Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Kim Kimeree, Kim Kimeree, Kimchi Cheree

If left to my own devices, I would probably only eat any sort of Asian food maybe four times a year. Three of those would be Japanese, and once would be Chinese, leaving no room for the cuisine of any other Asian nation. Sure, I've dined at Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian restaurants (although I confess I had a major melt down last year, regarding southeast Asian restaurants and their fondness for putting filthy fish sauce in EVERYTHING, including "vegetarian" food, so I declared a lifelong ban on any of those restaurants, unless they are 100% vegan places), and I guess I liked the food ok. But it's not something that I ever crave eating. I never even bothered to try a Korean restaurant, until a vegetarian-friendly one opened up in LA 2 years ago. I'm just more drawn to Soul Food than Seoul Food! So, in light of this all, I think you can understand how I went this long and I never ate Kimchi.... until last night.
That's what my husband looks like at the prospect of eating Asian food. I more closely resemble the fellow on the right.
I decided to try out Kimchi in solidarity with my good friend, Jeffrey "The Man Who Ate Everything" Steingarten. He was the one who inspired me to do this whole experiment, after all! And I do believe that Kimchi was the only thing on his list of Food Phobias that I was also in need of coming to terms with.... everything else he needed to conquer was either not vegan, or I already liked it!

Making Kimchi is a process that takes several days to complete. No big deal, I've made things before that took a couple of days to be ready. But what I have never done before is make a recipe that calls for 1/2 cup of salt! In fact, I'm quite sure that I've never before made any recipe that called for more than 1 1/2 tsp of salt! But no kidding, you have to soak a chopped head of napa cabbage in a mixture of water and 1/2 cup salt for several hours. Then you dump the salt water, and add the other ingredients (DAIKON, green onions, garlic, ginger, hot peppers, ginger, rice vinegar) and let the whole mess sit around and fester for a few days.

As of last night, the Kimchi had had a suitable amount of time to sit back and deal with itself, so I served it with dinner. I made my husband go first, since he's had Kimchi before, and I'm not gonna lie... I was a bit nervous about my first attempt. His first response was that it was REALLY spicy. The man loves spicy food, but I'm not kidding, his face turned red! It was at that moment I began to question my method for spicing my Kimchi. See, the recipe called for 9 Thai Bird Chilis. I was under the impression that those were very spicy. And I personally didn't want to have an atomic Kimchi. So, instead, I used 2 serrano chilis.... I know they are spicy, but I thought using 2 instead of the *9* the recipe called for would take it down a notch. Well, while the Kimchi was definitely spicy, it mostly wasn't as bad at that first bite he took, in which my husband must have accidently eaten a whole slice of seedy serrano.
My Kimchi didn't turn red. Only my husband's face did.

And what did I think of 'Lil Kimchi? I suppose I liked it enough, but mostly, I found it to be outrageously salty! I think it was a lot more salty than it was spicy! And I'm not one of those pansy vegans who is afraid of salt! My husband assured me that all Korean food is extremely salty. I'll take his word on that!

Finally, I hadn't eaten daikon for months, but I would like you to know it tasted great in the Kimchi, so I really think I'm completely over any daikon fears I used to have. Hmmmm... maybe if I soak seaweed in a jar of rice vinegar and serrano chilis for a few days, it'll make it taste good too? :-)

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