I have been living in Korea (the good one) since 2004. Back when I arrived, all you could get was Korean food. I like Korean food a lot, but being American, I’m used to dining with different cultures on a regular basis. Rather than saying, “Do you want chicken or pork tonight,” I’m used to wondering, “Should I eat Mexican or Thai?”
The the onus was on me to adapt Korean food to my comfort foods. In the process, I have grown to not only tolerate kimchi, I’m addicted to it. And I’m what you might call a culinary early adopter. I’ll experiment with most anything to see if it’s good. During my first few months, I found that kimchi went well in burritos and quesadillas–long before they discovered it on west coast K0-Mex taco trucks. They took the credit for that, even though I blogged about it long before.
So maybe I’m on to something there. If you like kimchi quesadillas, here are some other experiments that have gone pretty well. Don’t knock till you tried it.
If you think about it, kimchi is sauerkraut with a few more ingredients. That makes it a perfect match for sausages and hot dogs. Adding it to a grilled onion and pepper mix gives sausages a brightness to match the smokey sweetness of the other veggies. And it gives a spicy twang to hot dogs.
I grew up in the South, and I enjoyed putting chow chow or tomato relish on my mashed ‘taters. In Korea, I’ve grown to love my spuds topped with the spicy red monster. It sort of makes sense. Koreans balance kimchi’s strong flavor with starchy rice. I just switched up my starches. One of my favorite new comfort foods is getting a Korean-Japanese pork cutlet, sauteeing it in butter like schnitzel, and serving it with kimchied mashed potatoes. Again, kimchi goes well with German food as a sauerkraut upgrade.
Disclaimer: Kimchi doesn’t work with all sandwiches.
But it does add kick to a few. Kimchi quesadillas work because clever cooks have discovered that kimchi and sharp cheeses are surprising international friends. On chilly evenings, I like to get a bowl of soup and fry up a double decker grilled cheese sandwich with a little of the K-stuff in there to replace the pickle. Pickles in grilled sandwiches were something I got hooked on during my poor college days dining at the Waffle House.
Taking it one step further, I like to make grilled or toasted bulgogi sandwiches with kimchi and melted cheese. I bet you this is going to get popular in the States if it hasn’t already gotten a foothold in some L.A. strip mall.
Fried Baloney Biscuits
This is stretching it a bit. Keeping it in the South, though. Cold cuts are alien in Korea and are just starting to show up in stores this year. Having my first pack of bologna in Korea, I had to revive another poor college country memory of fried baloney biscuits. Being on the “Korean diet” for the past six years has decreased my tolerance for grease, so a little kimchi in there helped cut it. Also, for breakfast, many expats here swear by their love for kimchi and eggs.
Roast Chicken and Duck
It works. Go figure.
This is actually considered super ultra backwoods country in Korea. Even my Korean wife called me a bumpkin for doing it. At a dirt floor restaurant on a chilly Siberian winter night, we munched on some toasty sweet potatoes that were roasting in the coals of the central wood burning furnace. One of our Korean friends suggested that we top our “goguma” with kimchi. Sweet, sour, salty, even that trendy umami–attacked our taste buds like a machine gun. It’s the taste of the forbidden. Try it when no Koreans are looking. I won’t tell.
Why does kimchi match with foods like these?
Your guess is as good as mine. Korea has had a long reputation (as in B.C.E. times) as artisans of the fermented dark arts. So dishes that are fermented or go well with fermented western foods like cheese, beer, wine, and good bread are natural partners with Korea’s array of ripened brethren.
Categories: Cooking Stories
More Amateur Gourmet:
Favorite Food Sites:
- 101 Cookbooks
- Chez Pim
- Chocolate and Zucchini
- David Lebovitz
- Serious Eats
- Simply Recipes
- Slice NY
- The Food Section