I had my hat handed to me this morning by reader Crystal Choi who took umbrage at my statement in my Urban Belly review that kimchi is “inexpensive and easy to make.”
Have you ever tried to make kimchi? It’s a laborious process. You never just make one jar of it. You buy a whole box of cabbage, you need to shred a root vegetable – ( I forget the English equivalent for it), and prepare the red pepper paste, among other steps. My mother has made kimchi many times this past year – she was on a kimchi-making kick, and boy, was she exhausted afterwards. This is not a task for the fainthearted. I suppose if you buy a box of napa cabbage at Super H-Mart on sale, and buy the red chili pepper flakes in bulk…etc., then yes, it is relatively inexpensive because the supplies produce at least 2-5 jars of kimchi that would last a while. However, the labor cost is hard to measure, especially for kick-ass kimchi.
Of course, she’s absolutely right. I’ve visited kimchi factories–mom and pops and corporate owned–both here and in Korea, and I’ve been the recipient of many batches of lovingly tended homemade varieties. There’s no excuse for me ignoring the legendary intensity of the labor involved in making it.
This a case of my emotions getting in the way of a reasonable argument. I still maintain that Bill Kim’s $4 kimchi is not a good value. Look at New Chicago Kimchee, a small, family-owned, retail operation that also supplies a number of Korean restaurants. You can get a half gallon of their pungent kimchi for a mere $5. It’s every bit as good, if not better, than Urban Belly’s tiny saucerful. Ten bucks for a gallon.
New Chicago Kimchee, 3648 W. Lawrence, 773-583-4442