The Kimchi Fridge
Today various members of my family are enjoying their Saturday out shopping and wandering the bustling (and sunny, it just figures) streets of Seoul. I, however, am not, due to a mystery injury, which I am referring to by the clinical term, 'sore foot.' I have no idea what's really wrong, but am guessing that I strained or sprained something yesterday when Son #2 and I hiked 3 or 4 miles (4.6-6.4 km) around Seoul, doing errands. This may or may not have been my own fault for wearing my favorite Keen thongs, which, apparently do not provide quite as much support as I'd thought they did, even though I have successfully worn them before on long-ish treks without a problem. So, the right foot is sore and achy and not lending itself to much more than being put up and iced or hobbling around the apartment today, which leaves me ample time for
self-pity discussion of one of my new household appliances that a few readers have asked about: the kimchi fridge.
To start with, it's helpful for everyone to know what kimchi is: according to Wikipedia, it " is a traditional fermented Korean dish, made of vegetables with varied seasonings. Kimchi may also refer to unfermented vegetable dishes. There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi, made with a main vegetable ingredient such as napa cabbage, radish, green onions or cucumber. Kimchi is the most common banchan, or side dish, in Korean cuisine
Until I moved to Korea,( despite six years of my childhood spent in Asia and a father who enjoyed eating it,) my sole experience with kimchi was buying jars of it when Mr. Logical got a hankering for a taste of his childhood (also spent in Asia.) The kind I bought was always the same, and was pretty much the only type readily available in the U.S.: pickled cabbage in a jar, usually of a vivid orange hue.
Even when we ate in Korean restaurants, it wasn't clear to me that most of those little dishes they were bringing out fell under the umbrella term of 'kimchi.' So I was a bit surprised to discover that there were literally hundreds of types of kimchi, (which I translate in my own mind as 'pickled stuff,' even though it's fermented, not pickled.) As far as I can tell, if you can ferment it, it can be kimchi. At traditional Korean restaurants, the first thing the waitress does is bring anywhere between four and ten small bowls and plates of various kimchi, which everyone nibbles at both as an appetizer before the meal as well as a complement to the meal itself. We're not always clear on what it is we're eating, but most of the time we just go ahead and eat it, although occasionally we'll indulge in a little game of 'whaddaya think this is?'
Anyway, the point is, there are numerous types of kimchi to be found in the typical Korean household, and now that I understand just how many types of kimchi there are, the fact that my apartment came furnished with a 'kimchi fridge' makes lots more sense. Of course, when we first moved in and I saw the thing, all I could think was, 'Just how much pickled cabbage do you need?'
|View of the kimchi fridge as seen when standing on top of the washing machine, just in case you're wondering how small that room is..|
And I was even more puzzled when I opened it up and discovered that, instead of just being a big empty chest (which is sort of what it looks like), it is actually subdivided into several compartments, including a pull-out drawer that even comes with its own thoughtfully provided scoop.
Furthermore, two of these compartments were full of big Tupperware containers that had clearly been made specifically to fit precisely within the alloted space and to store a whole lot of different kinds of something. When I opened up my kimchi fridge for the first time, I found no fewer than 5 large Tupperware containers, all of them (presumably) waiting to be filled with MsCaroline's homemade kimchi.
Now, some of you may be asking, 'But why a fridge devoted solely to the storage of kimchi? Why not just put it in the refrigerator in its Tupperware, along with the leftovers and the grape jelly?'
I will tell you why.
First of all, it is clear from the size of these containers that the amount of kimchi used by a typical family is far more than can be stored in your average fridge if you're still planning to have room for milk and butter and that grape jelly. Secondly,(and this is just my opinion, but it is based on personal experience) if you have ever smelled kimchi, you will understand why- delicious as most of it is - segregating it from the other food is a practical move. You will also understand why the fridge itself lives out in the utility cubicle (although I don't really get why it's so close to the washing machine, which seems like a self-defeating action) and also why it has a built in deodorizer.
Needless to say, it was understood from the get-go that I wouldn't be using the appliance to store large amounts of kimchi, no matter how enthusiastically I eat it at the restaurants. So, what do you do with a kimchi fridge? At the moment, the blender lives on top of it (of course we packed our blender in our air freight. How else do you make margaritas?) as does any other random thing I can't find space for in the kitchen. Since I have two other refrigerators (don't ask), I don't need it to keep anything cold, so it's purely a storage spot. I'm sure that, once our household goods get here, I'll have all kinds of desperate uses for it, but for the moment, it's doing a nice job of holding my reusable shopping bags and Mr. Logical's insulated water bottles for cycling.
And of course, the big bottom drawer has really been put to the best use of all: