50 Cabbage "kimchi crisis" Warning
October 15, 2010 7:04 AM   Subscribe

The latest crisis in South Korea is not coming from its northern neighbor. The country is reeling from the soaring price of kimchi. China responds with concern. "The politics editor of a major South Korean newspaper called the kimchi situation "a national tragedy,” and an editorial in Dong-a Ilbo termed it “a once in a century crisis.” previously
posted by Xurando (25 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Meanwhile there have been reports of cabbage rustling..
posted by Ahab at 7:08 AM on October 15, 2010

posted by The Devil Tesla at 7:09 AM on October 15, 2010 [7 favorites]

Soon: ersatz kimchi made from broccoli leaves and ground Brussels sprouts. Real kimchi will be rationed. You'll be able to buy more on the black market, but unsavory dealers will often cut it with sauerkraut or even cole slaw.
posted by jedicus at 7:15 AM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I had my best year for cabbage ever. Most of them were harvested in late august, and there was enough time for all the cabbage plants to grow little side cabbages. There's no way I'll ever eat all this cabbage. I wish I could sell it to some Koreans.
posted by rusty at 7:17 AM on October 15, 2010

As my father would say, "Well they are in deep kimchi now..."
posted by Old'n'Busted at 7:19 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Kimchi is delicious, I weep for South Korea.
posted by ghharr at 7:37 AM on October 15, 2010

garlic you relentless

Best crisis ever!
posted by bonehead at 7:55 AM on October 15, 2010

I just spent about two weeks in Korea. The crisis was in full effect: a lot of the restaurants we went to didn't have cabbage kimchi. But most of them had 3 or 4 other kinds of kimchi anyway, so it wasn't a big deal.
posted by bugmuncher at 7:55 AM on October 15, 2010

Well, maybe Germany could spice up some Sauerkraut and send it there...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 7:59 AM on October 15, 2010

It really is a bummer, and it's not limited to kimchi.

Many barbecue places are now charging for greens with which to wrap your tasty meat morsels.

Dark days indeed.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:07 AM on October 15, 2010

From my brief time in Korea a couple of years ago, what was striking was the number of small dishes---banchan---put out with each and every meal, even in the most humble of restaurants. Kimchee was invariably one of them. And, invariably, these were discarded, partially eaten after each table left. Even our Korean hosts remarked (frequently) on how wastefull this was, but it's so part of the culture that nobody had a good solution for it.

According to our hosts, steel cutlery and tableware was widely adopted because of many public food poisonings at restaurants in the mid-20th century. Steel tableware at restaurants was a source of national pride for them---steel chopsticks and bowls were clean, safe and modern. Perhaps this crisis will inspire will similar innovations in their side dish culture.
posted by bonehead at 8:11 AM on October 15, 2010

Yes, yes, HURF DURF KIMCHI EATERS but it's kind of hard to explain how deep of an impact this has on the national psyche. Kimchi is kind of an enormous part of food culture and, by extension, life overall and national identity. It's not just a condiment or a side - innumerable main dishes exist based on it (soups, stews, dumplings, you name it). There is a museum devoted to it. We're proud of that shit.

There are about a million varieties of kimchi that don't use napa cabbage, but the cabbage type (baechu kimchi) is certainly the most ubiquitous. I seriously understand how and why people are panicking over this. Not only do people eat kimchi, but many people outside the city still make their own. Imagine if everybody you knew was a passionate vinter, proud of his family's product from year to year, and everyone's crop failed. Even for those who don't make their own, kimchi's as elemental to that food culture as, say, milk is to Western ones. Imagine if milk was going for $20 a gallon.

My mom is thinking about airmailing sacks of kimchi to her sister in Korea. I have no idea how she plans to wrap it...it's powerful stuff.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:11 AM on October 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

They should just import it.

Everyone knows that the best kimchi comes from cabbages grown in California anyways... ;-)
posted by markkraft at 8:19 AM on October 15, 2010

Kimchi is like, 1000 years old.
posted by fusinski at 8:25 AM on October 15, 2010

Kimchi is like, 1000 years old.

...but is it still safe to eat?
posted by The Whelk at 8:34 AM on October 15, 2010

Well, century eggs are, so why not? Mmm century eggs. And yes, I know they're not actually aged for a hundred years.

Want a really easy, awesome appetizer? Mix together some coarsely diced tofu (preferably chilled) and sliced century eggs, add a little bit of soy sauce and sesame oil, done. You can add more garnishes like green onions or dried shrimp, but they're not necessary.

Of course, it does help to actually like century eggs, which are very much an acquired taste.
posted by kmz at 8:46 AM on October 15, 2010

"Meanwhile, there have been reports of cabbage rustling in rural areas."
posted by redspraypaint at 9:45 AM on October 15, 2010

Oddly, my cabbage this year all grew into one big, tumescent bulb. Some kind of disease or nutrient problem or something.
posted by 1000monkeys at 9:57 AM on October 15, 2010

I loves me some kimchi, so I'm sympathetic. I would imagine this is like Northern Europe or North American having a failed potato crop. Imagine the panic.
posted by ob at 10:04 AM on October 15, 2010

Reminds me of the tortilla shortage a coupe of years ago in Mexico. I understand that was aggravated, if not caused by, diversion of corn to the energy sector.

Cabbage is an excellent source of methane gas. Hmmmm...
posted by Xoebe at 10:22 AM on October 15, 2010

Koreans prize their kimchi. One sign of "having arrived" is if you can afford to have a separate fridge for your kimchi. This isn't just ego - as you can imagine, if you have kimchi and other things in the same fridge, everything else ends up tasting like kimchi.

I had kimchi chocolate in SK and yes, it was as vile as you would imagine. It was however only sold in tourist stores.

It turns out that Korean food culture is very focused on fermentation and kimchi is just the most prominent manifestation of this.

Kimchi is in the category of "things I eat and enjoy as an adult but at which my inner child cries out in shock and horror" - so I could never eat as much of it as, say, ice cream...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:23 AM on October 15, 2010

One warm summer day a few years ago I had a container of kimchi explode in the trunk of my car. So yes, your mom should most definitely mail your sister some kimchi, if only for the lulz.
posted by Tacodog at 11:42 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I teach college kids, but also an adult conversation course. We had a dramatic hour-long discussion of the kimchi crisis here in the ROK.

For me, the most interesting aspect was how many of my students really, really don't trust Chinese produce given the milk poisoning and other events of the past few years. But dammit, the kimchi must flow!

That, and in late October there's another cabbage harvest so things will go back to normal soon. The summer here was weird -- lots of blazing hot days mixed with torentially rainy ones. This is a worst case scenario for napa cabbage.

I definitely noticed the lack of kimchi as a side-dish at my favorite lunch place.
posted by bardic at 9:11 PM on October 15, 2010

A possible bright side?
posted by jtron at 8:44 AM on October 16, 2010

When I was living thin in LA, kimchi was one of the things that got me through. A quart jar was insanely cheap, and it made ramen from food into a meal.

I was in Seoul back in Dec '89, everywhere I went there were cargo bicycles and big flatbed wheelbarrows stacked high with cabbage. I went up to a little hotel on the fourth floor of an office building, and every step, all the way up, had a kimchi crock on it. I suspect they wouldn't be leaving them outside like that now.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:42 AM on October 17, 2010

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