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Help me get over my fear of kimchee!

I finally bought a jar of kimchee from my local market. I have wanted to try it for a while, and it seems like I would like it, but for some reason I'm nervous!

Can you please suggest a good way to try it first? Thanks :)

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  1. Describe it a bit, or give us the name or key ingredients. It can range from a mild 'white' pickled cabbage, to something quite hot. It can be made from napa cabbage (most common), daikon, seeweed, cucumber, radish, etc.

    Normally it is eaten like any pickle - along with other meal items. You can cook with it as well, but for a start just open the jar and taste it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: paulj

      Like paulj said, just taste it, you've probably got the standard cabbage type. It's going to be spicy and hot but it's not like your sticking a raw habanero in your mouth, nothing to be afraid of. You'll either like it or you won't!

    2. Lol. Girl, just twist off that top, get a clean fork, and dump a little into a small bowl. It won't tear off your soft palate, I swear. Once you taste it on its own, you'll know what it goes with.

      It's not like I just walked into your house with a gallon jar of my homemade kimchi (which is still fermenting until Sunday, anyway).

      1 Reply
      1. re: DuchessNukem

        Think of it as a kind of sauerkraut...because that's basically what it is. Try some plain on its own to get a feel for it.
        It's addictive...personally I love the stuff, and go through quite a bit of it using it as an accompaniment to meat dishes as well as in stir fry recipes (it's really great stir fried with strips of pork).

        The kind I buy is domestically made (in NY) and is not pasteurized, so the ferment actually continues slowly and it gets more pungent as it ages; since I like it ripe, I tend to not even open a jar until a week or more after I purchase it. If I've saved some for more than a month, it is particularly good in Korean style soups.

        It has been a regular part of my diet since it was first introduced to me by a Korean friend more than 30 years ago!

      2. I'm not sure I can write anything that will prepare you for sour, funky, spicy cabbage if you are not used to such a thing.

        I remember the first time I went to a Korean restaurant. For an American it is the oddest experience. Not only is much of the menu unrecognizable, but after I ordered the server started bringing me a half dozen strange-looking things I didn't even order. Or did I?

        Some were jellies, some exotic vegetables, some fishy looking and smelling. I had no idea what to think.

        Now I adore Koreran food. It is a taste worth acquiring. The best thing I can tell you is that you probably won't like it, but don't give up on it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Steve

          Why would you assume she won't like it? I loved kimchi the first time I tried it - which happened to be in Korea. There's nothing scary about it at all, especially if you have any experience whatsoever eating any kind of spicy food. Now that I have had it, I just do not understand the fear. The Professor has it right - it's like spicy sauerkraut. Nothing crazy about that. Just taste it. It's delicious.

          1. re: hilltowner

            I said 'probably' because the OP stated she is nervous about trying it. Being nervous about trying something can be an imposing psychological hurdle.

            Fortunately, that was not the case, per the post below.

            1. re: Steve

              DH started out saying he hated kimchee- at this point I have no idea what it was he tasted that made him hate so much, but we went to a Japanese/Korean restaurant nearby and I caught that there was kimchee on the sampler menu and when he tried it I got him to admit that he liked it. Normally he's not the least bit squeamish about unfamiliar food (thank the good Lord), he must have had some bad kimchee first time around, maybe something I got at an Asian grocery, not knowing a thing about what makes kimchee good.. That's what I thought about yellowtail the first couple of times I tried it, it must not have been that great, I thought it was fishy and gross so the sushi chef overheard me and made up a little tasting of yellowtail- I became an immediate convert. Being nervous about trying something is normal, but one has to just flap one's wings and dive down into it sometimes.

        2. I make my own and it really goes with a wide variety of foods. Tonight I had a steak with wasabi mayo, and a side of kimchee. Treat it as you would a pickle or coleslaw and you will find it easy to eat!

          1 Reply
          1. re: sedimental

            You may not like it but there certainly is nothing to fear about trying it.
            I like it with just plain white rice. Even better to add some kind of grilled meat to that.
            I have been known to eat it, standing over the sink, out of the jar with some saltines.

