I pick up a beautiful jar of chopped up vegetables in a bright red pasty sauce. I turn the lid. It bubbles like a lightly sparkling wine. It smells strong, but good. It’s alive, ready to bring life to your food and guts. It’s kimchi.
Jessie Palmer, owner of small batch kimchi business Cabbage Patch Kimchi, was taught how to make traditional kimchi in Korea. Palmer took a kimchi making class at a Korean cultural centre, but felt that it wasn’t quite turning out right. A Korean teacher at the school where Palmer was teaching English let her watch while she made her kimchi, and Palmer felt she had finally got the knack.
Since June, Palmer has been selling her kimchi at the Halifax Forum Farmers’ Market in Halifax. Her kimchi is delicious, and as close as you’ll get to authentic. She says she gets nervous when Koreans taste it but they usually love it.
Kimchi is a traditional side dish that dates back centuries. “It’s a non-dairy probiotic made with fermented cabbage,” Palmer explains, “sort of like a Korean version of sauerkraut.”
There are many different types of kimchi, and different regions have different styles. Palmer’s small batch kimchi is salty, slightly spicy, but mostly tangy, with strong vegetal flavours, warmth and strong umami flavours from the fermentation and the fish sauce.
The ingredients are simple, but create such layered flavours. Napa cabbage, sea salt, daikon, green onion, asian pear, garlic, ginger, onion, red pepper, fish sauce and sesame seeds can be found in her kimchi, but it’s the preparation and the fermentation that really make this food beneficial.
The probiotics in fermented foods like kimchi help with digestion, and help build healthy microflora. And it tastes damn good.
For those who don’t know how to use kimchi in their cooking, Palmer says eating with eggs, noodles, rice or as a way to add flavour to leftovers. Adding kimchi to a bowl of steamed rice with a sunny side up egg, seaweed, green onion and sesame oil is Palmer’s favourite lunch. Also adding kimchi to ramen noodles is excellent.