February 06, 2010


    Oh South Korea! You are a land of many splendors and surprises, a land of exciting culture, beautiful scenic views, fond memories - oh yeah - and a little thing known as Kimchi.  For those who don't know what kimchi is, it is this delightfully spicy, slightly vinegary, mildly fishy tasting concoction of fermented cabbage, or radish... or anything a Korean can pickle.  I highly recommend you go out and buy some from your local Asian market.  Also include on that list, lots of toothpaste, breath mints, and a sign that says "YES that is kimchi you smell on my breath and yes I tried mouthwash."
    Typically as a foreigner when one thinks of South Korea, the things they love and can't live without; Kimchi is not usually the first on the list.  Now hold on all you avid Kimchi fans.  I know what you must be thinking. "Kimchi is the greatest thing Korea has offered the world!"  But, for a moment, we need to consider those things that transcend mere tantalizing of one's palette. We mustn't forget all the other wonders of South Korea: Jim Jil Bangs (huge saunas), noribangs (karaoke), the beaches, the mountains, the plethora of festivals, the never ending night life - the list could go on and on and on and on... Well, you get the point.  But none of these things ignite those emotions so closely tied a full happy stomach. 
    Kimchi is a very versatile food, it can stands out like the platypus or be like a chameleon.  It can hold the center of attention or fade into the subtleties of flavor playing the harmony notes.  Often, one would find it simply as is ready to eat warm or cold.  Sometimes it is the main ingredient as in kimchi dumplings or kimchi soup, but other times it is the spice added to a porridge or broth.
    I have a love hate relationship with this food.  On one hand its smell permeates all open spaces, and the fermented acids can have a burning sensation to the nostrils that leaves the innocent light headed and nauseous.  Not to mention the smell one carries for the rest of the day after eating it.  But on the other hand eating kimchi, at least for me, always meant some good memory was to be had.  And the taste can vary so widely that no two kimchis are exactly the same and each happy memory can be associated with a particular kimch.
    Ok, maybe the last thing was only quasi true, but a lot of my happy memories are associated with eating… and being that kimchi is hard to come by in the States I do find myself craving it.  Every time I get a chance to sneak a bite, I know that that day will be the best kimchi memory to date. 

No comments:

Post a Comment