MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Before we say goodbye today, we turn to a more mouthwatering kind of preserving, preserving food. Cheese, yogurt, jerky, jam, you can preserve foods any number of ways, From adding sugar to canning to smoking and, of course, you can pickle things, Either chemically, as you would with, say cucumbers or corned beef, or through the process of fermentation, like in the case of sauerkraut or kimchi.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
The spicy Korean dish, kimchi, has a long pedigree, dating all the way back to the 7th century, if not earlier. Before freezers, before hydroponic vegetable gardens, kimchi made it possible to preserve vegetables and all their nutrients well into the winter months. Emily Friedman headed over to the Korean Cultural Center in Northwest D.C. to learn how kimchi is made and what kind of place it holds in Korean culture.
MS. EMILY FRIEDMAN
Kimchi may be one of the world's most versatile foods. I was actually making omelets for my colleagues and I go, like, you know what would be good with this? Kimchi. You know, it goes with a lot of things.
That's Adam Wojciechowicz.
MR. ADAM WOJCIECHOWICZ
Not a Korean name, a Polish name. I'm part of the local staff here at the Korean Cultural Center.
He says when it comes to kimchi, there's a very common narrative. It starts when you try kimchi for the first time. You like it, you try it again and pretty soon, it's all kimchi, all the time.
When you're having, like, a hamburger and you get a craving for kimchi, you know you've crossed over to the kimchi side.
Now, in South Korea, just about everyone lives on the kimchi side.
MS. YOUNG LEE
Kimchi's our life. That's how serious we are.
Young Lee has worked as a chef in the U.S. for more 30 years. Most Koreans, she says, eat kimchi at every meal. It's common for Korean families to have a whole extra refrigerator just for kimchi. And for kimchi lovers, the process behind the dish is often a mystery.
So I asked Chef Lee to reveal how she makes her signature cabbage or baechu kimchi. She starts with cabbage but the kind that looks like a bowling ball. She likes Chinese or Napa cabbage, which has longer leaves.
Napa cabbage has a more crunch.
Earlier in the day, she had sliced each cabbage in half and sprinkled it with lots of salt. This is how the cabbage starts to pickle. Now, a few hours later, it's ready for the next step. Chef Lee combines red pepper paste, turnips, salt, garlic, fish sauce and green onion to create a bright red paste. That's called the stuffing. Then one by one she coats each leaf the cabbage with the stuffing.
This is the most I put in. But don't put too much stuffing because it makes it later that's not really look nice.
The final step is rolling up each cabbage using the big, outer leaves to keep in the stuffing. Then she packs them into a clay jar where the cabbage sits and ferments for a few hours, a few days, even a few months. But you can also taste the kimchi right away, which I did. That's very good. Cabbage kimchi is the most ubiquitous of all kimchis. But according to Adam Wojciechowicz, it's just one recipe out of hundreds, maybe thousands.
So you've got all these different kinds of vegetables that you can make into kimchi. You can have cucumber kimchi. You can have cabbage kimchi, radish kimchi, onion kimchi.
Oyster (unintelligible) kimchi. Every kimchi has their own way to express themselves.
And if you go to a Korean restaurant, it's likely your table will be covered in kimchi.
Basically, Koreans don't like to see the table, is the way that I sum it up. The more dishes the better.
Promoting kimchi is part of South Korea's official state policy. But even without that mandate Wojciechowicz says Koreans around the world would still put in the effort. First of all, they like to eat it and secondly, it's a constant link to Korean culture.
There's a lot of different elements and there's a lot of history that just goes into this one little side dish. So I guess calling it a side dish might be a little misleading. In a lot of ways, it's kind of the highlight because that's where all the flavor is and that's the thing that people kind of crave. It's really, you know, a whole genre in itself.
A genre that's about preserving not just cabbage or cucumber, but the culinary history of an entire nation. I'm Emily Friedman.
And if you're suddenly jonesing for some pickled cabbage on your burger or on anything else for that matter, you can find Chef Lee's kimchi recipe on our website, metroconnection.org.
And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's David Schultz, Sabri Ben-Achour, Kavitha Cardoza, Jessica Gould and Courtney Collins, along with reporter Emily Friedman. Jim Asendio is our news director. Our managing producer is Tara Boyle. Jonna McKone and Lauren Landau produce "Door To Door."
Thanks to Tobey Schreiner, Jonathon Charry, Andrew Chadwick, Margo Kelly, Timmy Olmstead and Kelin Quigley for their production help. And to the WAMU digital media team for keeping our website up to date.
Our theme song, ''Every Little Bit Hurts'' and our ''Door To Door'' theme "No Girl" are from the album "Title Tracks" by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. Visit our website, metroconnection.org, for a list of all the music we use. While you're there, you sign up for our Twitter feed, you can join our Facebook community. You also can subscribe to the free "Metro Connection" podcasts.
We hope you can join us next Friday afternoon at 1:00 and Saturday morning at 7:00 when we'll whip out a wild card and bring you interviews and stories that would run the gamut. From D.C.'s fight over medical marijuana to the world of local fan fiction to a new book by musicians who refuse to let hearing loss stand in their way.
A lot of people think hearing loss and bowstrings aren't a good mix. Plus the intonation requirements are so high. But music is on the inside. You just have to heed to the call of your inner soul and try anyway.
I'm Rebecca Sheir and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 news.
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