My Citizens, a month-long lacuna between the last post and this one is sadly indicative of the difficult period My life entered in the last 30 days – never fear, I am now feeling FAR better and FINALLY once more am worthy to don the Ermine and velvet mantle of the Suzerain of Spice again!
Along those lines, allow me the pleasure of catching you all up on a truly unique and surprising recipe I had for the first time in Reykjavik, Iceland a month ago – a taste so profound, I had to order it 4 more times before I left the country! Who would have suspected to find a killer fusion recipe between Korean cuisine and southeast Asian cooking in ICELAND of all places?! Prepare your tastebuds for DEFCON 1 as I share the story and recipe of this fabled dish with you – it is one of my new favorite dishes of ALL TIME!
After several days of eating only Icelandic-native foods such as langoustine, cod, lamb and their acclaimed hot dogs, I was desperately seeking something spicy and Asian when LO AND BEHOLD – I came across this brilliantly-colored restaurant rising like an oasis in front of a parched desert wanderer!
EXACTLY WHAT I WAS CRAVING!
So, without further ado and with the greatest hope burning bright in my eyes, I entered and discovered…pineapple kimchi! Sweet, spicy with thinly-sliced pickled peppers plus Korean gochugaru, minty and with a solid hit of garlic and ginger in addition to the slight funk of fish sauce, this was an appetizer of the Crystalline Sphere of Heaven itself! I approached the owner behind the counter and BEGGED him to share the recipe – not only did he do so, but we had a great conversation around our shared love of foods from afar!
For the record, the food at Chikin is absolutely authentic, inexpensive and totally delicious – it is one of my favorite restaurants in Iceland now and the owner has won both my respect and admiration for proving that the Icelandic Sagas tell true tales of the honesty and strength of character exhibited by all native Icelanders! He did NOT have to share the recipe at all, but was happy to do so and I remain indebted so that others may know of this mighty side dish!
For the record, pineapple kimchi isn’t as off-base as it sounds – kimchi is NOT just made from pickled cabbage, but can also include other vegetables and fruits as well! This particular recipe is actually much closer to a kkakdugi than a kimchi, though both share similar characteristics.
Kimchi, a staple food in Korean cuisine, is a traditional side dish of salted and fermented vegetables, such as napa cabbage and Korean radish, made with a widely varying selection of seasonings, including gochugaru (Korean chili powder), spring onions, garlic, ginger, and jeotgal (salted seafood), etc. It is also used in a variety of soups and stews. It is eaten as a side dish with almost every Korean meal.
There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi made with different vegetables as the main ingredients. Traditionally, winter kimchi, called kimjang, was stored in large earthenware fermentation vessels, called onggi, in the ground to prevent freezing during the winter months and to keep it cool enough to slow down the fermentation process during summer months. The vessels are also kept outdoors in special terraces called jangdokdae. In contemporary times, household kimchi refrigerators are more commonly used.
Kkakdugi, on the other hand, is far less well-known in the West. Kkakdugi (깍두기) or diced radish kimchi is a variety of kimchi in Korean cuisine. Usually, Korean radish (called mu, 무 in Korean) is used, but other vegetables or fruits can also be used. Kkakduk-kkakduk is an ideophone related to dicing/cubing. Kimchi made with radish that aren’t diced into cubes are not called kkakdugi. Kkakdugi is a popular banchan (side dish) enjoyed by Koreans and others.
The origin of kkakdugi is mentioned in a cookbook named Joseon yorihak (조선요리학 朝鮮料理學, literally “Korean Gastronomy”) written by Hong Seon-pyo (홍선표) in 1940. According to the book, kkakdugi was created by Princess Sukseon (숙선옹주 淑善翁主), a daughter of King Jeongjo (r. 1776-1800) and the wife of Hong Hyeon-ju (홍현주 洪 顯周), a high-ranking government officer titled as Yeongmyeongwi (영명위 永明慰).
When a matter for congratulation happened to the royal court, members of the royal family gathered to have a feast, and the princess presented a new dish made with diced radish to the king. He highly praised it and asked her about the dish’s name. She replied that the dish did not have a name because she had accidentally made it, but found that it tasted good, so she brought in the new dish to the court.
The king replied that the dish would be named kkakdugi because cutting food into cubes is called ggakduk sseolgi (깍둑썰기) in Korean. At that time, kkakdugi was called gakdokgi (각독기 刻毒氣) and then became spread over commoners.
So, pineapple kkakdugi is probably a more accurate phrase for this dish, but for a Western audience we will stick to ‘pineapple kimchi’ for simplicity. This dish is actually quite easy-to-make, and only requires an overnight marinade instead of weeks of fermentation! You’ll need a few slightly unusual ingredients, including top-quality 100% Korean gochugaru powder, top-quality fish sauce, and sliced red pickled peppers, but that’s about it. Trust Me when I say this dish will blow you away, just be certain not to eat too much – pineapple and spice are an addictive combo!
I shall always miss you, Iceland – I cannot wait to return to your distant shores as soon as possible! Should you ever find yourself in Iceland, be sure and visit Chikin at your earliest opportunity, you’ll thank me and I again emphasize how much I loved the food here! In the meantime, I promise to do my absolute best to never again let 30 days pass before I post a new recipe – my Citizens deserve better and I shall NOT disappoint you!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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