Move over pickles, here comes the kimchee

In the “finally-got-around to it” category of foods of the world, we can now check off kimchee. And, man, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to try this addicting Korean condiment.

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to try it, but “fermented cabbage” just never quite grabbed me. My friend Amy has attempted several times over the years to get me to try it. She always has a jar in her fridge and eats it right out of the container. Now I know why.

Out of curiosity, I bought a jar about six weeks ago, and stashed it in the door next to the orange juice so it would tempt me. The other day, faced with a bland and boring turkey sandwich for lunch, I decided to take the plunge and add the kimchee. It looked like the red sauce had kind of settled to the bottom, so I shook the jar before opening it.

Big mistake. “Fermented” should have been my first clue. Sure enough, when I opened the lid, gobs of oily red sauce shot across my shirt, the walls and the counter. After some frantic mopping up and some quickly applied stain remover, I got back to the business of sandwich making. Since I was a novice, I had purchased the mildest kimchee I could find, made with napa cabbage and just a smidge of red pepper. It also had ginger, green onions, fish sauce and garlic in it.

Pow! That turkey sandwich turned into a heady experience, transformed by the power of kimchee’s distinctive taste. And unlike many condiments that simply add taste and salt, kimchee has a whopping amount of vitamin C, fiber, carotene and lactic acid bacteria. A perfect healthy food that tastes great. If you like Thai food or Vietnamese food, you’ll probably love kimchee too. It has that kind of mysterious blend of seasonings that is so much more than the list of ingredients can show.

It was only a matter of days before I figured out this pungent stuff would be great in soup. So I threw some leftover chicken together with broth and vegetables and added pureed kimchee to the mix. We have an exotic new Kimchee Hot Pot soup on our winter rotation.

Now, excuse me, I see a couple of red spots on the refrigerator that I missed…

Kimchee Hot Pot

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 shallots, minced

2 carrots, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 tsp. cardamom

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp. sugar

2 cups cooked chicken breast

2 cups kimchee

2 cups snow peas

2 green onions, sliced

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallots, carrots and celery and saute until the shallots turn translucent, about five minutes.

Add the broth, turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Stir in the cardamom, cayenne and sugar, cover the pot, turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes.

While the broth simmers, put the chicken and kimchee in a food processer and pulse a few times. You can make the mixture chunky or mince it into a paste.

Uncover the broth and add the snow peas. Simmer for two minutes, then stir in the kimchee mixture and simmer about one more minute. Pour into serving bowls and top with green onions.


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