“Kimchi is a generic name for a traditional fermented pickled vegetable with a variety of seasonings,” explains Matt Choi of Choi’s Kimchi Company. “Most commonly, you’re going to find a kimchi that has Napa cabbage, daikon radish, and a lot of times they are seasoned with garlic, red pepper or red chili pepper flakes.”
Matt Choi and his mother, Chong Choi, have been making and selling kimchi in Oregon since March 2011 when they first introduced their kimchi at the Portland Farmers Market at PSU.
Matt and Chong showed us how to cook kimchi fried rice at their home in Gresham. It is a very simple dish: You can use chicken, tofu, pork or beef for protein and you can adjust the amount of ingredients according to your preference. (To see how Matt and Chong put this dish together, watch our video at the top of the page.)
In recent years, kimchi has been getting a lot of attention from chefs and consumers in the United States. However, kimchi has been a quintessential food for Koreans for many years.
Though often served as a side dish at restaurants in the U.S., kimchi plays a more central role in traditional Korean cuisine.
“It’s eaten with every meal. As a result, that kind of translates … as a main ingredient in main dishes,” says Matt.
“The Korean president developed space-safe kimchi because the astronauts they sent to space got so homesick, not over their wives, but over their kimchi,” adds Matt. “… They developed a space-safe kimchi without bacteria that they can take up to space with them. That just shows you how essential kimchi is to Korean folks.”
According to Matt, Koreans tend to use the kimchi at the very bottom of the jar for cooking because it’s more fermented, resulting in a stronger, more unique flavor.
How to Make Napa Cabbage Kimchi
In addition to cooking traditional Korean meals, Matt’s customers have come up with some unique dishes of their own, including cottage cheese mixed with kimchi for breakfast, mango and kimchi mixed together, chopped white radish kimchi used as garnish for fish tacos, and pureed cream cheese and kimchi spread.
So why try cooking with kimchi?
“It adds a very unique kind of spicy-sour taste that’s very hard to explain, but makes it very delicious,” says Matt.
Do you have a favorite kimchi recipe? Share it by posting a comment below.