Kimchi & ramen

The kimchi jjigae simmering away

A while ago I worked with someone who introduced me to kimchi, an ingredient I had until now just passed in the Asian supermarket, not knowing what to make of the little pots in the fridge.  (Certainly not a common ingredient anywhere in Africa!)  They turned out to be fermented chinese cabbage (or wombok, or Napa cabbage) or large cubes of white radish, fermented in a eye-popping, nostril-wrenching blend of chilli, garlic, salt and brined seafood (oysters/anchovy) or fish sauce. The older the cabbage the better apparently, and my friend urged me to look for kimchi matured 3+ months – sadly not really found outside Korea or private (Korean) homes. A hint of blue cheese odour I was told to hunt for… Interestingly, according to him most Korean homes had a ‘kimchee refrigerator’ because families make/store so much of the ingredient for personal use. I’ll have to get to Korea and see for myself, although trusty Youtube adds testament to the fact.

The finished soup

Kimchi is served as a side with most meals, and stars in many other dishes, and for staff meals at work one night we had a version of the Korean soup kimchi jjigae. I loved it, and since there is a Korean supermarket in the ‘hood, I pestered the staff for info and ingredients (English not being of much importance on Korean foodlabels). My version of kimchi jjigae was vegetarian, as I was just in that kinda mood, but its way more common to add especially pork but also chicken to your soup. The actual kimchi forms the soup base and flavours all the other ingredients – in my case medium tofu, shiitake and oyster mushrooms and spring onions. This is by no means traditional, it was just my dinner on a damn cold Tuesday night. And it warmed me from the inside out!

Since then I’ve tried kimchi fried rice and kimchi omelette, which were both good. From previous experience I’ve learnt that if one re-seals the kimchi container, it’ll literally explode in the fridge ( a fishy, smelly mess) so judging by what my fridge smells like at the moment next week is gonna be Korean theme week. Lucky for me kimchi has zero fat…

On another note, after buying David Chang’s Lucky Peach a couple  of weeks back, I’ve developed another obsession, this time with ramen ( just the Japanese word for noodle). Then I showed the Tall Guy the film Tampopo (Dandelion) and he got hooked too – suffice to say we sated ourselves at Ramen-Ya (citycentre GPO) for some pretty decent ramen – and only $10 a bowl. I wish however there were more ramen joints around town, because even Ramen-Ya couldv’e done with improvement… The search continues.

Gyosa ramen at Ramen-Ya

As for the magazine, it’s right up there with cool. I dig it and can’t wait for the next issue!

One Comment Add yours

  1. ceferg says:

    I too have been reading about ramen in Lucky Peach, and kimchi in the last edition of Gastronomica. I have only had kimchi once, and it didn’t seem to be the best example, I love sauerkraut, and feel that I should love kimchi too, I’ll have to get my hands on some more to taste it again! As for ramen, I haven’t been lucky enough to taste a good one, I’m sure there is one here in Toronto somewhere, and word on the street there will be a momofuku opening up here in the near future, so I’ll keep you posted. I thought you would make your own. Didn’t you love the egg feature in Lucky Peach too? Sometimes I feel that Lucky Peach was a bit too ‘David Chan this and David Chan that, and look at all the celebrity chefs I know’, but I think it will get better, seeing as it was only the first issue. Miss you! x C

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