I went to school with several Koreans who grew up in Manila in the 1970’s and 1980’s and we have remained friends and occasionally manage to see each other at reunions or when I go on business trips… While an undergraduate in Boston, I also had a Korean/Pinoy roommate, and since we were both on tight budgets, we learned to eat nutritious and tasty food but at minimal expense. I developed a taste for kimchi from all of these friends/experiences and I do look forward to a well-made kimchi every so often. So imagine our delight yesterday when a a good friend arrived from Seoul bearing three types of kimchi she had made herself just days before, and they were absolutely SUPERB. But SUPERB. First, the classic kimchi with napa cabbage, here made with the most humongous whole head of cabbage we have ever seen, then marinated in the mix of chilli and garlic and other spices that results in a slightly fermented, pleasantly spicy, yet utterly delicious side dish. This kimchi was just amazingly good because the cabbage was still very fresh and crisp, even a vibrant green in some parts, yet already redolent with kimchi flavor. I just this evening ate tons of it with paksiw na lechon and it was an inspired match. I would rate this a 10.0/10.0, period.
Our friend also brought a kimchi made with mustard greens (mustasa) that Mrs. MM liked the most of all. The mustasa itself had a distinctive strong flavor in addition to the herbs and spices. Finally, we had radish cubes that are another fiery and classic accompaniment to Korean grilled meats, seafood and other dishes. I don’t get to eat kimchi this good more than say once a year or even less, so we are savoring every morsel and hoping it will keep long enough so that we can finish the generous portions that were sent our way. And when all else fails, and the kimchi is more ripe than you would like, you can boil it up with water and other ingredients to make kimchi chige, a kimchi soup that might frighten many of you but is a delicious way to break into a serious sweat and to infuse your pores with pungent garlic…. yum! Nothing store bought can compare with something skillfully and lovingly made at home. This trio of kimchis were a delight. Thanks, C, for making and bringing this wonderful kimchi to Manila!