The kimchi museum

Studying the label of a jar of excellent kimchi yesterday, I discovered that there was a kimchi museum in Seoul. From the Wikipedia page:

(#1) A plate of kimchi (the foodstuff is not particularly photogenic)

Museum Kimchikan, formerly Kimchi Museum, is a museum dedicated to kimchi; one of the staples of Korean cuisine. Exhibits focus on the food’s history, its many historical and regional varieties, and its importance to Korean culture and cuisine. The museum collects data and statistics on kimchi and regularly offers activities for visitors, such as demonstrations of the kimchi-making process, kimchi tastings, and cooking classes.

(#2) A Kimchi cooking demo

… The first part of the museum has three sections covering the long history of kimchi, including a detailed timeline for visitors.

– The Exhibition of Ancient Books on the History of Kimchi

– Kimchi Trends throughout Korean History

– How hot peppers became a kimchi ingredient

The second branch of the Kimchi Field Museum consists of displays on the process of kimchi making, as well as short documentaries which play at regular intervals. Here, visitors can view models of 80 different kinds of kimchi

(#3) A display of kimchi varieties, in bowls

(#4) A display of kimchi varieties, in jars (for permanent storage)

and compare recipes (with a picture and description for each). In addition, there is information about what kinds of spices people have used before they adopted red peppers from Japan and Korea. Another section illustrates the regional varieties of kimchi by geographic district.

The museum provides detailed explanations of the process of making kimchi, with a diorama for each step. There is also one section in which people can view the typical environment in which kimchi would be made, including the historic pottery forms used for the fermentation and storage processes.

There are two photo zones where people can take pictures of kimchi, a display on the nutritional benefits of kimchi, and compare it with other kinds of fermented vegetables around the world. Guests are also welcome to visit an area where they can observe the Lactobacillus bacteria in kimchi through a microscope. The museum also displays a large world map with countries to which Kimchi is exported. A tasting room is open for visitors to test two different kinds of kimchi each month.

The final section of the museum consists of a resource room, where people can read books about kimchi and other traditional foods of Korea. Visitors can access kimchi-related articles and movies in the resource room.

A recipe. From the RecipeLand site, “Authentic Korean Kimchi”. A recipe that can be adapted to your tastes: you can adjust the level of hotness (in the chili powder) and saltiness and also the strength of fermentation.

— ingredients:

2 heads of napa (Chinese cabbage), about 3 to 4 pounds, cut lengthwise into quarters, then across into thick ribbons

1/3 cup salt

2 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari) [soy sauce is made from wheat; tamari is gluten-free]

4 tablespoons fish sauce [for information on this condiment, see the Wikipedia page]

1 1/2 cups (Korean) chili powder

2 bunches scallions (spring or green onions), thinly sliced

1/4 cup minced garlic

1/4 cup minced ginger

[optional] 4 cups carrots, cut into thin sticks, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches long

— instructions:

Add the cabbage and salt in a big bowl, tossing it with your hands until well mixed.

Pour in cold water to cover the cabbage. It will float, so invert a plate on top to keep it submerged.

Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let it stay at room temperature overnight.

The next day, lift the cabbage out of the brine and place it in a big bowl. (Keep the brine)

Add soy sauce, fish sauce and Korean chili powder in a small bowl, stir until well blended to make a chili paste.

Add the chili paste to the cabbage along with scallions, garlic, ginger and carrot sticks if you want.

Combine the kimchi well and pack it into hard plastic or glass containers. Pour in enough of the brine to cover the vegetables. The work is now over.

Cover the containers and leave out at room temperature (but not more than 75 degrees, or it ferments too fast). Taste it after three or four days, and every day after.

As the vegetables shrink, the kimchi can be arranged in smaller containers, make sure to keep it covered with brine.

When it reaches your own taste, it’s done. (Different people have different taste, some people like the flavor not too strong, but others prefer really strong taste).

Refrigerated and covered, it can be kept forever.


4 Responses to “The kimchi museum”

  1. nelsonminar Says:

    What’s your favorite brand? I’m very excited about Wildbrine kimchi here in California, although it needs a bit of fish sauce to round it out IMHO.

    Making it is easy and fun. The best thing is you can taste it as it develops. It goes through a period after 2-3 days of being “sweet kimchi”; already fermented and a bit funky, but still more sweet than sour. It’s mild and pleasant and a total surprise.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      These days I just get what’s available at Safeway — the Pulmuone spicy; the company is genuinely Korean, but this is a version specially made for the American market (and American sensibilities, so it’s merely pleasant to the taste and low-odor).

  2. Mitch4 Says:

    Were you ever in Chicago for the Hangul Day bash at Jim McCawley’s place? One feature of the food was the variety of kim chee from his stock and brought by Korean students and fans. (I was not really a fan though.)

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      No, alas, but I still got to appreciate his stock of kimchi. When I was teaching at UIUC (the place was then an utter food desert), Jim would periodically come down from Chicago with a suitcase full of foodstuffs for Ann and me, always including a jar or two of kimchi.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: