In terms of super foods, the Korean condiment kimchi belongs in the nutritional league of justice: full of lactobacilli, antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins, it is credited with aiding digestion, fighting cancer, and curing yeast infections. Not only that, but the Korean Agro-Fisheries Trade Corporation attributes the fermented vegetables with “restraining aging skin” and helping Nicolas Cage balance his mind and soul.
But whatever about all that, kimchi is just tasty. For the home cook, it adds a tangy, pungent heat to everything from scrambled eggs to stews and sandwiches — we are currently obsessed with the onion-brat-kimchi combo at Sun Street Breads — and, of course, it fits right into the mess of vegetables and egg atop a bibimbap (see Dong Yang’s version, below). As a side dish, kimchi can be a deliciously cool and crunchy salad.
It’s easy enough to find recipes for kimchi (here’s ours), but it’s a time-consuming project. What’s more, kimchi also has a slightly fizzy mouth feel and bubbles when you open it; this is normal, but it can unnerve the canning-wary. Happily, if you don’t have the time or fortitude to make kimchi, you can buy it at the store. Today we have reviewed two locally made brands with very different flavor profiles for your gustatory and gastrointestinal pleasure.
Angelica’s Garden Kim Chi
Angelica’s Garden Kim Chi ($12 / 16 oz.) combines organic green and Napa cabbages with a variety of vegetables and spices to create a kimchi that is surprisingly hot and dominated by flavors of spicy-sweet ginger and garlic. It is shredded in parts and has a softer, more succulent texture than some kimchi. In fact, it tasted a bit like a doctored-up sauerkraut.
The difference between sauerkraut and kimchi, aside from the obvious, is in the cabbage and how it is fermented. Sauerkraut uses white cabbage, shredded and dry cured in salt and spices, and then fermented in its own juices. Kimchi uses Napa cabbage, whole or chopped, wilted in salt water, rinsed and then fermented in a combination of spices and fish paste.
Yon’s Foods Kimchi
In Yon’s Foods Kimchi ($5.39 / 16 oz.) all the traditional flavors — spicy chili pepper, bitter greens, subtly sweet cabbage, and an overall salty pungency from anchovy paste — form a cohesive, savory whole. The greens are soft, but the radish and cabbage are fresh, tender, and crunchy. And yes, there is that telltale fizz we have come to love and expect.
Although Yon’s Foods Kimchi is quite spicy and piquant, in comparison with Angelica’s it seems mild. Of the two, it would make an easier companion in a dish with ingredients that might otherwise be overwhelmed by the latter’s juicy ginger wallop. We like it scrambled with our eggs, melted in our quesadillas, and as a crunchy component in duck fried rice. It’s also brilliant eaten plain: We have more than once devoured half a jar standing at the counter.
Both Angelica’s Garden Kim Chi and Yon’s Foods Kimchi are widely available at local supermarkets; we happened to find them at Seward Co-op. You’ll find a list of store locations for Angelica’s Garden products here.