Kim Chee: The saga continues!

In General Information on January 31, 2012 at 11:12 am

The Great Phyne Dyning Kim Chee Saga continues.

After four days, I dutifully retrieved my huge jar of homemade kim chee from the corner of my basement workbench. I turned on the bench light and peered cautiously at the contents of the jar; half expecting to see the mass of vegetables within heaving rhythmically.

I saw only a few champagne-like bubbles flitting between the cabbage leaves.

Now reposed on the kitchen prep table, I again peered into the jar. Nothing peered back and for this I shall be eternally grateful. The contents had “settled” by about half of the volume and it brought to mind the bodies of hapless road kill, bloated at first, and then collapsing under the corruption of decay. I flipped the bail on the spring-loaded top of the jar. There was a malevolent hiss and the room was filled with the unmistakable odor of fermenting cabbage and fish sauce.

From the next room, our parakeet Thelma fluttered nervously in her cage.

My fork poised in the mouth of the jar, I gave it a quick shake. Nothing emerged from within. I speared a small piece of cabbage, withdrew it from the jar, and held it to my nose.

One cannot tell if kim chee has gone bad. Ironically, good kim chee smells like it has gone bad.

Hundreds of Japanese epicureans die annually from tetrodotoxin poisoning after eating fugu, a kamikazi pufferfish meal. While my kim chee bubbled in the basement, I did some scouring of the Internet for lists of kim chee victims.


Despite this, and the virtual absence of illnesses caused by “bad” kim chee, the New York City Health Department has a ban on restaurant sales of homemade kim chee. The edict does not point to known health risks. Rather, the ban got its authority from the fact that kim chee is fermented at 55 degrees. Safe food handling guidelines say that no raw food should be stored at temperatures above 41 degrees.

The NYC measure killed off the home kim chee biz and idled thousands of Korean grannies.

I put the piece of foul-smelling cabbage into my mouth and chewed.

Crunch, crunch, crunch…

Whoa baby!

Asian foods are remarkable for contrasts in texture, tastes, and smells. Throughout Asia, soft foods are combined with crunchy nuts and sweet is a foil for sour.

My kim chee is tart, but sweet. It has the pungency of strong fish and the floral tones of ginger. The heat is beyond diabolical, but the cabbage seems to moderate the flames.

This is bloody good stuff.

I ate my first sample on Sunday evening. So long as no creature burst from my ribcage during the next twenty-four hours, my next kim chee sampling would be with breakfast.

My cup of rice steamed before me. I plunged my fork into the fermented cabbage and onion mixture and withdrew an enormous wad and tossed it on top of the rice. Next, I used a small spoon to get a bit of the surprisingly clear liquid from the jar. I stirred my rice bowl gingerly. A tantalizing aroma drifted to my nose and my salivary glands went into overdrive. I ignored the bottle of soy sauce. Mrs. Phyne Dyner leaned over the table and studied my face as the first forkful slid home.

Yep, it was good.

I have a suspicion that three pounds of the stuff will not last long.


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