I invited Jacob over for a cooking party and so at the beginning of the week he sent me a grocery list. Never being in the Korean market before, shopping for the items on this list was a little more challenging then I had anticipated. I managed to get a container of kimchi, or spicy pickled cabbage, an onion, and a can of spam; everything else I was way off base. There was a small miscommunication between Jacob and I; he asked me to purchase some kind of pepper (of which I still do not know the name...) but instead I bought some paprika. I also overlooked the rice component of the dish, which was called "kimchi fried rice". What the dish actually called for was kimchi, rice, soy sauce, onions, green onions, peppers, and spam (or chicken or pork depending on your preference). But I took this as a learning opportunity and a chance to practice flexibility (luckily Jacob was also accommodating). In light of being short on some main ingredients, Jacob and I took a trip to the Asian Market, which was interesting all on it's own. Did you know that you can buy a whole chicken at the Asian Market? And when I say whole chicken I mean head, feet, feathers, and everything in between.
Finally we had all of the necessary ingredients and were able to start cooking our kimchi fried rice. As we were cooking and talking, I learned that this dish is something Jacob and his roommates prepare and eat often, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They also always have a container of kimchi on hand.
When we dicing the kimchi to throw in the frying pan, Jacob asked me how long ago I bought it. My response was "I got it yesterday so it would be good and fresh!" to which Jacob responded, "You should have bought that last week!" Naturally, I though it would be best to purchase the kimchi just a day in advance and keep it refrigerated until we were ready to cook, but I got a lesson in kimchi-storage. Kimchi should be bought about a week in advance and spend three to four days at room temperature rather than refrigerated. This allows more time for the kimchi to ferment and increases the spiciness of the cabbage. Though it was a fun fact and good to know for the future, I'm glad I didn't let it sit for those extra few days; the dish was spicy enough for me!
In addition to preparing the kimchi fried rice, I made some traditional, Pennsylvania Dutch pork and sauerkraut, another cabbage side-dish, with mashed potatoes. It was fun for me to see some experience this dish for the first time, as I grew up eating this for many, many Sunday dinners. Being that anything Pennsylvania Dutch is the furthest thing from spicy, I wasn't expecting Jacob to care too much for the dish. However, he ate the whole plate (and took some leftovers too!).
The whole night was definitely an experience! From the Asian Market, to sauerkraut & kimchi, with some great dinner conversation in between, the dinner was definitely a success connecting over cabbage.