          2. People either like it or they don't, nothing to be nervous about.
            The first time I had kimchi was in Korea and I loved it. A friend of mine tried it and didn't like it, so I had it all to myself.
            Kimchi will go with nearly anything, but is best with grilled pork belly - there is just something about that combination that puts it over the top.
            Eat it with plain rice, any meat, inside a leaf wrap, on a taco, by itself ------
            I eat it in omelets, wrapped around meat, in tortilla wraps, on hamburgers, in soups, fried rice, and Korean pancakes.

            2 Replies
            1. re: hannaone

              Nicely put hannaone.

              If you can get some new Kimchi it will be milder in taste.

              If you are timorous, open a tin of saurkraut and practice on that (honest)

              but once you enjoy Kimchi there is no going back....

              1. re: hannaone

                Won bok kim chee (the cabbage kind) is also great on sandwiches in lieu of lettuce and/or pickles. I use it all the time (my brother's Korean ex-MIL makes it for me) for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It also makes some of the best fried rice! Cucumber kim chee is really good and, somehow, milder. Maybe it's the coolness of cucumber chunks that cuts through the hotness of the spices. Won bok kim chee you can usually get in varying degrees of heat, so read the labels and start off with a mild version. It really is delicious stuff. Once you've tried some you'll wonder what you've been missing all your life.

                Oh, and hannaone is absolutely right about the grilled pork belly. It's practically indispensable with Korean style BBQ meat.

              2. Get a really hot, hot guy you've been lusting after. Go do something adventurous with him, like rock climbing. Afterward, take him to your apartment and grill the beef strips you had marinatingin your refrigerator, and set out steamed pearl rice, lettuce leaves and a bowl of kimchee. Eat only some of it.

                Have sex all night. You feed each other grilled beef and rice lettuce wraps with kimchee when you are hungry in between bouts of lovemaking.

                You will be addicted to kimchee in no time.

                Or, you can just pretend there's a guy and that you went rock climbing, and eat the lettuce wraps alone. That should work, too.

                4 Replies
                  1. re: AsperGirl

                    For any of the ladies on Chowhound, I am willing to volunteer my body for this experiment. All in the name of Kimchi and Science.

                    1. re: joonjoon

                      :( You are such a good man. The pain and suffering you must endure....

                    2. FWIW, imo-
                      Good kimchee, grilled beef kalbi, and plain white rice is one of the best combinations of food on this planet. Seriously - easily in my top ten one plate meals of all time. Fat, starch, and sour/tang/spice. Unbelievably good.

                      1 Reply
                      1. If you have uses for tamarind paste (a very foreign item to some), I see no reason to fear Kimchee. I just think of it as spicy cabbage. Of course I've never had a homemade one : )

                        My 13 yr old would sooner try kimchee out of a jar than try any kind of cheese. For as long as I can remember, she's had an aversion to cheese. She feels they're all stinky!

                        1. Thanks all! All of the suggestions to think of it like sauerkraut are part of the problem. I HATE sauerkraut !!!

                          The kimchee I bought has an expiration of march 20, so I guess it's fairly fresh. I just grabbed a fork and dug in - I liked it :). I think I will let it sit out a bit before eating it next time as fridge cold seemed too cold. Time for me to experiment with it now.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: CanadaGirl

                            Aggghhh, I detest commercial sauerkraut also. Have made my own fermented and found it acceptable but not worth repeating. Kimchi is another critter entirely.

                            Good on ya for digging in! And now you can play: ramen, scrambled eggs, beef tacos, soups, stir-fries....

                            1. re: CanadaGirl

                              Glad you did. The simplest recommendation for this and other similar circumstances is still the simplest one - just try it.

                            2. Try putting some on a hot dog.

                              My personal favorite is in a seaweed wrap with sesame oil toasted nori (gim in Korean) and some rice.

                              It also goes great with pork. Try frying up some pork belly and having it with kimchi. HEAVEN.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: joonjoon

                                I second the idea of frying kimchee. Makes for a different taste sensation, and a perfectly good use of kimchee that is not stellar in the first place.

