Tagged: Kimchi

Kimchi Chigae (김치찌개)

In the last few months, I felt (yet again) suspended in limbo. In so many ways, this year feels like a first. The first year I can’t use being a full-time student as an excuse to eschew finding a steady and stable full-time job. The first year I realize the true effort it takes to keep in touch with even the best of friends, whose lives also happen to be unfolding unexpectedly before them. The first year I see life the way I do now. It feels strange and surreal to remind myself that I am a college graduate, an adult.
Once in a while, I sift through old pictures and catch snapshots of my past, finding myself at a loss for words. I remember those blunt bangs and the plaid uniform I wore at my private school in California. I remember my strawberry-blonde best friend, her freckles an object of my greatest envy. I remember my sun-kissed skin from blackberry-picking with my Guatemalan nanny, Adela. I remember ferry rides to Granville Island and goose-chasing at Stanley Park with my sister in Canada. I could never forget the fluorescent lights of Seoul and the way my heart would beat in the city. I remember my first failed experiments with make-up and fashion, high school crushes and cliques. Flip forward a few pages and I vividly recall my high school graduation, all the flower leis, and my first official cap and gown. Then I remember Seattle and the courtyard of cherry blossoms on campus. It baffles me that now, I’m looking at freshly-printed photos of my friends and I in forest green caps and gowns against azure Hawaiian skies, proudly displaying our post-college diplomas – our tickets into the real world. To think, I’ve journeyed this far.

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Kimchi Quesadillas & sesame-gochujang sour cream

Under the never-ending list of Things I Absolutely Have to Make (or have already made) and (need to) Blog About (including my favorite go-to Korean staple, kimchi jjigae/stew, which has been requested by several & is soon to come), there is the kimchi quesadilla, which I have finally gotten around to making. It may sound a little strange initially, but trust me, the pairing of kimchi with cheese is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, growing up in Korea, this was a prevalent and beloved conjunction of contrasting flavors and textures: tart, spicy, briny, and crunchy with buttery, nutty, oozy, and melted; a serious match made in culinary heaven.
However, it wasn’t until last summer when I visited L.A. amidst the Kogi Truck craze, that I had the opportunity to try one of these insanely good, savory treats. I was immediately blown away at first bite. As I’ve experienced re-creating this quesadilla with my own artistic flare, I’ve consistently found myself wondering: why has this concept not been popularized sooner? I mean, everybody loves quick and easy finger-food, especially when it goes hand-in-hand with an ice-cold Corona and lime, right?
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Say Kimchee.


It makes your smile look just as nice as saying “cheese,” I promise.

Anyway, I’ve been getting homesick lately. Home is where the heart is, and I must say that mine’s with my family. I haven’t lived with them since I was 16 and I’m only just beginning to realize how much I’ve forgotten yet how much I’ve learned. It’s been a long journey thus far and I’m only moving forward. While there are so many positive aspects to this sense of independence and process of maturation, there is undoubtedly a feeling of emptiness.

These pangs of longing were only amplified when I noticed that the dishes I’ve been preparing or ordering were quite un-Korean. It hit me especially hard when I was finally able to see one of my best friends, Joanne, after nearly a year of distance between us. For the most part, she usually kept me in check with my Korean background, especially when it came to the kinds of food I ate. To be honest, my exposure to anything pertaining to the Korean culture has been sadly limited over the past year. It was not deliberate whatsoever, but I guess it led me now to deliberately rekindle my love for Korean food.

So, what’s a better way to do this than making kimchee? The absolute staple in Korean cuisine. It goes with just about everything. Come on, even my non-Asian roommate enjoys eating it. Although, I must add, it’s with tortilla chips and lemon powder (to add a more sour kick to it). She claims that kimchee is her new favorite dip.  I have not yet tried it in this manner, but …I’m telling you, kimchee is oh so versatile and wonderful. It should be in everybody’s fridge, Korean or not. It’s available at most grocery stores, especially in Asian-infested Hawaii, and it’s also very easy and cheap to make at home. You should try it!
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