“Well, if you ask me what’s so special about this place.. aku akan bilang, most of the time, beauty lies in the simplest of things..." ~ Winna Efendi, The Journeys
12.7.13 - 12.7.13
Korea has many wonderful places to go, a plethora of extraordinary things to do, and myriad delicious things to eat. It's a cornucopia of delights. One of my favorite things to eat is kimchi. It's the staple of a Korean diet and the wonderful panacea for all that ails you. Do you have a cold? Eat some kimchi. Do you have a stomachache? Eat some kimchi. Are you tired? Eat some kimchi. Need to lose weight? Eat your kimchi. Ask a Korean child what their favorite food is and 9 times out of 10 the answer is? You guessed it: kimchi!
Kimchi is wonderful. Kimchi is delicious. Kimchi is everywhere. The wonderful concoction of fermented cabbage (or radishes or cucumbers or any other vegetable you want to use) and red pepper paste mixed with ginger, garlic, onions, leafy greens, salt, and pepper... mmmm it just sits and soaks up all the flavors for months on end.... my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Kimchi is basically Korea incarnate. If you have never eaten it I recommend you get up off the computer, head to your local Asian market, and buy some kimchi. Take it home and devour. Trust me on this one. Get some rice and steamed pork, wrap it all in steamed cabbage and garnish with kimchi. You will never eat anything different ever again. Especially if you steam the pork with cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, garlic, and green onions. Seriously, I need a napkin to deal with my drooling right now.
After a year and a half I finally made one of my life goals happen. I participated in the creation of kimchi. 김장해요 (making kimchi for the winter) usually happens in November. It is a big thing for the woman of a family to get together and spend 2-3 days preparing and then making kimchi for all the families to eat throughout the winter. My wonderful surrogate Korean family mom had a huge test to study for (she is trying to become an official certified Korean English teacher) and her test was at the beginning of December. So we waited and after her test we all went to her house to help and participate in 김장해요. It was amazing. She kept saying how it is "torture" for Korean woman but I had a blast. I can see how having to spend 2-3 days on prep and then making a gazillion boxes of kimchi can get very old very quickly, but for only having to do a portion of the prep and only 2 boxes of kimchi I had a blast.
With the help of a friend we cut up and prepped all the vegetables and garnishes we would need for the kimchi.
Here is the big pile of cabbage that had already been salted and sitting around for a day before we arrived to finish the job.
Here are some of the cut up pieces of radishes. I didn't get a decent picture of all the garnishes before we lumped them all together to create the spicy rub.
After the rub is mixed the real work begins. You have to take each cabbage and individually lift each leaf and rub the spicy deliciousness all over. It takes a long time and it's incredibly messy. And in true Korean fashion you sit on the floor. Uncomfortable doesn't even begin to describe how it feels. Your back hurts, your legs hurt, and you have to be careful not to touch anything but the cabbage for fear of permanent stain. Also, beware of phones in pockets. One false turn and plop... there goes your phone into the kimchi spice rub... Which, trust me, takes a lot of talent to clean out of all the nooks and crannies.
After you rub the mixture throughout the entire cabbage you have to wrap it and then place it in a box that will be kept in the kimchi freezer.
It looks like a baby when you're done.
We ended up filling 6 boxes with kimchi. It was a blast participating in an authentic Korean tradition like making kimchi. Hopefully I have a lot more chances to do so in the future! The best part of the whole day was dinner after the fact. Steamed pork, steamed cabbage, rice, and fresh kimchi!!!
Seriously... go eat it now!!
Until the next time...