Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A truly Korean experience: Kimchi making

It’s that time of the year when Koreans in the south of South Korea make Kimchi. It has been for the last couple weeks. The Napa Cabbage is ready for harvest, so families turn their living rooms into mini kimchi factories so they can have kimchi for the rest of the year.

Napa Cabbage

What is Kimchi?

Aside from spicy and delicious, Kimchi is a staple of the Korean diet. The most common type in Ulsan is made with Napa Cabbage, and in this area, most kimchi pastes consist of a mixture of red pepper paste, roasted garlic, ginger, and fish sauce. Think meat rub, but wetter and for vegetables. Recipes for the paste vary from family to family and region to region, depending on what is available. Koreans use this paste to preserve vegetables for up to a year.

Kimchi paste (Red pepper serves as the main ingredient)

As the kimchi ages and ferments, the flavor changes, but as soon as the kimchi is made it can be eaten.

I was lucky enough to be invited by one of my coworkers to join her family in making kimchi. Unfortunately, I did not arrive in time to see exactly how this family makes the paste, but let me tell you, it is delicious!

The process is quite laborious and takes an entire day just to rub the paste on the cabbage, if you have a good amount of people working together. After rubbing paste on about 4 or 5 quarters of Napa Cabbage, my shoulders began to ache, my foot fell asleep, and I couldn’t even imagine what it would have been like starting this process at six in the morning like my coworker’s family.

Kimchi rub process:

The paste is rubbed on each individual leaf

It's important to get right down to the base of each leaf

One of my finished bits of kimchi

Even though I hardly helped at all, my coworker's family fed me and sent me home with a bin of kimchi, which has become a part of my daily diet.

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