What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten? When I was a preschooler, my teacher would serve my class all sorts of unique foods to encourage us to try new things. If we ate what she was serving we would get a sticker that said “I ate cow tongue!”, or whatever it was we had eaten. I must say, I think I have earned many stickers this past week!
Kimchi is one of the new foods I have tried. Kimchi is served at almost every meal in Korea. It is a spicy side dish that is made from cabbage. For one meal I did not ask for any kimchi and my server assured me that I must eat it. I don’t think I ever ate cabbage for breakfast in the United States!
I had heard a lot of people talk about kimchi before I arrived in Korea. Korean people are known for eating a lot of kimchi, so I knew it would be something I was going to be eating a lot of when I came here. Many people from other countries do not like it at first. It is often too spicy, but I am used to eating spicy food in New Mexico at my college. The strong flavor takes time to get used to, but I do not mind it.
Usually, kimchi is served as a side dish, kind of like coleslaw. One day for lunch I had kimchi soup, which was cooked kimchi and lots of meats in a spicy broth. Both are yummy!
How long does it take to prepare you dinner? Maybe you go to a drive-through, where it takes a couple of minutes? Or make something out of a box, which may take 15 minutes? Or maybe you have a fancy dinner, which takes several hours to prepare? Well, kimchi takes about three weeks to make! That’s right, I said WEEKS.
First, the cabbage must be cut into pieces and soaked in salt water for six hours. It is important to stir the cabbage a few times so that it becomes the correct rubbery texture. It is then rinsed, dried, and set aside while the chef prepares the marinade.
The base of the marinade is rice powder mixed with water. Once it has boiled, the chef adds fruits, vegetables, sauces and spices. If you don’t mind getting a little messy, it is fun to mix everything together by hand. Don’t forget to wear gloves though, the chilies are hot!
Next, the chef takes the cabbage and puts the marinade between each of the leaves. It is then put into jars and left to ferment for at least three weeks. After the time has passed, the kimchi is finally ready to eat! Kimchi lovers must be very patient!
Korean farmers grow cabbage, which is what kimchi is made out of. These days it is common to keep fruits and vegetables in our refrigerators, which helps to keep them fresh and delicious. People did not always have refrigerators, so they had to find other ways to keep their food from going bad. Making kimchi was a perfect solution! It can be stored for a very long time without being refrigerated, so Korean people could make it in the summer when they harvested their cabbage and then eat it throughout the year.
Kimchi has a unique flavor which goes well with many different types of food. I have been served kimchi at every Korean meal I have eaten! Not only does it taste delightful, but the spices help to keep me from getting sick. More kimchi please!