Should I eat this really old Kimchi?
January 2, 2019 2:54 PM   Subscribe

Went to the Korean market to buy more kimchi, they were all out of the brand I usually get (that wasn't the HUGE jar size), so I grabbed another one that looked good. Got up to the checkout, and as I'm paying, the clerk remarks "3 year old kimchi, huh? Good luck!"

Well, for some reason (pure shock I think) I didn't just return it right then. Now I've got a decent amount of really, really old kimchi just sitting in the fridge at home.

Should I eat it? If I do, what do I do with it? Is this kimchi that you should eat as a side, or should it be used in something like fried rice?

Some background: I've only recently really come to enjoy eating kimchi. Somewhat spicy is ok, but I'm by far the wimpiest person in my household when it comes to spicy foods. Like, when my mom gifts me some of her homemade salsa, everyone BUT me eats it. So while I'm sure the safety standards on this kimchi are fine, it's more of a question of... should I eat it, or am I not leveled up enough for the boss-level kimchi?
posted by sharp pointy objects to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Make a kimchi chigae, it will mellow out the flavors and put them into the broth where it will be more spread out.
posted by corb at 2:56 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]

Somewhat spicy is ok, but I'm by far the wimpiest person in my household when it comes to spicy foods.

It doesn't get spicier as it ages. Old kimchi is sour and has a stronger funky taste and smell, but it's no hotter than it was when it was made.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:00 PM on January 2 [9 favorites]

Think of aged kimchi the same way you think of aged cheese. It'll be extra-funky, yes, but it's not going to be any more spicy than the stuff you usually buy.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 3:03 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]

This is kimchi you cook with, preferably with a lot of other stuff to help smooth things out. corb's suggestion of kimchi jigae is great, because you're not only going to have the broth mellowing out the sour funk, but also pork, tofu, and rice.

If anything, this'll probably taste less spicy than you may be used to, because it's going to be really sour and funky and it'll drown out the spice.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:06 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]

Most Soondubu Jjigae, including kimchi jjigae, contains a hot powder called 'Gochugaru'.

If you are sensitive to spice, that can be lessened considerably, or even omitted entirely (which would make it a 'white soondubu jjigae'). So, if you are going to make Kimchi Jjigae and are sensitive to spice, watch out for the gochugaru. Considering that the kimchi was also made with this same hot pepper powder when it was made, just adding the kimchi alone might give enough kick to this dish without it being overwhelming.

But yes - nthing making some kimchi jjigae!
posted by spinifex23 at 3:23 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]

Kimchi has already gone bad, that's the whole idea, it's only going to get better with age. Lactic acid fermentation is a self-limiting process. It will develop more mature and interesting flavours but it won't be dangerous and it won't be spicer, or much more sour, because there's a maximum amount of acidity (sourness) that will support further bacterial growth.

I wish I had your problem! Most kimchi we buy is pretty new and we have to age it ourselves.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:35 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]

I have a jar about that old from Costco. I don't love the fizz it has when it's that old, but it's great in kimchi pancakes.
posted by Frenchy67 at 5:14 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]

Korean person here. No wayyyy I’d eat that.

I mean, it probably won’t kill you, but the older it gets the more super-fermented it will be. To each their own though. I like my kimchi fresh and crunchy (like American half-sour pickles) and personally hate it when it gets super fermented. Others will disagree with me.

Fun fact: most kimchi you buy in a supermarket (outside of Korea) has been sitting around for weeks, so most non-Korean people who buy kimchi in supermarkets are only used to it tasting fermented. If you go to a Korean restaurant, you’ll be able to taste it a bit fresh. Even amazing is kimchi that was made 24 hours ago. Perfect balance of marination and crunchiness. Mmm.

Kimchi has already gone bad, that's the whole idea, it's only going to get better with age.
This is decidedly not true, sorry. Kimchi isn’t whisky - it doesn’t necessarily get better the more it sits / ferments, just different. Also there’s a lot of different kinds of kimchi, technically, each with different ingredients, some kimchi isn’t spicy, etc etc.

But I do second everyone to cook with it — kimchi jigae, or pancakes, fried rice, are all good ways to eat over-fermented kimchi.
posted by suedehead at 9:36 PM on January 2 [6 favorites]

Alternate opinion from another Korean. I'd eat it! One of my fave restaurants in Seoul was known for only serving 5-year old kimchi.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:46 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]

My family is Korean. I personally love old kimchi, my brother hates it. As other posters have noted, the old kimchi is fine to eat; whether or not you will enjoy it depends on your personal tastes. Older kimchi is more sour and less crunchy, not more spicy.

Soondubu jjigae (stew with kimchi and tofu) and kimchi pancakes are both delicious and super easy to make. Another poster has suggested a recipe for the pancake, so I'll just provide a a recipe for the stew. Skip or minimize the hot pepper flakes to prevent the stew from being too spicy.
posted by tickingclock at 10:16 AM on January 3 [6 favorites]

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