                                1. re: joonjoon

                                  Yes, it's heavenly! kimchee stirred fried with pork fat...yummmmm...

                                2. Is it the heat you're nervous about? make a bowl of steamed rice , put a layer of kimchi on there, and then an over-easy egg on top. The creaminess of the liquid yolk combines really well with the sour kimchee and reduces heat a little bit.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                    I adore heat. I was worried it would be sauerkraut-ish. Luckily for me, it wasn't. The kind I tried was mostly cabbage with chilies, ginger, garlic, etc. I think it was pretty basic but I liked it. I actually thought it should be hotter, so perhaps it was a mild one.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Of course ;)

                                        I can't decide if I'm more impressed with her chopstick skills or kimchee eating abilities. Love it!

                                        1. re: CanadaGirl

                                          Great video.

                                          The young lady obviously has good taste.

                                          1. re: hannaone

                                            I watched this video months ago, and the young girl makes me laughed. SHe actually has very good chopstick skill for her age.

                                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          That's both fantastic and hysterical.

                                          1. re: JMF

                                            Thanks. Sorry for the late reply, but yes, it is a very awesome video.

                                    1. From what I know about kimchee there are a couple of hundred varieties of it. To dome to a conclusion based on just one isn't fair to kimchee. In general, it IS a somewhat acquired taste for Westerners...... unless you're into spicy and a bit exotic foods to begin with. I've had some I loved and some I couldn't handle.

                                      It's a bit like curries in that they have a stereotypical profile until you get into them. Then you find that they have rather broad palate all by themselves.

                                      Short answer.............. don't judge all kimchee by the first one you try.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. If you have never tried kimchee or never smelled it, you may be shocked by its uniquely fermenting smell. My husband just can not stand that smell at all. But I love kimchee since I was a kid, and love every kind of kimchee, there are about 300 kinds of kimchee. I actually made a vegetarian version last year without fish sauce, and it turned out quite delicious. I always make Korean recipes to go with my kimchee, This is one of my favorites:

                                        Korean Seasoned Vegetables and Noodles with Spicy Sauce (The recipe is from recipeland.com)

                                        For the radishes:
                                        1 1/2 pounds radishes slice into match-stick
                                        2 tablespoons chili pepper flakes or as needed, Korean chili flakes*
                                        3 cloves garlic or to taste, minced
                                        1/4 cup cilantro leaves freshly and finely chopped
                                        2 teaspoons sesame seeds
                                        For the carrots:
                                        2 each carrots slice into matchsticks*
                                        1 teaspoon soy sauce
                                        2 cloves garlic or as needed, minced
                                        1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
                                        1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
                                        For the english cucumber:
                                        1 each english cucumber *
                                        1 teaspoon vegetable oil
                                        1/8 teaspoon salt
                                        1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds
                                        For the green zucchini:
                                        1 each green zucchini *
                                        1 teaspoon vegetable oil
                                        1 1/8 teaspoons soy sauce
                                        4 cloves garlic or to taste, minced
                                        1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
                                        1 1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds
                                        For the mushrooms:
                                        8 each mushrooms, shitake or dried, soak in water for a coulpe of hours*
                                        1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
                                        2 1/4 teaspoons soy sauce
                                        3/4 teaspoon sesame oil
                                        1 teaspoon sesame seeds
                                        2 each scallions, spring or green onions thinly sliced
                                        For the bok choy:
                                        1 bunch bok choy ends trimmed off, rough leaves removed, and sliced*
                                        1 teaspoon vegetable oil *
                                        1 dash sesame oil *
                                        1 teaspoon soy sauce *
                                        1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds toasted*
                                        To serve:
                                        1 x noodles cooked, as needed*
                                        1 x chili sauce Korean chili sauce, 1 to 2 tablespoons per serving or as needed*
                                        1 x egg fried, optional, top each plate or bowl with one fried egg*
                                        * Nutrition Facts
                                        To prepare the radishes:

                                        Add them into a mixing bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and sugar.

                                        Toss until well combined and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

                                        Some liquid will be extracted.

