Kimchi is the New Ketchup?

3 Dec

Written by Rina Oh

Nouvelle Hansik Cuisine 

Kimchi; “world-famous dish and is now considered to be one of the world’s top five health foods.”

Long before I experienced my first meal at Le Bernardin, I’ve spent countless hours researching their food while glaring at web photos. My mouth watered to try something new and exciting. I didn’t realize until I tasted their Kumomoto oysters, presented six different ways, that even Star Chefs like Eric Ripert were already on the band-wagon of popularizing Hansik.

The CEO and founder of International Culinary Center, Dorothy Hamilton recently met with South Korea First Lady Kim Yoon-ok on September 8th, 2010 during the “Culture 20 (C20) meeting which took place from Sep. 8-10”. The First Lady spoke about the nation’s campaign of globalizing and promoting the historic culinary traditions. Traditionally, Hansik is a celebratory feast mainly composed of cold foods. According to sources online “Hansik”, literally means “cold food,” and is based on a traditional Korean holiday. Now officials are calling the entire cusine of Korea Hansik and categorizing kimchi as the “essential side dish”.

Kimchi is centered amidst the thousands of savory dishes from Korea. It is so popular that other nations often times refer it as the single affiliate of Hansik. Although it is a main condiment, Hansik is composed of a different approach to dining. It’s culinary aesthetic is distinctive from any other nation globally. Meals begin with small plates accompanied by several smaller side dishes (throughout the meal). A progression takes you into more complex dishes, with hot foods.

Last October, the Korean Times interviewed the Minister for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chang Tae-pyong. During the interview, Chang Tae-pyong discussed plans to launch a private foundation to assist in the globalization of Hansik and commented by saying “The foundation will be in charge of charting strategies and implementing programs to make home-grown cuisine popular worldwide”.

Of course you won’t find every Korean or French restaurant serving sashimi with Kimchi gelee or foam. That’s a trend that may take a few years to catch on with the rest of the world. In the meantime I’ve imagined what it would be like if everyone thought of bottled kimchi as they would Hellman’s Mayonnaise or Hunt’s Tomato Paste. I visualized a product line displaying the outcome if indeed kimchi became the next ketchup. Then I made an amazing discovery of a mother daughter duo, Granny Choe’s Kimchi Co. have made it happen.

I ran out to Whole Foods to get a sample so I can try it out. I visited three locations in Bergen County but couldn’t find Granny Choe’s version. Instead I found Mother in Laws’s Kimchi at the Edgewater store. My mission: to compare the Americanized version with more local brands, found at H-Mart. (Meet Daniel, two years old- an aspiring food critic and kimchi aficionado pictured above with napa cabbage kimchi, toasted anchovies and sticky white rice). I decided to take it one step further and created some unique recipes using the techniques recently acquired at FCI. I incorporated these dishes into my Level 5 menu project entitled: Salt and Dicovering Nouvelle Hansik Cuisine. I ended up handing in a bound, full-color hardcover book which will be published and available to purchase soon. In the meantime, here are three out of ten recipes from my tasting menu:

Hirame with Adzuki bean porridge and fried kimchi

Argentinian style short ribs with yucca croquettes and kimchi demi-glaze

Albacore tuna carpaccio with kimchi gelee over wasabi shaved ice

I used the kimchi bought at H-Mart. It was fresh and I couldn’t go wrong with it. Now I really started wondering, can kimchi become the next ketchup? I recently interviewed a handful of culinary professionals and aficionados who are spearheading a fast growing food trend. The answer to the question according to Randy, a kimchi aficionado and food blogger of is yes!

Here is the Q & A:

What is the most popular kimchi recipe? Can you share a traditional recipe and one that is more avant-garde? (please include preparation method and ingredient amount, purchasing source)

“The most popular hands down is the Cabbage Kimchi served at all meals. The authentic flavor Kimchi I suggest at my website is by Maangchi who has her own website and published book/DVD.  You can see her at work here:”

“I’ve also personally endorsed Granny Choe’s Kimchi Co:

The company is a mother daughter team on the West coast who began shipping their home made kimchi from home and just recently had their kimchi jars added to the shelves of Whole Food stores! A great sucess!”

In your opinion, how do you feel the palettes of the general world population will embrace/reject kimchi as a common condiment? Of Hansik cuisine? And what can we do in terms of customizing the traditional recipes to cater to the masses? Is there a bottled version in the international market?

“Over the last year and a half I’ve been contacted by many asking my opinion on globalization of Korean cuisine and particularly kimchi.  Korea’s rigorous campaigns and globalization efforts have included movies, National Fairs, and educational approaches never before seen.  Here, within the States, we’ve seen a fusion of kimchi and Mexican/American foods.  The Kogi trucks of LA deliver kimchi flavors combined with a variety of more recognized street foods and young companies like Granny Choe Kimchi Co. deliver the goods to your door!  The fusion of Korean kimchi with recognizeable American foods has opened the door to taste tests that otherwise would of never happened.”

What is your favorite Korean food product(s), and where do you buy them?

“When not making my own, I purchase my radish & cabbage kimchi at Shin Chon Asian Market in Dallas, Texas (USA) along with their store brand of rice cakes and all my ingredients for cooking traditional dishes at home.”

How did you become a kimchi aficionado?

“I first learned about it and tasted authentic kimchi & korean food while stationed there back in 1991. I served on the DMZ with 2nd Infantry Division and enjoyed kimchi and all Korean dishes. All these years later I still eat it daily and as a hobby maintain my site with thousands of visitors weekly.”

What have you seen or tasted of Hansik that is new and exciting?

“All authentic Korean flavors excite and please me but to see more Americans at least exposed to it is exciting.  My palette is very pleased by the flavors and fortunate to be eating Korean recipes several thousand years old!  Many of these kimchi recipes also yield some of the healthiest food combinations on the planet!  Great to see any other cultures at least consider their health properties. Kimchi can be a miracle food!”

What do your readers say about your blog? How did you start it and can you tell our EatLife readers more about who you are?

“I’m an American living in downtown Dallas, TX (USA) where I occasionally enjoy some of the finest restaurants in the world.  But for my tastes and greatest dining pleasure, you’ll find me at one of several Korean restaurants about 20 min. from here.  When I began my blog, my intention was to create a simple recipe archive consisting of contributed Korean recipes with a focus on kimchi.  That was all I envisioned for the site! The site was a mere four pages long and now hosts several hundred with a wider range of topics.  Three and half years later, it houses recipes, cookbook reviews, endorsed food products and cookware, and recently the Asian arts sections.”

If  you can sum up Hansik cuisine into one or two sentences, how would you describe it?

“Hansik, with recipes dating over three thousand years, springs with life.”

Trendy foods will come and go. Chefs worldwide will eventually modernize the traditional kimchi recipes. It has been around for three thousand years and will most likely continue to stick around for a few more. In the meantime, I really dig the fried version. I’m in the process of organizing a FCI Supper Club outing in K-town on December 15th. If anyone is interested in attending, please contact Rhonda Lynn, at FCI. You can also RSVP via the FCI Community page.


“Culture 20 (C20) Meeting”:

“Hansik”, Wikipedia:

“Kimchi”, Korean Tourism Organization

Chang Tae-pyong Korean Times Interview:

Articles highlighting Dorothy Hamilton’s recent visit to Korea:

One Response to “Kimchi is the New Ketchup?”

  1. Andres Figueroa January 6, 2011 at 3:46 am #

    Great post, Interesting stuff.

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