With the 2018 Winter Olympics opening in Pyeongchang, it’s only fitting to expand our local food horizons to include Korean flavors. Edina has no restaurant solely dedicated to Korean cuisine but fusions abound. Take kimchi, a fermented cabbage powerhouse enlivening everything from tacos to squid to pizza and more.
Korean-inspired foods have garnered national recognition for local restaurateur Ann Kim. This award-winning chef and owner of Hello Pizza and Pizzeria Lola was also once an Edina resident.“Really, the fondest memories I have are of food and eating,” Kim says. “Growing up, it kind of defined us.” Culinary skills were passed from mother to daughter. Originally from what is now known as North Korea, Kim’s mother shared her flair for cooking. Delicious foods prepared from ingredients other cooks might overlook were her specialty. Consider wild greens, ham hocks and beef tongue or intestines. The magic came when Kim’s mother transformed modest items into something more.
“I think she was at her happiest cooking food and making food for other people,” Kim says. “She really missed her calling. She would have been a great chef.”
Along with her mother and grandmother, Kim would make “gallons and gallons of kimchi having it last from November through the spring.” Fermentation is a big part of Korean cooking with kimchi as a key player.
Korean food offers much more than the meat barbecue Americans most often see. Rice typically accompanies Korean meals along with an abundance of sides called banchan. Condiments provide a balance of flavors from sweet to sour to salty to bitter with the ubiquitously savory umami that makes the meal whole. A basic pantry of a Korean cook includes chili flakes, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, red chili powder, red chili paste (gochujang), soybean paste (deonjang), scallions, ginger, fish sauce and brine shrimp—for starters. Even in this short list, the variety can be almost overwhelming.
Planning to sample the local flavors while on a visit to the Olympic games? Any Korean soup or stew would be good on a wintery day, according to Kim who leans towards healthier more rustic dishes. Kimchi-jjigae is a favorite. As the name implies, kimchi goes in the pot.
This humble cabbage has a lot to offer. When naturally fermented, it’s loaded with lactobacilli, a bacteria linked to intestinal health. While taking tablets for probiotics like lactobacilli is popular, actually eating the food containing it can be even better, according to Kyle Warren, DC, CFMP at Edina-based Restorative Health Solutions. “Only around nine percent of people get three servings of vegetables daily,” Warren says. Yet vegetables are associated with heart disease prevention and cancer prevention.
Eat more veggies and put some kimchi into the mix. Vegetables are filled with vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients promoting overall health. While kimchi, or any other one food, is no magic bullet, adding more vegetables to the diet in any form increases fiber intake and satiety. A full feeling can help curb hunger pains. “Eat some of these naturally fermented foods as a source of probiotics.” Warren says. “It’s more fun to add things than take them away.”