Looking for well-made kimchi? Try these places

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Looking for well-made kimchi? Try these places


Kimchi stew at Gwanghwamun Jib and Kimchi carnitas fries at Vatos [JoongAng Ilbo]

Kimchi is served with almost every food from spaghetti to steak to udon in Korea. The fermented and pungent staple is ubiquitous from upscale, five-star hotel restaurants to shoddy greasy spoons.

Kimchi is literally everywhere, but it is hard to find restaurants that serve well-made kimchi. That is because most of the dining places, with few exceptions, use imported kimchi that is often watery and sugary.

“It’s really hard to find a good kimchi restaurant in Seoul,” said Park Chan-il, a chef who runs Italian restaurants in Seoul and Jeju Island. He also writes food columns for local newspapers.

“They don’t want to spend much time and energy on making kimchi because they think of it as one of the fillers for a dining table.”

But there are still good places in and out of Seoul that specialize in making kimchi, which requires a tedious preparation process of salting cabbages and washing, peeling and chopping all sorts of vegetables.

“The taste of kimchi is very subjective. Some like kimchi with heavy marinade mixture,” said Joo Young-ha, a professor of folklore at the Academy of Korean Studies. “But some like freshly made kimchi, while others love ripe and sour kimchi. Every kimchi is different.”

Here is a list of kimchi eateries that you might want to try to discover different flavors of kimchi.

Kimchi carnitas fries at Vatos

You can’t have a bite of kimchi carnitas fries, or simply kimchi fries, at Vatos if you are not patient enough to wait at least 30 minutes.

The waiting time is often longer than an hour on weekends, but the kimchi fries have made this taco place in Itaewon tremendously popular.

On a layer of crispy deep-fried French fries, stir-fried kimchi and pork are placed along with melted cheese, chopped onions, coriander and sour cream. For the final touch, Vatos adds a special sauce.

The combination of pork and kimchi is not something new, but Vatos brings the familiar combination to another level.

The kimchi carnitas fries cost 11,500 won ($10). They go perfectly well with Corona beer.

For more information, call (02) 797-8226.

Kimchi stew at Gwanghwamun Jib

If you are sick and tired of sugary and thick kimchi jjigae or kimchi stew, Gwanghwamun Jib is highly recommended. Gwanghwamun Jib means “a house located in Gwanghwamun.”

Located in the back alley behind the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in central Seoul, the small and shabby restaurant has been there for 40 years. The restaurant first served all sorts of Korean food, but it later started specializing in only kimchi stew.

The deep and clean taste of kimchi jjigae comes from the handmade kimchi of the restaurant owner. She makes kimchi every year with about 2,000 Napa cabbages. Because she was born in Chungcheong Province, she doesn’t use any fermented fish sauce, and it makes her kimchi taste mild and clean.

A generous serving of fresh pork shoulder is another characteristic of the restaurant. A single serving of kimchi jjigae contains about twice the serving of an ordinary kimchi jjigae.

The kimchi stew is 7,000 won. For more information, call (02) 739-7737.

Kimchi buffet at Yongpyeong Hoegwan

Yongpyeong Hoegwan is a grill restaurant, famous for beef sirloin, in Daegwallyeong, Gangwon, but the restaurant is frequented by many regulars because of its kimchi offerings.

The restaurant serves seven or eight types of kimchi as side dishes, including kimchi made with Napa cabbage to white kimchi to chonggak (young radish) kimchi.

Each kimchi is decent enough to make diners want to visit the restaurant again. Reservations are a must when you visit the restaurant on weekends.

One serving of sirloin (150 grams, or 5 ounces) is 39,000 won.

For more information, call (033) 335-5217.

BY SUNG SO-YOUNG [so@joongang.co.kr]

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