Annyong ha shimnikka
February 26, 2007 7:37 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know how to make the smell of kimchi (a Korean dish: fermented, spicy cabbage) less offending for those who are not eating it?

My sweetie's roommates might not be too pleased with the smell (I understand: my American father made me keep it out on the porch during the Midwest winter or in an airtight bag in the fridge during the summer). I understand and would like to respect them yet this is a staple of Korean food. I plan to "surprise" him with the traditional Korean meal of white rice, bulgogi, kimchi, chop chae, and melon popsicles. Should I forgo the kimchi? What would you suggest?
posted by somersault to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oops, as an after thought, I do not want to wave the Febreze around or any other such mood killers.. something less theatrical would be nice.
posted by somersault at 8:02 PM on February 26, 2007

I can't remember ever seeing/smelling a good way to lessen the Kimchi smell. Even wifeHawk, who is very blonde and very white and mostly forgiving of these types of things doesn't really like it in the house either.

How about making some mandoo instead? While you would be missing that undeniable korean staple of kimchi, home made mandoo is generally easier for non-asian types to eat.

As an aside - do you have a good recipe for Bulgogi? I've been trying to find one for a while, but my mother won't give it up :-)
posted by niteHawk at 8:05 PM on February 26, 2007

you eat your smelly ethnic food and enjoy it. don't let whitey get you down. hapa power!

buy a batch of premixed chocolate chip cookies and pop them in the oven so their baking masks the cabbagey kimchee smell. dessert!
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:17 PM on February 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

they'll survive.
posted by soma lkzx at 9:02 PM on February 26, 2007

do not forgo the kimchee! i grew up eating only american food and i love it, and so do lots of my friends. for me, the various little pickles are one of the most exciting and unique aspects of korean food.
posted by lgyre at 9:54 PM on February 26, 2007

I love kimchi... definitely include it.

And who knows, maybe your sweetie's roommates would like it, too? At least, they should be willing to experiment. At worst the smell would dissipate after a little time.
posted by DrSkrud at 10:28 PM on February 26, 2007

Don't forego the kimchi! It's good, and good for you.

If you can keep the windows open to air out the area, super. If not, the smell does fade after a bit. If you'd rather mask the smell, maybe use scented candles? They can make it all romantic, too.

However, I don't mind the smell of kimchi, and maybe your sweetie's roommates won't either.
posted by bedhead at 10:36 PM on February 26, 2007

Why don't you use some young kimchi or 10-day kimchi? Just make sure it has no nasty brown bits. Then it won't have that explosive quality and odour. Old kimchi is too much for some people to take. It's not appetizing. And I love kimchi before it goes rank. (It's my favourite food.)
posted by Listener at 11:09 PM on February 26, 2007

Try making some different kinds of 'fresh' kimchi at home, rather than the aged stuff in tubs? You could try nabak (watery radish), or baek kimchi (white Chinese cabbage). Or you could skip cabbage completely, and make oi sobaegi (stuffed cucumber) instead.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:50 PM on February 26, 2007

When I was younger, my mom used to "rinse" Kimchi in water, then re-apply some red pepper. This would make it less sour and stinky for my undeveloped, ungrateful palate, yet still spicy. This might work for you?
posted by wuzandfuzz at 12:45 AM on February 27, 2007

Even if you switch to mandoo like niteHawk suggested, it's nothing if there isn't any kimchee to eat it with. I agree with most of the list, korean food isn't korean food unless you have kimchee on the table. You don't need an entire tub, put a small amount on a plate and refill as necessary.

Oh and when I used to live with those a little more objected to the smell I used to store kimchee in glass jars, covered with saran wrap and then the lid screwed on. I think this helps a bit for the odor, but you should just bring any leftovers back home with you at the end of the night.

It's one night, it's part of your heritage, they'll get over it. Newer kimchee will smell less, but I personally love the fermented stuff.

If you can, try and get your hands on some kim/gim, you know, the dried and salted seaweed sheets. All my non-korean friends really love to roll up rice and kimchee with it.
posted by like_neon at 1:29 AM on February 27, 2007

Yikes. I'm Korean, and even I find that I find the smell of kimchi too strong at times. I'm afraid that I don't have a sure-fire method for helping dissipate the smell quickly, but I agree with the other people that you should definitely let your boyfriend try kimchi!

