Thursday, June 23, 2016

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 283: Eat kimchi

As best that I can remember, the first time I ever heard of kimchi was in early 1999 when I was in basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. In our platoon, we had a guy from California, who was of obvious Asian descent. One of the drill sergeants asked him if he was Korean, and when he said yes, the next question had to do with kimchi.

For those of you unfamiliar with kimchi (pronounced “kim-chee”), it’s a traditional fermented Korea food made from vegetables with lots of spices and seasoning. In Korea, it’s traditionally made in large pots that are buried in the summer and unfrozen in the winter. Even though it might not sound like the most appetizing thing you’ve ever had, just about everyone who’s eaten some will tell you that it’s pretty good.

Ever since I first heard about kimchi, I’ve been curious about it, and several years ago I added it to my “bucket list.” Since then, I’ve kept my eyes open for an opportunity to sample this traditional Korean dish for the first time. The opportunity to do so arose a week or so ago, which led to me trying kimchi for the first time ever Monday of last week.

The breakthrough came a few weeks before that when my sister told me that jars of kimchi can be found in most Super Walmarts, in the section where they keep the bagged lettuce. Sure enough, the next time I was in our local Walmart, I found two jars of kimchi right where she said I’d find it. Best of all, one jar cost only around $5.

The 14-ounce, glass jar of kimchi I bought was called King’s Spicy Kimchi: Korean Marinated Cabbage, which is produced by King’s Asian Gourmet of San Francisco, Calif. The label boasted that its contents were low carb, gluten free and contained no cholesterol, no MSG and no preservatives. The label went on to say that King’s kimchi is “Fit for a King,” and that “King’s Kimchi is a hand-crafted blend of fresh nappa cabbage, savory seasonings and meticulously selected spices. King’s Kimchi is naturally fermented to bring out its full-bodied flavor and is a nutritious part of every Korean meal. Kimchi can be served as a side dish or can easily enhance the flavor of everyday dishes such as hamburgers, tuna salads and dips.”

Kimchi over white rice.
Ingredients in King’s kimchi include nappa cabbage, garlic, green onion, hot pepper, sugar, salt, paprika and ginger. Interestingly, the jar’s red metal top carried the following warning: Fermentation creates natural bubbling and pressure that may bulge cap. SPICY. To prevent leakage, cover cap with napkin and open slowly over sink.” Elsewhere on the label, it says, “Perishable, Keep Refrigerated, Contents may overflow due to natural fermentation.” For the record, I followed these instructions and easily opened my jar without incident.

I tried kimchi two different ways, plain and over white rice. I prefer it over white rice because the rice absorbs a lot of the juice. I also found the individual pieces of kimchi to be very chewy, but not unpleasantly so. It was also very spicy, reminding me of the pizza tastes after a healthy application of red pepper from the shaker at Pizza Hut. Otherwise, it reminded me a lot of eating boiled cabbage or sauerkraut.

Any way you want to describe it, kimchi is good, and I’d eat more of it again in a heartbeat. Don’t turn your nose up at it until you’ve tried it. If you liked good, spicy foods, then you should give kimchi a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

In the end, how many of you have ever eaten kimchi? What did you think about it? What other types of unusual foods would you recommend trying? Let us know in the comments section below.

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