Kimchi for beginners?
OK, I'll out myself: I've never had kimchi! Now I'm excited to take the plunge, but need some help:
1) Is there a good brand/kind to buy to get me started? The only problem is that I can't tolerate really spicy food, so is there a good "starter" kimchi that is not going to set my tongue on fire? I've heard that kimchi comes in all levels of hot, so please steer me to a mild one!
2) Any hints for where to find this in Boston/JP/Rozzie area?
Thanks in advance!
H-Mart in Burlington has a huge variety of kimchi and they are usually pretty friendly about letting you try some before purchasing. The spiciness and ripeness varies so this might be a good place for beginners.
3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803
You can buy non-spicy cabbage kimchi - look for the jars where you don't see any red. I've seen it occasionally at Hong Kong Market in Malden, and WHole Foods (forget if it was Medford or Woburn, tho... you could try the big WF in Dedham).
I won't be helpful with specifics on brands, especially since I don't read Korean, but you will find one very common variety of kimchi (with English label) in all the Chinatown markets. DON'T get that brand unless you have to. I find it to be a bit off in taste - a strange slightly bitter after taste.
I prefer the Korean brands found at local Korean markets. In Boston, you can try John's Market in Allston, which offers its own homemade kimchi (pretty good from what I've tasted). You can find a lot of jarred kimchi at Lotte in Cambridge or at Reliable in Union Sq.
Kimchi comes in different varieties, radishes, napa, etc. My favorite is the radish cubes because of the crunch factor. I haven't noticed anything on the jars that suggest how spicy they are (but again, don't read Korean). I tolerate heat well, but don't find kimchi too spicy. My parents don't eat spicy food, and they find kimchi too much to handle. This may not bode well for you, if you don't care for spicy food.
To really hit the jackpot in kimchi, go to HMart in Burlington - tons of store-made and jarred varieties.
Have a meal at JP Seafood or their place in Roslindale Square. Korean run and bound to have kinchee.
As others have said, H-mart is the place to go. They have a huge selection of bulk kimchis and they will let you taste them. It is also sold by the pound so you can get as much/little as you like. In addition there are tons of bottled/pre-packed varieties too.
Try out the "mul kimchee" (literally "water kimchee"). As someone has already mentioned, it has no chili pepper in it and is usually made with cubed radish or cabbage. As delicious as its spicy counterpart.
Personally, I continue patronizing my nearby local Korean shop, Han A Rheum, on Mass Ave in North Cambridge. They have a small but tasty and fresh selection of kimchee and banchan (the small dishes that Koreans eat with every meal...you might want to branch out to these after your kimchee experiment!).
People here seem to like HMart but to me, it's like the Walmart of Korean grocery stores. I have a feeling it's gonna drive all the mom-and-pops out of business.
You should make the pilgrimage to H Mart, yes. Kimchee is part of a whole series of Banchan, Korean side dishes. H Mart's Banchan section is the single largest Banchan display I've seen here
Read about it here for starters:
You could also start by ordering stone-pot bim bim bap at a good Korean restaurant, it's always served with a small assortment of Banchan, one of which will be Kimchi
...and remember that kimchi isn't meant to be eaten alone, by the forkful, but a small piece is typically added to each mouthful of the main dish, so you will probably be able to tolerate more heat than you would if it were hitting your mouth on its own . I would look for a cabbage kimchi that is cut into small pieces and, as someone mentioned, that has less of the red chili mixed into it. Whole Foods sells a brand which is as I recall not too hot; displayed near eggs, butter, etc. It's addictive, and you might find yourself longing for hotter and hotter.