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Bringing kimchee through checked luggage- and other questions on traveling with food

I'm currently attending school in New Orleans but I'm home for a couple of days- hip hip hooray for home cooked Korean food and Trader Joe's! I'd love to bring back some of my mom's kimchee gigae but I have no idea how I can transport it back to NO without it leaking or causing a stink! Also, I'd love to bring back some dairy products, frozen foods, and produce- but how can I pack it? Should I buy one of those large styrofoam coolers? It's only a 2.5 hour ride from NYC to NO but I wouldn't want anything to go bad or melt. Any suggestions?

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  1. I always bring one of those soft coolers with me when I travel to Seattle and back to LA. I also bring along those gel bags that you freeze. I usually have no problems, but now I do check the cooler in, since there are so many restrictions in regards to what can be carried on board. If there is liquid, like the kimchee liquid, I figure, better safe than sorry. Also, I would probably triple bag the kimchee (saran wrap, ziploc and then bag it over and over...really wouldn't want it to spill).

    1. Not sure if all airlines accept styrofoam coolers anymore. Maybe buy an inexpensive hard shell suitcase for food dedicated use. As much as possible put evrything in non-glass containers. Seal in plastic bags, use newspaper for padding.

      1. I'd look into having these items shipped. I know it's tempting to tote them yourself but I learned the hard way that that can be a BIG problem. DH and I were in Italy and he wrapped olive oil in his luggage. It leaked not only into our stuff but other's had their luggage treated to EVOO too.

        1. I had two jars of kimchi explode in my checked luggage. Pack everything in plastic (triple bagged) in a sturdy container with either dry ice or those disposable freezer bricks. Make sure you line the outer walls of the container with wadded newspaper.

          6 Replies
          1. re: hannaone

            Surely two jars of kimchee counts as a terrorist weapon!

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              From the expressions on the faces of the baggage handlers as they stood next to my isolated suitcase (Dripping red juice from one corner) you would have thought so.
              Learned to pack all food for travel in plastic from that experience.

              1. re: hannaone

                Yeah, I throw a bunch of those gallon-sized Ziplock freezer bags (the ones with the inner liner) into my suitcase. They don't weigh anything or take up any space, and they're useful for all kinds of things (bagging my shampoos and lotions, shoes, wet things, dirty socks, and yes, that jar of chestnut honey that would make a real mess if it leaked in my suitcase).

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  It's amazing how kimchee consistently fails to behave. I've had big, sturdy, ought-to-be-airtight glass jars of kimchee drip through triple-layered bagging even while toting it on a placid 15-minute walk home -- several times. It's like the most excitable food ever.

                  Awesome thread, by the way.

            2. re: hannaone

              That sounds like my worst nightmare!

              1. re: hannaone

                Absolutely DO NOT use dry ice inasmuch as it is a hazardous material and is subject to haz materials handling regulations - were anything to happen you could be in a world of hurt legally not to mention the potential injury to yourself and fellow passengers. People went to jail for the ValuJet misdeclared oxygen cylinder-related crash...and justifiably so.
                See http://www.ehs.neu.edu/hazardous_mate... for description of requirements....

              2. how serious are you about this?

                I concur with using a hardshell suitcase for dedicated food use. Impact resistent foam peanuts or air bags work well as buffer and giant sized ziplocks (the sweater size) double bagging and double layered plastic containers are your friend.

                1. I'd ship it but if you're really serious about taking it with you, triple-bagging it is not enough!! =) you must 10-15 bag it. yeah, I know that sounds crazy and excessive but its far better to be safe than be really really sorry. the kimchi smell/stain will ruin virtually any clothes. And when you pack the jjigae into a rubbermaid container, I'd double or triple pack it, meaning put the jjigae into smaller containers and then put those containers into bigger containers, then 10-15 bag it, with sturdy plastic bags and ziploc bags. Even then, who knows if some unexpected sharp object will go through your carefully packed treasure and pierce through all that plastic. So I'd ship it after all..

                  Having said that, I know of people who've travelled internationally with glass jars of kimchee with no major incidents. But I personally would not take that kind of chance.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: koreankorean

                    I agree with bagging it excessively- when I bought the kimchee it was triple bagged and as soon as we put it into our car, we could smell it through the packaging!

                    Thanks for all the suggestions! I am now considering my mom ship it to me. But, as justagthing suggested, those soft lunch bags might work for the gigae- if I freeze it before and stick it in there, it shouldn't smell as much, right?

                    1. re: dream75517

                      I wouldn't personally go with the shipping, my experience has been that if you have a direct flight, it's faster and safer.

                      We always bring home Korean (about a 3 hour flight). We use a hard plastic cooler dedicated to the food, and tape it up well. We use the ones you might bring to a picnic, and they work well. I put large "this side up" signs to try to keep the cooler upright, but I don't count on it. My mother usually packs pre-marinated kalbi and bulgogi (ready to defrost and throw on the grill), and these packs act as freezer packs. All Kimchi is in plastic jars with plastic screw on lids, wrapped 3-4 times in plastic. Soups such as jigae might be best placed in plastic thermos containers. It will stink some no matter how much you wrap it, so I don't bother doing more than 3-4 layers. So don't put anything in there that would bother you if it smells like kimchi (ie no clothes). For a direct 3 hour flight, this should be fine to bring all your goodies home!

                  2. Is the kimchee canned? I've had good luck with canned or bottles items - vinegars, relishes, jams, etc. - enclosed in a heavy duty freezer bag, then I stuff them inside a sock and shoe combo (trying to minimize the spillage and prevent breaking).

                    As far as frozen and dairy items? Are you allowed to carry those on now? If so little freezer bag inside your carry on would work just fine.

                    Another option is to create your own "ice chest" for shipping overnight - sturdy box + styrofoam cut to fit perfectly + ice packs. You'll want roughly 75% content to be icepack, 25% cold item. And surround the cold items with the icepacks. I have vaccines overnighted to me that way and they always show up very cold to the touch ... well, one time in 100 degree weather they were just cool, but still not warm! You might be able to take this as a checked item.

                    1. If you don't want to bother with a whole cooler you might want to try putting your perishables in a thermal tote bag with a couple of ice packs and putting that in a hard suitcase. I know they sell them at Whole Foods. Seal it closed with duct tape, and wrap that kimchee up a million times. It may feel silly, but better safe than sorry.