Two of the things I love most in the world are food and travel. I was invited to post a food-related post on my blog and join the Wanderfood Wednesday effort by Beth Whitman of the Wanderlust and Lipstick blog. Since I often write about food and travel this was a no-brainer. Please have a look at her fine site and see if you don't find something that makes you want to start checking airfares. Dare ya.
What is it that links Thanksgiving, Korea, and my wanderlust? Kimchi of course!
Here's a gorgeous Wall o' Kimchi from the archives:
What the heck does Kimchi have to do with Thanksgiving?
One of the things to put on your Thanksgiving countdown calendar is eating down the fridge. As I began to gather the groceries for the annual Fugees Thanksgiving (see New Flirtation and a Heart full of Love) I realized I had an enormous head of Napa cabbage taking up half of one of my vegetable bins. Space is at a premium prior to Thanksgiving, even with our friends' fridge at my service. Napa is really good this time of year and when I see it, I often buy it on impulse. How could I resist? Well, my timing was bad. I needed the space but of course I could not throw it away. What to do?
I decided to make kimchi. Inspired by my recent luncheon at the Korean Consul General and meeting Yongja Kim, author of Korean Cuisine, (see Secrets of Korean Cuisine Revealed) I thought the time was right to make my first ever true kimchi. I had a little pickled cabbage experience from Grandma's Hakusai the gentle Japanese version (minus the chili).
This kimchi, a simple, spicy pickled cabbage is a staple in Korean food but is loved the world over. In fact, I first learned about kimchi from my Scotch-English-Hungarian father, AKA a white boy from New Jersey. If you follow Anthony Bourdain (another white boy from NJ) you saw him go to Korea, eat home-cooked meals, street food and of course, watch kimchi being made. Anyone can fall in love with fermented cabbage. I certainly did, early on. Never looked back. And now, I've turned a new cabbage corner. Making my own at home. But first, a stop at another Kimchi hotpspot; HMart in Burlington.
I love HMart's Kimchi Corner. You can pick your ingredients and the kimchi ladies mix it up your custom blend. Or you can buy many pickled things around the perimeter.
HMart's Kimchi corner (bins on the left hold the kimchi components which surround the kimchi ladies)
You pick from the bins what you want in your kimchi and they mix it up for you. Excellent.
A simple jar of Kimchi holds many lessons. First, healthy and delicious foods can emerge from the most humble of ingredients. Second, you need not have exactly the right ingredients for the recipe to produce great results. Third, fermentation is magic. The final product is so much more than the sum of its parts.
It's almost mysterious to others how a simple bowl of rice is such comfort for Asian-Americans. For me, there are few pleasures as great as a hot bowl of fresh rice and kimchi to accompany the meal. Now, you can have this simple pleasure without traveling all the way to Korea, or even to Hmart. You can make Kimchi at home. (In rice-related comfort food news: Please help our Asian food pantry by kicking in a dollar to my Skirting Hunger birthday campaign. Many of the pantry recipients are Asian immigrants escaping domestic violence, for them a bag of rice is quite expensive but so much more meaningful than a box of potato flakes or what have you.)
Some Kimchi-related Resources for you
Yongja Kim's book is a beautiful introduction into the healthy and delicious cuisine of Korea.
- HMart in Burlington, MA and Reliable in Union Square, Somerville, MA are two good Korean groceries in the Boston area.
- Fermented foods are really healthy for you. If you want to learn more check out Alex Lewin's Feed me like you Mean It blog.
- If you suffer from/revel in wanderlust, check out the Wanderlust and Lipstick site.
The grand wrap up - Kimchi and Thanksgiving
I love food, I love travel. I love Thanksgiving. I love napa and sometimes find a giant head in my fridge at the most inopportune times.
If you love travel but cannot enjoy it now, you can taste different cultures through food. Get inspired by Wanderfood Wednesdays. Or, maybe a simple bowl of rice with a little kimchi.
I am grateful that I often have more than enough to eat, that I have traveled and eaten in many different places in my lifetime. I'm grateful to have friends who are contributing to Tufts' Asian food pantry so I can help others who have traveled too far, and have too little to eat.
Behold the power of a little pickled cabbage!