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All the ways in which traditional kimchi leaves its mark on life

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Photo of Seung Hee Lee, designed by Alexis Lira

If you search for "Kimchi" you will get approximately 28.8 million results. It is one of the fundamental Korean staples that has entered the gourmet mainstream.

Worldwide enthusiasm for Korean culture began in the late 1990s with Hallyu or the "Korean Wave," and since then, interest in Korean food has spread like wildfire. The Korean cook and Youtuber Maangchi has more than 3.6 million followers, and their subtitles are translated by volunteers in languages ​​such as Arabic, Hungarian, Malay and Swahili. The best kimchi recipes in the online search results come from non-Korean chefs, which causes millions of people to read comments like these:

but with Korean flavors – garlic, ginger, and chili peppers, "wrote a blogger, which dealt with recipes for whole foods.

"Yes, it's stinking and bubbly and more than a bit wild, but WOWZA's taste and consistency are so worth it," another described the odor variety of "super mild". to "mega funky".

Sure, kimchi is healthy and good for your gut, but it's more than that. The history of kimchi is deeply woven into the fabric of Korea. According to the South Korean Center for Traditional Cultural Experience, the first mention of kimchi dates back 3000 years to a Chinese Oden Book (one of the oldest existing forms of Chinese poetry).

For some, kimchi was literally survival. Residential structures during the prehistoric era of Korea indicate that shredders lived sedentary and therefore had to find ways to store and preserve legumes to survive. Pickled vegetables such as kimchi were buried underground in clay pots labeled Hangari to keep cool and fresh.

While Western mainstream discourse tends to simplify kimchi to cabbage, traditionally the savory taste of kimchi flavor has been applied to a variety of ingredients. Yoon Sook-Ja, a Korean author and president of the Institute of Traditional Korean Cuisine, has added around 40 variations of kimchi recipes to her cookbook. The basis is asparagus, eggplant, ginseng, oyster radish and cucumbers.

So we thought, why not make the record clear? Why not show how lively, personal and varied kimchi can be? After all, Kimchi is also about community and connectedness.

To bring to life the personal stories and memories as well as the regional differences associated with making kimchi, Greatist spoke with three Korean cooks and cooks from different Gohyangs, or hometowns. They each shared one of their special recipes.

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Park Choon-Hee (61); Hometown: Gunsan, North Jeolla Province; Currently: Dallas – Photo by Grace Moon, designed by Alexis Lira

"I am a woman who is proud," says Mrs. Park, squatting in front of a purple tub of kimchi. "As soon as I decide to do something, I'll do it well. Even if you go to Jeolla Province today, not many people traditionally make kimchi with broth like me. "

Mrs. Park learned to be resilient from a tender age when she lost her mother as a teenager.

"My mother was only 42 years old," she tells us. "And so, my grandmother cared and trained me to survive without my mother and take care of myself. We did everything from scratch, and my grandma never wrote anything down. Everything I do today is still in my visual memory.

Five years ago, before arriving in the US, Mrs. Park ran a busy restaurant near her hometown. Their kitchen was known for delicacies like Blowfish or Bokeo which contains toxic poisons and therefore requires careful precision to properly cleanse. Mrs. Park's Jeolla-style pork bulgogi was also popular with locals.

When she moved to Dallas, Mrs. Park stuck to what she knew best. Although she could not get Blowfish in the US or cook her bulgogi over a charcoal chimney, she kept her hometown memories. In June 2018, she opened a restaurant, Ddo Wa Ddo Wa, in one of Dallas' Korean hubs to revive her memories of cooking at home.

"I'm still looking for the kimchi flavor of my hometown," says Mrs. Parker, stuffing a handful of raw sauerkraut into her mouth to taste it. "The kimchi here hurts my heart. When shipped overseas, it never retains its freshness. The vegetables in America are also different from those in Korea because the summers are so hot in Dallas. That's why my [kimchi paste] is so important. That's what keeps it alive. "

Mrs. Park wipes the sweat from her forehead, while spending more than an hour brushing each cabbage with the red broth paste. She says she'll make watercress kimchi tomorrow, radish kimchi the next day, then perhaps pickled bean sprouts, usually with the same kimchi paste.

"That's why people keep coming back to eat my kimchi . Because of the sung Jung [dedication] I put it in. The more hands needed for preparation, the more delicious the kimchi will be.

