Published on September 16th, 201718
Sorry Kimchi – It’s Not You, It’s Me
Most anyone who knows me (especially if they’ve wandered by my side as I grazed the street food in some back alley in a far-away land) will attest that I will unhesitatingly eat most anything and everything – no matter how strange or exotic.
Nosireee, I’m not the least bit put-off by 4-alarm spicy, nor squeamish about any and all manner of street-food. Indeed, I actually prefer to SEE how my vittles are being cooked, than hope that the folks behind the Applebee’s kitchen wall aren’t collectively picking their noses whilst tossing my salad.
From boiled silk-worms in Thailand, to crispy chicken feet in Laos. Grilled crickets in Vietnam, to a tiny Moroccan street cart offering delectable steamed snails in Chefchaouen (I returned every night for a week to pluck them from their tiny striped shells with the point of a safety-pin!) Roasted “cuy” (a.k.a. your childhood pet in the U.S.) here in Ecuador, horse meat in France, and mopane worms in South Africa (served at one of the finest upscale restaurants in Johannesburg). In short – if it’s on offer as edible, by golly I’ll try it!
Thus it’s not at all surprising that – when I recently read that a new Korean restaurant serving kimchi had opened here in Cuenca, my foodie radar went on red-alert. That the address was coincidentally just around the corner from my apartment here in El Centro? Suffice it took less than 24 hours and I was standing on their doorstep.
I’d already had lunch before I arrived, so I wasn’t up for a Korean full-meal-deal, but rather – it was solely the kimchi I was after. I’ve always favored any and all things pickled, but had never gotten the chance to try this legendary Korean delicacy. So I ordered kimchi “para llevar” (“to go”) to take home and eat with my dinner. She asked me how “picante” I wanted it, and I hesitated. As a nascent kimchi gourmet, I figured I’d best err on the side of caution so… I responded “solo un poco picante, por favor.” (only a little spicy, please).
And the verdict?
Seriously. Before diving in I could see that the cabbage was verily *swimming* in chili pepper seeds. So I was forewarned that it would likely be uber “picante”. I even deftly scraped away all but the juice on a tiny piece of cabbage, before lifting it to my mouth and carefully sliding it onto my waiting tongue.
It was utterly TASTELESS, but for the heat of the chili pepper. I tried a second bite – again patiently extracting as much of the peppery seeds and juice as possible in hopes of discerning just why this traditional cabbage dish is so beloved (leastwise by Koreans).
No dice. Still as flavorful as crunchy cardboard, save for the heat.
Oh I’ll go back and have a proper lunch or dinner at “Mi Mamá Coreano” to sample some of the other dishes on their menu. But what with all the many other yummy choices here in Cuenca (Vietnamese pho, Thai phad tai, Japanese sushi, Swiss fondue, French crepes, et al, not to mention the delish Ecuadorian specialties – succulent hornado and encebollado soup, I’m lookin’ at YOU! – I’m afraid that a passionate love-affair with fermented cabbage is not in my future. Sorry kimchi – it’s not you, it’s me.
What about you – have you tried Korean kimchi? Did you like it?
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