My friends can attest to my kimchi snobbery, on view whenever dining out with me at various non-Korean restaurants that have kimchi on their menu. Sometimes the kimchi is on its own or coupled with a meat product, like pork (you’ve probably had it at some point, too.) That’s probably why it took me a while, and successive kimchi sightings, to figure out that something is going on, something like a trend. Who would’ve thunk, huh, that this ubiquitous (yet essential) Korean foodstuff would appear on the non-Korean mainstream radar?
A kimchi sighting, last year, at a favorite neighborhood restaurant, Sidecar, compelled me to ask the chef/owner, John DeCoursy, about the addition to his menu. He confirmed his love for it and how it was important to him to get the flavor just right which he tried to do by using the right ingredients. Of course, what John is talking about here is his work to make an authentic product, an endeavor all conscientious cooks pursue seriously. Incidentally, I took home an order of Sidecar kimchi one evening (I had none in the fridge!) so I could make and appease my intense craving for kimchi fried rice. It was tangy with a good crunch and just the thing to use for kimchi fried rice. Not as spicy as I would have liked, but I understand that restaurant cooks have to restrain themselves so as not to turn off their patrons whereas a home cook, like myself, can get spicy with it.
Or what about a recent Robert Sietsema Village Voice review about a restaurant in NYC’s Chinatown that serves “kimchi Italian-sausage ramen” which he calls a “wild fusion”? I would say kimchi and ramen are not strange bedfellows, rather, they are compatriots with one bolstering the other in taste and texture, so no need to raise one’s eyebrow there, but what of the addition of Italian sausage? Does that warrant the “wild fusion” label? Hmm, I would make the case that since Italy and Korea are peninsula countries, appendages to their continents-at-large, the coming together of kimchi and sausage could make sense on some cultural lateral-longitudinal level. Or you could replace the Italian sausage with Korean blood sausage if that makes you feel better (yeah, it would make me feel better too.)
Welcome, enfant terrible! Long may you rule.