Friday, February 24, 2006

In the upper 10%

Here's a secret about me: I really don't care much for kimchi. Never have. Cucumber kimchi is tolerable to me, and I will eat cabbage kimchi to be polite, but if I never had to eat the stuff again for the next century or so, I wouldn't complain.

It's not the smell (I sort of like the smell). It's not the spiciness, although some of my lack of enthusiasm may have stemmed from my younger days when, as a child, I didn't even like to drink Coke because of the way the sharp bubbles hurt my mouth (also, my older brother loved cola and he was the mother of all monstrous older brothers, so I often took a dislike to things he enjoyed).

I do like some spicy things. My all-time favorite Korean comfort food is sundubu, which is not too heavily spicy but it's enough to put off a lot of people who grew up on nothing less bland than meatloaf. I don't really care much for the kochu-less kimchi either, so I really don't think that's it. I've never been a fan of cabbage, so that may be where this comes from.

I love kyŏja, that wasabi-like mustardy liquid that I so liberally squeeze into my naengmyŏn that any bite will cause a numbing sensation to shoot through my nose — I can't tell you how much I love that feeling.

Ask a group of adult KoKos (Korean-Koreans, born and raised) if they dislike kimchi, and no one will answer yes. Ask the same group of people with their eyes closed (yes, I've tried this) and you will get about 10% admitting that they don't like kimchi at all.

We are the upper ten percent.

[photo: Makes me want to have pizza]


  1. Actually, I'm not a big fan of cilantro. Back to the equation-writing drawing board for you.

    I'm now a big fan of cola (Pepsi over Coke; Coke makes me hiccup sometimes and it can last for days). And trust me, my dislike of kimchi was long before first (or second) coming here.

    As for wasabi, I prefer the taste of Korean kyoja over Japanese wasabi, but I do like 'em both.

  2. If you don't like cilantro, do you like coriander?

  3. san nakji asks:
    If you don't like cilantro, do you like coriander?

    I'm not even sure if I know what coriander is. I know what a colander is, and I must say I do like them. Especially the ones that retract and then can spread out again. I could play with those things for hours.

    [looks up coriander] I think I used to get paid five bucks an hour when I was a kid to remove this from people's lawns.

    Isn't this closely related to cilantro? Is this some sort of trick?

  4. Wha? How can one not love Kimchi, it's great!

    The kochu (red peppers) in spicy kimchi were supposedly introduced from Japan (which got it from the Portuguese, who got it from the Native Americans, who of course came from East Asia—it's the circle of kimchi).

    Koreans are getting revenge by getting Japanese addicted to this vile side dish!

    I have never had "kimuchi" while in Japan, so I don't know if it's made slightly milder than most Korean stuff, but I imagine all the saltiness and the pickled flavor is there.

    I used to have a kimchi rice omelet for breakfast every day when I was in school in Chiba.

    Blech! Why adulterate omuraisu with kimchi?! Oh, the humanity!

    Won't someone think of the children?! (By the way, two Americans I was walking through the I-Park Mall at Yongsan Station thought the whole idea of omuraise (a layer of scrambled egg over a bunch of rice, with ketchup) was absolutely revolting.

    I'm not a fan of wasabi though.

    The only time I ever was taken aback by thoughts of wasabi was at the Rio Hotel buffet in Vegas, where I went with my mom, dad, komo, and cousins. It's a huge buffet (my small size notwithstanding, we're professional buffet patrons) with a variety of ethnic foods.

    There was a huge vat of wasabi sitting next to the raw fish stand. It was humongous, maybe half the size of a standard American trash can you put out for the sanitation workers.

    Suddenly the thought of that much wasabi made me want to gag.

    "That much wasabi could kill a man," I told my dad.

    "That much Japanese horseradish," my dad quipped back, "would make a Japanese horse reddish." Then he laughed.

    My dad thinks himself quite droll sometimes.

  5. You don't have to be embarrassed about avoiding kimchi, Kushibo. Heavy consumption of salted, pickled veggies has been linked with high rates of stomach cancer among Koreans and Japanese. Pickling foods made sense before the invention of refrigerators, but today we can choose from fresh, canned, or frozen produce. I prefer my cabbage fresh, not briny and overpowered by peppers.

  6. You don't have to be embarrassed about avoiding kimchi, Kushibo. Heavy consumption of salted, pickled veggies has been linked with high rates of stomach cancer among Koreans and Japanese.

    Actually, I'm quite aware of that (do a word search for "cancer" to find the reference).

    Sociological factors for this is something I hope to study either before or after I finish my doctoral studies in med soc.


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