I love kimchi. Kimchi is one of the staple foods of Korean cuisine, and in its most common form, it's spicy, garlicky pickled cabbage. Yes, not exactly sexy and it takes some getting used to, but once you like it, you're hooked.
Sadly, much of the kimchi that you can buy in Europe has been sitting on the shelves too long and it over-fermented already. You can still eat it, but it is much more pungent than the fresh stuff (which led me to believe that I don't like kimchi! I DO!!!).
The other thing is that virtually all the brands I have found in the UK include shrimp or anchovy. You can always make your own though (no outdoor jar needed, the fridge does the same trick), and I have heard that there are many vegetarian brands available in the US which is blessed with more Korean immigrants.
So, in Japan, kimchi can be found in many varieties in any supermarket or even posh Japanese pickle shops (yes, they have pickle shops here). The best thing is that is very cheap, too, and I have been cooking all kinds of stuff with kimchi the past weeks.
One of my favourites is kimchi udon, which is probably more Japanese than Korean... or is it Japanokorean fusion? Well, it's delicious!
What you need for 2-3 bowls (depending on size) of spicy noodle soup:
- 1 tbs oil
- half a bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 200g fried tofu, bite-size
- 200g shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 100 g kimchi, finely chopped (and with the kimchi 'juice' if you are hardcore)
- 1 tbs Korean chili paste (or Japanese shishimi togarashi, 1 tbs chilli oil - spicy red stuff)
- 500 ml soup stock (I used instant konbu dashi that you can buy in any Japanese shop in the West, too, sssht... but you can get away with regular veg stock)
- 4 tbsp mirin (or sake and a bit of sugar if you want to be sacrilegious)
- 2 servings udon noodles (depends on your idea of a serving)
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- soy sauce if all this is not spicy and salty enough for you!
Cook your udon noodles separately according to packaging directions, drain and place in the serving bowls. Ladle the soup over it just before serving and garnish with lots of spring onions. Guaranteed to kill any cold or other germs hiding inside you!
The other day, we went to Osaka Aquarium. While I was very unhappy about how some of the animals live, others are taken very good care of. It's not like they have a general welfare policy there, or maybe it is lack of funds because they are doing a lot towards the preservation of rare species. They had a special exhibition going on which cute little fish (of course, no Japan without the kawaii), which was my favourite. Look at this funny little guy! He kept hiding in the tiny shell until we got out the camera. Then he turned into a total attention-seeker!
These bouncy dudes were my favourite. They don't really swim, just sit around and roll from one side to the other on the rocks... yes, it's a normal thing for them. They are less than an inch tall. So funny to watch!