26 (Sun) June 2011
Ggongchi Kimchi Jjigae
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with W and DJ
Kimchi jjigae, Korea’s most ubiquitous stew and the subject of many posts on this blog, is most commonly made with pork but sometimes with fish, typically ggongchi (pike mackerel), usually from a can. When made with fish, the broth is much leaner and crisper in texture but also intensely fishy due to the inherent fishiness of the mackerel. Either way, it’s a matter of personal preference.
One key aspect in assessing a given plate of kimchi, aside from the types of seasonings that it contains and the level of heat, is where it lies along the spectrum of fermentation. Kimchi continues to ferment throughout its life. Some people prefer to eat their kimchi early on, just a few days after pickling, when the cabbage is still crisp, not having had time to absorb all the juices, which themselves have not yet fully developed in flavor, making it all taste and feel like a light and spicy salad. On the other end, some people prefer their kimchi fermented to the extreme, often after a year of careful storage, at which point the cabbage is soft and a brownish-orange hue from all the spices, which are now mouth-puckeringly sour. Most people prefer something in between, right when the kimchi peaks.
Anyway, KIT, who owns a kimchi jjigae restaurant, gave me a bundle of kimchi that had prematurely fermented due to improper storage in the summer heat. It’s perfectly edible – like I said, some people like it that way – but difficult to handle. To make tonight’s stew, I added liberal amounts of sugar and/or honey to counteract the acidity, but even then the broth was way sharp, each spoonful going down with a slight wince. A bit too much for DJ, who was present but ate something else.
(See also FOODS.)
(See also PLACES.)