Translated by Michael Lesniak
Patricia Yoo’s Chonggak Kimchi is the best of Boston
The Greater Boston Kimchi Festival, hosted by Americans in the Boston area who love kimchi, attracted more interest than expected.
On March 21st, beginning at 3pm at the West Roxbury Theodore Parker Unitarian Universalist Church, 22 contestants submitted over 30 kinds of kimchi to more than 300 hungry kimchi fans.
The event drew so much interest that most of the contestants were running out of their kimchi within an hour after the festival began, and there were some cases where screening wasn’t possible.
Patricia Yoo, one of only four Koreans competing at the festival, won the award for the overall best kimchi at the festival. In addition to winning the award for overall best kimchi, Yoo’s kimchi also won an award for best non-cabbage kimchi.
The winner for best commercial kimchi was an affiliate of Shabuya, a local Korean hot-pot and sushi restaurant, Jum Ja Nam, for his cucumber kimchi (oisobagi). The award of most innovative kimchi went to Jeon Il Seon for his radish-in-water kimchi (nabak kimchi). Non-korean winners were Deedee Evans in the innovation category for making a unique and delicious lemon kimchi, and Tom Novatny who won best traditional kimchi for his cabbage kimchi.
JP Seafood president and kimchi judge at the festival Mr. Sang Pil Paek said, “I was surprised by how many Americans came.” However, he was disappointed that only around 10 Koreans turned out for the event, saying “it was a great opportunity for Korean restaurateurs to learn more about locals’ taste preferences.”
Contestants hailing from a variety of cultures such as China, Vietnam, Latin America, the United States, competed along with Koreans. The ways for making kimchi were as varied as the contestants. In addition to chili powder, contestants added curry powder, cumin, and a host of other spices representative of each culture leaving no lack of truly unique flavors.
Furthermore, rather than the traditional way of marinating large pieces, some contestants making traditional kimchi opted to cutting the kimchi to a bite-size and then marinating. There were also kimchi made from carrots, and even something like pickles.
Americans at the festival devoured kimchi like salad. Though Koreans usually feel kimchi is too salty to eat without rice, these kimchi fans ate as if it were the only food for them.
When Americans were asked “Isn’t it spicy?” they all answered, “Yep, but it’s delicious!” Asked why they like kimchi, Americans said it was “because it is healthy and it tastes great.”
Most attendees said they had read about the event in local newspapers, and everyone looked carefree while enjoying their kimchi and good conversation.
Overseeing the event, Cora Reolof described herself as “someone who loves kimchi, this event was my idea,” while performing as the MC for the event. Taste Judges Alex Lewin and Sang Pil Paek meticulously tasted and asked questions about each kimchi.
Suitably for a festival celebrating kimchi, there was a taekwondo exhibition as well. Onlookers cheered and showed a lot of curiosity watching the sparring session and other displays of martial skills.
During the festival there was also a chance for people to share their kimchi recipes, and a chance for people to sell things such as jars for storing kimchi once its been marinated, tools for removing kimchi, etc.
This year’s Kimchi Festival was hosted by Americans, but the MC dressed in a modernized Hanbok (Korean traditional clothing) and hot barley tea (bori cha) was served.
Winners of the Greater Boston Kimchi Festival:
Boston Best Kimchi: Patricia Yu, Redish Kimchi
Best Non-Cabbage Kimchi: Patricia Yu, Redish Kimchi
Best Commercial Kimchi: Jum Ja Nam (Shabuya Hot-Pot and Sushi), Cucumber Kimchi
Best Innovative Kimchi: Jeon Il Seon, Water-Radish Kimchi / Di Di Emons, Lemon Kimchi
Best Tradition Kimchi: Tom Nobotny, Cabbage Kimchi