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Current and former BYU–Hawaii students reflect on their experiences with kimchi

Bottles of Kimchi at a local market
Photo by The Associated Press

Kimchi’s flavor depends on how it is prepared, said Park Yerang a freshman from South Korea majoring in graphic design. She said the classic cabbage kimchi with red pepper has a spicy kick to it, even though the cabbage itself is cold. She said white kimchi is the opposite, because it does not have the peppers to give it spice, it has a pungent sour taste, which in combination with the fact it is also cold makes it nice to eat in the summer.

According to alumni Katelyn Grandy, who was born in Korea and served a mission there, kimchi is fermented vegetables seasoned in spices, usually red pepper, however it can vary. She said the vegetables used depends on the season, however it is usually radishes or cabbages.

“Cucumber kimchi is my favorite,” said Grandy, “it has a sweet flavor and it’s more unique than the other types of kimchi.” However, she said she prefers to use cabbage kimchi for cooking because of its versatility. “I can use it in anything,” Grandy said “I use it in rice bowls and in stews, it’s great to cook with.”

The spicy flavors are rooted in Korean culture and tradition said Grandy. Traditionally, food was prepared in stone bowls, as this was done to bring out the richer and spicier flavors. She said, “The more spice and richer the food, the better it tastes, or at least according to Korean tradition it does.”

Park said kimchi is a staple in Korean food. She said she enjoys the variation of kimchis, ranging from the classic cabbage kimchi, radish kimchi, to white kimchi, which is made from fermented cabbage, but is not seasoned with red pepper. Park said her favorite kimchi is the young summer radish kimchi.

According to Park, she enjoys kimchi because it refreshes her palate and delicious. “I eat it with almost every food, if the food is boring, kimchi makes it better,” said Park.

She even eats kimchi with desert if it’s too bland. She said one of her favorite combinations is kimchi and sweet potato because the flavors work well together.

While the variation of kimchi aids in its popularity, Jordanne Hill a freshman from Germany majoring in psychology said she does not like kimchi. Hill, who lived in South Korea for two years said she prefers bland flavors to the spicy flavor of kimchi.

Grandy said in Korea food is always linked to culture, she said kimchi takes a long time to make because of the fermenting process. Grandy said this reflects on the importance of patience in Korean culture.

Park reminisced on making large quantities of kimchi with her mother growing up. Park said, “It was a lot of work, we would have so many cabbages and it took so long, it wasn’t my favorite thing.”

When we finished my mother would tell me I barely helped.” She said with a laugh. Park said making kimchi takes time and patience.

Grandy said in Korea, an abundance of food represents wealth and prosperity. She said this goes back to the times in Korean history when food was often scarce. Grandy said because of this “Koreans will always share a meal with their guests,” She paused and added, “they feed their guests as an expression of love and charity.”