                                        Rinse the radish under the cold water and drain well.

                                        Return them into the bowl and mix well with the seasoning ingredients, and set aside.

                                        To prepare the carrots:

                                        Cook the carrots with a little bit olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, until tender-crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer into a small bow, and set aside.

                                        To prepare the cucumber:

                                        Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and slice each half very thin half moon shape.

                                        Add them in a bowl and add 1 teaspoon of salt and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

                                        Rinse under the cold water, drain and squeeze out the excess water.

                                        Heat the vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add cucumber, stirring constantly, stir in salt and sesame seeds,and cook for about 2 minutes.

                                        Remove from heat and set aside.

                                        To prepare the zucchini:

                                        Cut the zucchini into 2-inch logs.

                                        Slice the zucchini into 1/4-inch sticks.

                                        Heat vegetable oil over medium heat.

                                        Stir in zucchini and cook for 1 minutes.

                                        Stir in the seasoning ingredients and cook until it gets soften, but the color is still green, another 1 to 2 minutes.

                                        To prepare the mushrooms:

                                        Thinly slice the mushrooms and cook in the vegetable oil with the seasoning ingredients until soft, 2 to 4 minutes. Set aside.

                                        To prepare the bok choy:

                                        Heat oil in the same hot skillet.

                                        Add the garlic, ginger and scallions, cook for 30 seconds.

                                        Stir in the bok choy and cook until the green parts are wilted and white parts are tender-crisp.

                                        Add the soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds, stirring until well mixed.

                                        Place into a bowl and set aside.

                                        To serve:

                                        Place the cooked Korean noodles or soba noodles in the individual serving bowl.

                                        Arrange vegetables on top of the rice.

                                        Top with a fried egg if needed with sauce over each bowl.

                                        Mix well and serve.

                                        Note: There is no order to cook the vegetables, so you can start from whatever vegetable you want to cook with. (The recipe is from recipeland.com)

                                        You can try this recipe, it looks long but it's worth the effort, and tastes delicious with kimchee. You can go to the site to check out more Korean recipes and to see how I make the kimchee too, there are step by step pictures. Hope this helps.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: happyzhangbo

                                          Looks amazing! Would you use standard north american radish or daikon? Thanks for sharing.

                                          1. re: CanadaGirl

                                            You are welcome and it's my pleasure. If I can find daikon, I use daikon; if not, I use radish. Radish can be found in every grocery store, but not daikon. Their textures are very similar, so either of them works well in this recipe.

                                            1. re: happyzhangbo

                                              I must be lucky; I can get daikon at every grocery store in my area.

                                              1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                We are not in the city, so local grocery stores sometimes carry daikon, sometimes not. I guess local people probably don't buy daikon so often, hehe. If you are in Toronto, it's not a problem at all, and you can definitely find daikon at every grocery store. I made my cabbage kimchee with a napa cabbage (at least this is easy to find, hehe) and a big turnip, because I couldn't find daikon. It still turned out great though.

                                        2. you have probably tried it by now, but a few comments.

                                          1) I love kim chee, but can't stand sauerkraut. they are not the same. kim chee in addition to being much sweeter does not contain vinegar.
                                          2) I first tried kim chee in college. a friend's father was half korean and they always had it in the house. We put it on hot dogs.
                                          3) If you don't like spicy food at all, kim chee may not be for you - but i have a friend who has very low spicy tolerance, does not like sauerkraut but enjoys kimchee.
                                          4) If you are worried about it being too strong rinse some off and try it that way.

                                          it is a taste worth acquiring if you enjoy asian foods.

                                          12 Replies
                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                            Sauerkraut is not supposed to be made with vinegar:


                                            Sauerkraut directly translated: "sour cabbage", is finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria, including Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus.[1][2] It has a long shelf-life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid that forms when the bacteria ferment the sugars in the cabbage. It is therefore not to be confused with pickled cabbage or coleslaw, which receives its acidic taste from vinegar.

                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                              Count me among the many people who enjoy kimchee, but loathe sauerkraut. To me, the only point of resemblance is that they both start with cabbage, although kimchee can also be made with other vegetables. If someone had told me before the first time I tried it that kimchee tasted like sauerkraut , I probably would have passed on it.

