Saturday, February 7, 2009

Kimch & Korea, shame and fame

As I wrote in previous article, I choose the days I eat Pakimchi even though I adore it. It smells even after eating scallions. The compound in scallion family is absolved into blood and circulates around the body. The compound then comes out through lungs when we breathe out or leeks out when we sweat. So whatever you do -brushing teeth about million times and gargling with gallon of mouthwash after eating row lots of scallions or garlic- IT DOES NOT WORK!! The problem is in your blood!

This was one other reason why Kimchi, the national dish of Korea, was notorious. It has a ton of garlic. When it doesn’t have garlic, such as Pakimchi, it has Pa(scallion), vegetable which is equally strong and smelly.

Kimchi itself has quite a smell like many other good things just from its fermentation process; good cheese stings, if you ever notice it. Even many Koreans do not like the smell of fully ripen Kimchi.

Kimchi is one food that has been shamed and famed with Korea.
During the Japanese occupation, Japanese looked down upon Kimchi like all other Korean culture. Now Kimchi and many other Korean foods become very popular even in Japan. Japanese come up with many items using Kimchi and other food with fresh ideas which they are very good at. This adapting for desirable foreign goods and customs and creating new things out of it is called –iitokotori (良いとこ取り).

Looking how the perception of this food changed around the world gives me bitter sweet feeling. I am happy that finally my favorite food gets the acknowledgement it deserves. I am a bit sad that it may loose its origin 'Korea' since Koreans are not necessarily quick to think to commercialize and to develop products out of things what we own.

Kimchi is pungent and strong. It is expressive and explosive like Koreans. Even though it is often considered not polite, in Korean culture, it is totally fine to express your overwhelming joy and sorrow in public. The big loud laugh, the tears running like river, screams of joy from your inner little child and moaning coming out of the tattered soul, all in public, are acceptable. It just says you are human, after all.

Back to the issue of smell, the best way avoid it is not to use garlic or scallions. If you want to avoid using garlic and/or scallions, feel free to go ahead and do so. Kimchi can be fermented without any of them. It just add flavor. How do I know? I make Kimchi without garlic using Korean Buddhist recipe. Buddhist monk does not consume any vegetable that has strong taste since it stir up passion. They want to remain calm and focused. I will translate (hopefully soon enough) few of my favorite Korean Buddhist recipe into English.


SeongCheol said...

Could you please post Korean Buddhist kimchi recipe? I go to a small Jogye temple but the Seunim doesn't speak good enough English to tell me

Ninette said...

I used to work in the Asian studies field, and one year one of our visiting scholars was a Korean politician. He told me Koreans were like the Italians of Asia and showed big emotions, like the ones you described here. It's funny what you say about the smell leaking out. My husband told his Korean business partner that when travelling on Korean Air, people complain that it smells like garlic. His partner says when he flies from the States back to Korea, all he can smell in the plane is sour milk.

KJ said...

Hello SeongCheol,

I will do my best, but I am little too busy and too slow these days. Please be paticent with me. :)

Hello Ninette,

I guess many Koreans are surprise to find how persistent is the smell of garlic. :)