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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

House-Made Kimchi from Rhea's Deli Perfect for DIY Korean

Posted By on Wed, Mar 10, 2010 at 1:09 PM

click to enlarge Made by the Korean grandmother you wish you had. - J. KAUFFMAN
  • J. Kauffman
  • Made by the Korean grandmother you wish you had.
Kimchi burgers, kimchi quesadillas, and kimchi fried rice only sound surreal to people who haven't tried them. Speaking as a man with three different types of kimchi in his refrigerator, kimchi works better as a universal condiment than ketchup or salsa. If Frito-Lay actually announced it was releasing Xtreme Kimchi Doritos I would preorder a case.

So the moment I walked into Rhea's Deli (800 Valencia at 19th St.) to pick up a bulgogi sub (research for today's food review), I noticed the pint and quart Bell jars of kimchi lined up in the refrigerated case below the sandwich counter. "Those homemade?" I asked owner James Choi. Yes, he said; his mother makes them.

Pint jars of the red cabbage kimchi cost $6.99 ― a little steep compared to other Korean markets around town, but Choi gives you $2 back if you return the jar. It's a potently garlicky pickle, acutely tart, obviously fresh, perfect for eating on burgers, nachos, brats, potato chips, and possibly ― though this is pure speculation ― corn dogs.

Choi's mother also makes a chile-less white radish kimchi ($11.99/quart),

which I haven't tried. And on my last trip to the market, I noticed a

type of kimchi I hadn't seen outside Korea before: A

sherbet-pink "water kimchi," radish slices floating in a light, delicately tart brine that's often served in bowls with a meal for sipping. A jar of that may soon end up in the refrigerator, too.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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