Thursday, November 18, 2004
Real Korean Kimchi
These ajumahs (middle aged women) are cleaning some of the ingredients that are used to make kimchi. Kimchi is basically cabbage that has been fermented in salty water and spices. I came home for lunch and found them, right next to my door, busily peeling and cleaning the dirt off some vegetables.
They seem to be cleaning a turnip in the foreground (I am not sure for what exactly - perhaps it is used as an ingredient in the spicy sauce, or to make another sidedish), but in the background are some huge containers filled with cleaned cabbage that are soaking in water. I imagine the water is very saline. In Korea they also sell a special kind of refrigerator that preserves the kimchi without ruining it. I ate some kimchi for dinner tonight, along with a kind've seafood soup. I like crispy kimchi, it reminds me a little of eating sweet and sour gherkins, although it is a lot spicier.
Some kimchi is imported from China and is much cheaper. Kimchi is a Korean invention so people will deny that kimchi served in a restaurant actually comes from China. The Chinese version, as far as I can see, is redder and soggier and less crispy. If the kimchi served looks like that I tend to avoid it.
Kimchi is exported in huge quantities not only to other Asian countries, but also for consumption in fairly modest amounts, abroad. I think kimchi is one of the things I'll miss when I am outside of Korea for a while.
Overall I'd say kimchi is healthy, but the tendency to eat spicy food here it not. Koreans have the highest rates of stomach cancer in the world. The average citizen though is slim, which is more than can be said for some other Western countries.