August 3, 2008

kimchee stew for justin


There’s something so endearing about non-Koreans who get Korean food, especially when they love kimchee in all it’s forms. There have been a few people like that in my life, the first was a college roommate Joanna, a straight talking, wise cracking theater geek from Louisville, KY. She’d poke her head into whatever I was cooking or eating and take a huge bite without hesitation, declaring it usually, “Fantastic”. The girl could throw down kimchee and fermented stews like she’d been eating them her whole life rather than for the first time. I’d feel a surge of intense love for her each time she took a bite or slurped down a bowl of something particularly un-western and smelly and fishy, something akin to the religious bonding that happens over breaking bread.

The most recent weigook to move me thus is the husband of a friend whose enjoyment of the spiciest kimchee dishes is so passionate and moving, it prompts me to cook for him just so I can see him eat (or at least in my mind). He’s the kind of rare person who at the mention of say, super spicy kimchee stew or dok-bokki, a kind of deep light goes off in his eyes and he begins to salivate. A kind of greed takes over and it’s all he can do not to trample over his toddler and wife on his way to the kitchen. His wife recounted for me the first time I'd brought soup over, he’d slurped the whole thing down while standing up at the kitchen sink and declined to share even a bite. She said he wouldn’t even give her a taste. This from one a most patient and generous man. Outside of his kimchee jigage of course. So this simple recipe is for him and other weigooks who might feel intimidated by such a foreign dish, it really is one of the easiest recipes to make and anyone can do it:

1. Buy a 1/2 gallon jar or a bag of kimchee
2. Eat as much as you can stand and when it is more ripe than you can bear, throw it it in the fridge and forget about it for at least a week, two or more.
(I like to ripen my kimchee just short of disintegration- not a savory imagery I know but the more ripe your kimchee is, the deeper and better the flavor of your stew)
3. Saute at least 2-3 minced garlic cloves in a bit of sesame oil or whatever oil you have, about 5-8 for a 1/2 gallon jar of kimchee. (Again it’s hard to go wrong with too much garlic. You can add 1/2 or 1 sliced onion if desired.)
4. Add pork rib bits or pork stew meat, about a handful or more if you like meaty stews.
5. Put kimchee in the pot and sautee for a bit.
6. Add water until surface is a good few inches above the ingredients. Bring to a boil then put on simmer for an hour.
7. I like to rest the stew then simmer again for another hour but it isn't necessary.

Optional Additions: cubes of tofu, green onion, sesame seeds.

posted at 03:41 PM by jenn

Filed under: recipes


08/04/08 12:28 AM

Uh...I can freak over some kimchee in the ranks of joanne and justin, if you'd give yourself five minutes to remember SEATLE!

08/04/08 09:21 PM

i was convinced justin was eliot but then i read he had a toddler - not there - yet

08/05/08 02:48 AM

mmmm--- thank you for the recipe. i will go to the korean mkt and buy some kimchee tomorrow. alternatively, do you have a recipe for kimchee as well?

08/05/08 08:35 PM

lol, I think I've gotten an email from every non-korean friend I have - I should make it clear how many great eater friends I have and how I could blog ad nauseum about each one uniquely relishes korean food. i'd actually written a longer post but it got unwieldy - and I'd made a promise for this blog not to do much editing but try to be carefree and post... very unlike my normal writing habits. here is the official passionate amazing eater's club roster: eliot, angela, steve, maggie, julian, ed, joanna, jolly, james, julia, justin, and thorina (though I didn't actually know you loved kimchee! how could I have missed this?).

and sorry thorina, i don't have a kimchee recipe because it's the one thing I don't make! i have a kind of mind block about it, something about feeling as though I need to be a little old halmoni/grandma to be able to make a proper batch...

08/06/08 01:51 AM

I am not your friend, but I will be if you make me kimchee! The spicier the better! My wife claims to be Korean but she can't stand the smell of Kimchee (or most Korean food). I swear the only reason her very traditional parents tolerate me (a big hairy Italian who can offend at every turn) is that I freakin' go apeshit over a good bowl of kimchee or fish-head stew, or octopus or whatever. Throw it at me, I'll eat it.

08/12/08 10:32 AM

I've never been so pleasantly surprised (and flattered) by a blog post. You are too kind, Jenn.

08/12/08 05:51 PM

My husband is the same. The waitresses give a major doubletake when he orders alchigae or kongbiji. And I can rarely age enough kimchi enough to make chigae, as rotted to shreds is all the better to him. He also snacks on dried squid and makes the kalbi in the family.

He did draw the line, however, at the volcanic intestine stew at Namdaemun Market. Tried, but it was too much for him. And I just watched him drown without pity. As I kept pointing out, my mom had TOLD us not to eat there, she'd said it wasn't for "our type" (she's a big snob and said that was "country people's" food, nothing she or her family had ever tasted). That was the one time I listened to her, although I think it was b/c I was in the mood for bibim naengmyun instead.

08/12/08 05:55 PM

Oh and I agree about making kimchi. That would be like making my own butter. I mean, theoretically possible but...

Of course so many of the older generations think homemade is the only way to go. I even know someone who insists his wife make homemade daenjang and dubu... won't eat that store-bought crap!

And my 80 year old aunt still makes her own kimchi on East 23th Street by SVA and winters it in a cabinet on her balcony.

08/12/08 08:56 PM

My mom makes her own kimchee. We have a small house in fort lee and a good portion of our dining room is taken up by a GIGANTIC store sized kimchee fridge. There is also kimchee in pots out back, buried in various places in the garden, even one buried in a corner of the neighbor's overgrown garden. Our house smells so much of kimchee that even family have to get used to it. Many times they come in and say, "What's that smell!"?

08/12/08 10:11 PM

the three graces.. I am going to use that some day. although technically there are two of you: ) i'm rather startled by some of the imagery - an eighty year old korean aunt on east 23rd st? i didn't think manhattan koreans existed. and the image of a garden full of buried pots is too much, another moment when i wished I could draw or do anything fine arty...

08/14/08 03:51 PM

my husband's favorite snack is burying his face in my mom's kimchi and eat. my mom is always and continued to be surprised + proud + happy + shocked. even though it's been years.

my husband has be begging my mom how to make it even. so we are throwing a kimchi making party in this fall. traditionally, all the ladies get together and make a part out of making kimchi.

it will be fun to see my jewish husband making his favorite dish.

08/15/08 05:49 PM

i think i'm in love with justin and dino. the thought of non-korean men falling over themselves for kimchee is so deliciously endearing.

08/18/08 12:48 AM

"an eighty year old korean aunt on east 23rd st? i didn't think manhattan koreans existed"

Until recently, I had a lot of family in Manhattan. The older generation have been here since the 1950s, back when there were so few they all knew each other.

but the really interesting thing is the kimchi terrace in Ft. Lee! I assume the neighbor KNOWS there's a jar buried in his yard?

08/30/08 07:22 PM

From a weigook in NYC....I love your blog! Can't wait to try these recipes out on my Korean friends. She'll be so impressed....even if it's not as good as her mom's ;-)

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