still quite luscious looking winter vegetables like komatsuna, mizuna, and kabu held one last ro