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Mar 13, 2007 12:18 PM

kimuchi vs. kimchi

Every cuisine emulates another, makes a part of it its own.

No doubt well-made Korean kimchi would taste better in general, but kimuchi is huge business in Japan. The Japanese version is considered Japanese, not Korean. (No?)

I've heard discussions about this topic before, but not much on this board.
(The last one seems to be from 2000)

Your thoughts?

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  1. Kimuchi is indeed Japanese, not Korean. I personally don't like the Japanese versions as much as any of the Korean stuff-- seriously, why waste one's taste buds on bland foods?

    But it's not uncommon for the appropriation of each other's foods between the two (and among other) countries-- that isn't to say that they're completely alike. Korean kare is different from the Japanese version-- it tends to be less sweet and generally doesn't require the addition of apples or honey, for instance, despite some Koreans opting to use Japanese block mixes.

    It seems to boil down to a matter of preference and the cultural palates, so...

    But do NOT get me started on the marketing of produce, meats, fishes, etc. that are also native to Korea as being Japanese, under the Japanese name, etc., even in the American and some European markets. Man, that sort of thing riles me up!

    1. kimchi is inherently korean, probably the most essential and representative of all korean dishes. it's popularity in japan and other parts of asia is understandable, considering the variety of pickled or fermented foods across the continent. but kimchi (all varieties) is still uniquely korean.

      kimuchi is obviously just the way kimchi is pronounced in japanese. the controversy doesn't come so much from kimchi's popularity in japan as much as from japan's huge commercial market, which exports to other countries. considering the bitterness between the two countries due to japan's occupation of korea in the last century, i think it is clear that koreans object to their national dish being de-flavored and mass-marketed.

      political reasons aside, i avoid "kimuchi" in general because i was raised by a korean mother, so i like the real deal. and i am a huge fan of good japanese food, so it's not just some cultural bias.

      that said, i was first introduced to japanese foods such as tonkatsu, zaru soba, and sushi while living in korea, so it goes both ways. but i gotta say, if you're interested in eating kimchi, seek it out in korean restaurants and markets (or homes of people who make their own), not from japanese sources. it just makes sense, unless you know a japanese market sources their kimchi from a reputable producer.

      1 Reply
      1. re: augustiner

        The thing is, a lot of people just aren't interested in having kimchi that's properly fermented. It seems that much of the Korean food marketed in the States is sweeter than usual in order to cater to a different palate, and perhaps the Japanese are seeing place in the market that they can fill with something that isn't as spicy, "funky" from jutgal, etc.-- besides, things tend to sell better when they're under Japanese names, you know?

        BTW, there's a difference between occupation and colonizing; most Koreans aren't bitter about Americans, who still occupy militarily important areas...

      2. so whats the difference between kimuchi and kimchi? Is the japanese version less spicy? that's how I'd imagine it at least. I wonder if japan imports a lot of kimchi from korea since it's so close by.

        1. Yeah, so what's the taste difference?
          Varieties? Ingredients? Methods?

          1. I LOVE Korean Kimchi. And I have been blessed with a Korean Grocer barely 3 miles from my house. The couple there that own the store can't speak English at ALL. Their clientelle is primarily Korean, so they don't need to speak English. I get a 1 gallon jar of cut, prepared Kimchi and eat a little every couple of days and it is soooo delicious. Their store is FULL of Asian delicacies. I'll go in there once a month and spend $50-$100. I grew up in Bangkok, Thailand so I HAVE to have things like fish sauce (Nam Pla in Thai), peeled garlic cloves, coconut milk and cans of Thai curry pastes. So I am in heaven because of these people. They started carrying Masago and Tobikko a couple months back (I about freaked out when I saw a 1 kilogram brick of RED tobikko japanese caviar for $18.99 there). They have a selection of frozen seafood that puts the average grocer to SHAME. Though because the store sells a lot of imports, not much there is "fresh" (I mean not frozen). The list of treats goes on and on.

            They know me now and I always get a smile from the staff there when I show up because I'm not their typical customer. But they appreciate my patronage. They can't say hello, but they DO know how to say "thank you".

            I am very grateful to have them so close to my home.