I guess the best bet you might have, aside from a room with open windows, is to avoid letting the kimchi ferment for too long. You could definitely use young kimchi; also, you could try is pack some kimchi in a container and letting it sit in a container without a lid, 'airing it out' a little in your home before you bring it over to your boyfriend's.

Melon popsicles! They're the best. I haven't had those in years...
posted by tickingclock at 3:17 AM on February 27, 2007

I think the roommates can put up with it for one evening. Also, what does Annyong ha shimnikka mean?
posted by bluefly at 5:20 AM on February 27, 2007

Korean food without the pickles is not the same experience. I eat a lot of smelly foods so here is a series of suggestions to cut the smell. The boiling a small amount of vinegar in water worked for me especially when I followed it with boiling cinnamon sticks and cloves afterwards.

Also, when storing smelly things in the refrig do the following:

1) see if you can transfer to a glass container with a tight lid and be sure to use layers of cling film over the opening before using the lid;

2) baking soda nearby said radioactive product;

3) I store smelly ingredients in one of the vegetable bins because it has containment and if there is an accident easier to clean than a whole refrig shelf

Eat and enjoy.
posted by jadepearl at 6:14 AM on February 27, 2007

Target and Home Depot carry inexpensive plug-in air filters that are surprisingly effective. Between that and a few squirts of air freshener, you should be fine, provided you don't leave an open kimchi jar sitting out for hours or something.

I applaud you for being so considerate of your housemates! My mother always made my (Korean) father keep his kimchi on the back porch. On one trip to his mother's, she gave him three huge gallon jars of the stuff. My mom made him strap them to the back of the car for the 1,000+ mile drive home!
posted by chickletworks at 8:07 AM on February 27, 2007

bluefly, are you looking for a literal, morpheme-by-morpheme translation, or a broad one?

A quick googling suggests it means "hello", but I suspect it's underlyingly a little more complicated than that.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 9:46 AM on February 27, 2007

I had a traditional Korean meal with some friends over the weekend. The chef said that kimchi "is all about containment." And then he laughed and said that Americans just wrap it in plastic and put it in glass jars and put it in the garage or on the porch, while Koreans typically have a special fridge just for the kimchi.
posted by sulaine at 11:45 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

niteHawk: The recipe that I use to make Bulgogi is a tweaked version of my mother's original one. If you'd like to know the different measurements, feel free to email me at the address listed in my profile.

I think the quality of ingredients that one uses plays a very important role. For instance, any cut of beef will do, but I prefer either the top loin or the sirloin steak. I only use Korean-style soy sauce, Korean pear, Rice vinegar, Korean or Japanese-style cooking wine, fresh garlic, and freshly ground black pepper. I assume you are familiar with the process of making Bulgogi so for the sake of brevity, I'm just going to list the ingredients I use and several tips that have either been passed down to me or that I've personally discovered.

Beef top loin or sirloin steak
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Korean pear
Fuji apple
Black pepper
Korean or Japanese cooking wine
Rice vinegar
Sesame salt

When thinly slicing the meat, cut across the grain. I've found that for precision and ease, I partially freeze the beef before slicing it up.

Although a lot of Bulgogi recipes insist upon only using one fruit (to tenderize the meat), I really enjoy the combination of pureed Korean pear and Fuji apple. Also, kiwi seems to be the most common fruit suggested, but it isn't to my liking.

I make my own sesame salt. I think it noticeably increases the quality of the Bulgogi!

I puree the white onion to make a paste. Also, I only use the green part of the scallions.

I marinate my beef either for 2 days or overnight (depending on time constraints).

I cook mine in a frying pan with sesame oil. My mother cooks her Bulgogi on a grill. We have debated our methods and I still prefer mine. If you cook it in a pan, there will also be a soup that comes from the beef. After doctoring it up with tofu, et cetera, it is delicious!

bluefly: "Annyong ha shimnikka" is the formal way to say hello in Korean to elders or persons deserving respect. "Annyong haseo" is a more common way to greet someone and "Annyong" is the English equivalency of "hey" or "hi" in English.

Kamsahamnida! Or just plain thank you to everyone who responded with advice!
posted by somersault at 1:49 PM on February 27, 2007 [5 favorites]

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