Click here for the traditional Jeolla-style kimchi recipe from Park Choon-Hee. Share on Pinterest

Joo Myung-Jee (54); Hometown: Andong, North Gyeongsang Province; Currently: Maryland – Photo by Jisu Song, draft by Alexis Lira

"When you say in Korea, 'Oh, that person is so jah ! "[salty] then you imply that you are stingy," Mrs. Joo explains in Korean on the phone. "But in Andong, being in Yah means that the person is sparing with their resources. Sharp and precise. "

Andong is far from the water, so people only had limited access to Jutgal or salted fish. As a result, they had to experiment with salt, brown pepper and sticky rice starch to achieve a crispness comparable to the freshness of kimchi from other regions.

Mrs. Joo is wistful as she recounts her earliest memories she attended Kimjang the joint activity to prepare and share kimchi before the winter.

"Every winter, my mother and I plucked the cabbages and, in the meantime, washed them criss-cross on a straw mat near our house in the Hanok style," says Mrs. Joo. "It was cold in the country, but we got together with our neighbors and had kimchi for a whole week for free and for everyone in our village."

As a child, Ms. Joo took care of the hangari (clay pots) She continued this tradition at her home in Maryland, where she has more than 10 jars filled with not only Kimchi but also homemade Doenjang soy sauce and red pepper paste [19659004] Ten years ago, she was named "Kimchi Queen" by a church friend after she was known to distribute kimchi glasses in the community. "It's for my family, people who matter to me, my love and "I need the most delicious kimchi – if I want these people to be happy and healthy in my life."

"Like humans, kimchi changes with time," says Ms. Joo. "Younger gene erations were interested in sweeter tastes and today it is a global world. But even though there are online recipes, it always tastes different when someone makes kimchi because it is an art that requires intuition and practice. Mrs. Joo visits her hometown in Andong every November to help make kimchi, hoping one day to release her own Korean traditional recipe book so that her children can keep Andong's dishes even if they can is not there.

People in Mrs. Joo's hometown often made kimchi and jjanji (pickled vegetables – imagine Kimchi's first cousin) One of Mrs. Joo's favorite dishes in kimchi Style is Moomallengee a sweet and spicy dried radish.

Click here to get the flavored radish recipe from Joo Myung-Jee.

Share on Pinterest [19659002] Seung Hee Lee (36); Hometown: Cheongju City in North Chuncheon Province Currently: Atlanta – Photo by Seung Hee Lee, Design by Alexis Lira

"Korean food is like a growing pain." There is no doubt that it is an established kitchen. The reason why I wrote my cookbook was that a food magazine I know introduced a kimchi recipe with Sriracha, "says Lee, who founded the blog KoreanFusion. "I was ballistic. More and more first and second generation Koreans like me use their English skills to improve the record by introducing traditional recipes. However, we are also pushing for a substantial over-generation of Korean food in an industry that is aimed at the Western palate.

Lee is an epidemiologist (a public health researcher who examines patterns and causes of disease) the time she finds out of work, a pop-up chef, nutritionist and author. As a student, she spent her weekends attending classes at Taste of Korea, an organization whose curriculum focuses on recognizing traditional royal kitchens that are also suitable for modern kitchens.

"My journey with kimchi began when I was only 3 years old," says Lee. "My paternal grandmother was my primary caregiver, and most of the time we spent either in the kitchen or out on the porch. Even as a baby, she taught me how to recognize when the Behchoo [cabbage] is ripe. [If] it snapped when I bent the yellowish centerpiece, then it was not completely salted.

Lee's grandmother made Gyeongsang-style kimchi known for his aggressive flavor.She often promoted a playful rivalry while making fun of Lee's Chuncheon page because of their milder sauces of seafood and warm weather, "Lee says." My grandmother threw pieces of beltfish stewed in red pepper paste to facilitate our fermentation of kimchi [in]. "The taste is very oceanic and fiery at the same time."

Traveling the world to teach cookery classes and moderate pop-ups, she serves as the modern ambassador for her grandmother's traditional recipes, and her last hope is to live up to the history and stories of Korean food.

"It works not just kimchi. It's also about how it became what it is today. There is a reason why kimchi has so much paste. At that time salt, garlic, ginger and spring onions were used. But when the Koreans realized that Gochu [red pepper] had a conservative function, they eventually used it, "says Lee.

" The fiery flavor became more aggressive during the war when the Koreans were impoverished and had to prevent it Food from ruin. I do not like it when people assume that all Korean food is spicy because of a long history of oppression. "

Lee hopes that in about 30 years, the majority of Americans will have kimchi in their refrigerators. In the meantime, she continues to enjoy kimchi the way her grandma did for her: wrapped in a juicy piece of steamed pork belly with soft white rice.

Click here for Seung Hee Lee fiery Gyeongsang style kimchi.

Grace Moon is a freelance writer who writes about food, diaspora and Korea. She has written for The Dallas Morning News, Her Campus, and Food52.

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