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Kimchi for beginners?

Hi Hounds,

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!

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  1. As an offshoot of this request, can anyone suggest a brand of store-bought kimchi that's super hot? I've yet to come across one.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jgg13

      Not sure if it qualifies as super-hot, but the jar I bought at HMart last week is a lot hotter than the stuff they usually carry at HK Market (formerly Super 88). It's labeled Tobagi brand, Premium Cabbage Kimchi with oyster.

    2. 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

      1. Click over to "Feed Me Like You Mean It." Alex has lots of Kimchi information including links to the 2010 Boston Kimchi Festival.



        1. 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).

          1. 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.

            8 Replies
            1. re: kobuta

              I am really fond of the house-made kimchi at the Reliable. It is in the 'fish room' on the farthest wall in the refrigerator case.

              1. re: smtucker

                Here's a picture of the kimchi wall at Reliable. There are lots and lots of versions to work through. I learned to make it recently with my mom, I'm hoping to turn my pad into a kimchi factory -- super easy and fun!


                1. re: yumyum

                  And while I'm bragging, you should all see a picture of my gorgeous kimchi. It's burbly and fizzy now, but in a week, it is going to blow the roof off!


                  1. re: yumyum

                    I bow to you, oh great kimchee master. Gorgeous.

                    1. re: bear

                      This is why I've always liked you, bear.

                  2. re: yumyum

                    Holy cabbage! I need to get there stat. Hope they have my favorite panchan as well -- the cold strips of fish cake.

                    1. re: yumyum

                      and here is one part of the area at H-mart. There are 3 walls plus a whole center bulk-deli like area where they weigh it out and let you try samples. In this photo you can just see 1-1/4 of the walls.

                2. Have a meal at JP Seafood or their place in Roslindale Square. Korean run and bound to have kinchee.

                  1. 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.

                    1. 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.

                      1. Reliable Market in Union Square has homemade kimchi in several varieties, in clear plastic deli-style plastic containers. I like the cabbage with dakion myself. Not as big a selection as Hmart but I think the quality may be better.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Guido

                          I think Reliable stocks the Arirang brand of kimchee (red and yellow square label). Pretty good stuff.

                        2. 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

                          1. ...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.