                                              I wonder if there is really such a thing as an acquired taste, which implies that one warms up gradually to a particular food. When I first tasted kimchee, it was instant love. When people say that a food is an acquired taste, they really mean that it a food that is unfamiliar and that many people can be expected not to like--whether they try it once or several times. I've had sauerkraut numerous times, but I've never acquired a taste for it..

                                              1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                Me too. I make my own kimchee and cordito and love them both- just not sauerkraut. I think (for me) it is the complexity of the spices used in kimchee and cordito that make the difference- that Sauerkraut doesn't have. Traditional sauerkraut tastes one dimensional to me....too much vinegar.

                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                  There's no vinegar in sauerkraut (at least there isn't supposed to be...it's just fermented cabbage)!
                                                  Also, a very overlooked fact about sauerkraut is that traditionally, it wass drained and rinsed before use...it was just a means of preserving the cabbage. It only happened to turne out that lots of folks liked the straight stuff without rinsing!

                                                  1. re: The Professor

                                                    I think the store bought kind has vinegar in it. If it doesn't, it certainly tastes like it.

                                                    I have not made (plain) sauerkraut at home....as in lacto fermented. I guess I should try it, it is just that it is so one dimensional...just salt and cabbage. It has not been an interest.

                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                      Have you seen vinegar in the ingredients list, or are you equating the natural sourness of sauerkraut with vinegar?

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        At least one supermarket brand, Vlasic--better known for its pickles--uses vinegar for its sauerkraut, and there are plenty of recipes on the Internet for making sauerkraut with vinegar. Technically, these are recipes for pickled cabbage rather than true sauerkraut

                                                        1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                          Right, that's a pickle company. I was thinking something like Franks. I have a jar of Stainfelds. Mostly, though I get it 'fresh' from the cooler at my butcher shop.

                                                          I also have a small crock of a Chinese pickled cabbage - that's quite salty and garlicy, but relatively dry.

                                                        2. re: paulj

                                                          Yes, I couldn't tell you. The regular store bought brands of sauerkraut I have tried tasted strongly like vinegar. I have never lacto fermented my own sauerkraut, just kimchee and cordito (with plenty of spice and no vinegar taste). It could be - that I would like it homemade. I have never tried it.

                                                        3. re: sedimental

                                                          This thread made me crave kim chee. Without time to drive across the city to the Asian market, I bought a jar at my local Harris Teeter. The brand is Jo San and the tiny 14 ounce jar was $4.79 but it's very good. Ingredients are: Napa cabbage, radish, red pepper, garlic, ginger, sugar, boiled shrimp,sweet rice, onion and water. No sugar.

                                                          1. re: southernitalian

                                                            Kimchee at the Harris Teeter! Gotta love it. That's progress!
                                                            When I visited my folks moved in the Carolinas after they had moved down there a couple decades ago, I though it so amusing (during a trip to the supermarket) that regular old Progresso soup products were in the 'exotic foods' aisle.

                                                            1. re: The Professor

                                                              Ha! You reminded me that when I moved down here 17 years ago, Progresso and Entenmann's were nowhere to be found. Now, they're pretty much everywhere but my dad has to ask his Harris Teeter manager to order Progresso Escarole for him.

                                                2. My old neighbor, a Polish woman about 60 yrs old, knocked on my door with a container of kimchee in her hands. "I think you like spicy?". She apparently didn't know what she was getting when she shopped at the local Korean market and thought she was buying a main course cabbage dish. I gladly accepted with a giggle and explained kimchee to her.

                                                  1. I like kimchi with bacon and eggs. I put it in the pan to warm up at the same time that the eggs go in to fry. Very tasty.

                                                    1. I have liked kimchee for a while but see why it might be a little scary for people. For me I started having it with noodles just a little on the top to get used to the taste. But the other day when i was in a restaurant it tasted slightly sweet I think the chef mixed it with some honey not too much. And that added a new dimension to it for me. So that might be worth a try.