When I first came to South Korea, I had to attend a mandatory 10 day orientation for EPIK (English Program In Korea). During that orientation we were served three meals a day and for every single meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner, there was kimchi.
Kimchi is fermented/pickled cabbage with more than 100 varieties. It is a traditional Korean food that is eaten with almost every meal as a side dish and is known to be one of the healthiest foods in the world. It is high in fiber, low in fat, full of vitamins A, B, and C, and loaded with probiotics. It’s great if you’re like me and eat minimal dairy products but still need lots of lactobacill, which is also found in yogurt!
So, being the cultural immersionist (yes, I think I just made up that word. If Shakespeare can do it …) that I am, I want to try everything that is traditionally Korean. During the first meal of orientation I saw the kimchi in the breakfast line and took a piece of both kinds, white and red. I was not prepared for what followed….
I found a seat and scanned my tray. I got excited as my eyes took in all of the foods in front of me. The seaweed soup, rice, and sauteed veggies looked delicious, and then I saw the kimchi. I grabbed my chopsticks and struggled to pick up the floppy cabbage. Finally, after much examination, I determined it was edible. I slowly slid the kimchi off my chopsticks into my mouth. If I had to pick one word to describe my first impression of this miracle food I would have to say, disgusting. It was cold and limp but still crunchy. It was sour and salty but bland at the same time. Kimchi was like a cruel joke and my mouth was the punchline, or maybe my mouth was the joke and kimchi was the punch.
Needless to say my first experience with this traditional food was less than stellar, yet I continued to put kimchi on my plate for every meal during and after orientation. The result? Finally, after several long weeks of forcing myself to eat this inescapable side dish, I now enjoy kimchi!! I wanted to like it not only because of the role it plays in Korean meals but also because of its health benefits and I have reached my goal! I recommend everyone go out and shock your tastebuds. Try some kimchi!