Taste Test: Store-bought kimchi

Wednesday, January 20, 2010; E04

Not yet ready to make your own kimchi? The Food section tasted five prepared varieties available locally, listed in order of appreciation:

Tobagi (fresh). Our top pick. Bright red in color, fiery and pungent with garlic, it has a heavy hit of fishiness on the finish. The cabbage is cut into large strips that stay crunchy. Scallions add contrast and a nice little bite. Now this is kimchi. 16 ounces, $4.49; available at H Mart, various locations.

Tobagi (jarred). A respectable store-bought variety. Large pieces of cabbage and radish are complemented with a little apple and pear for sweetness. An attractive red color; the heat is tempered and evenly dispersed but note: The ingredients include MSG. The wide-mouth jar is also a plus. 16 ounces, $3.49; available at H Mart, various locations.

Sunja's. A watered-down version for kimchi novices. The pros: The vegetables have an appealing crunch and would make a great addition to a hot dog or tacos. The cons: Both the mild white and medium spicy cabbage we tried are vegetarian friendly, but without any salted fish they lacked that addictive oomph. 16 ounces, $3.50; available at Whole Foods Markets, Takoma Park Silver Spring Food Co-op (301-891-2667).

Krishon. Maryland artisan Eric Johnson isn't afraid of using lots of spice in his new vegetarian kimchi. The vegetables -- cabbage and radish -- are cut too small for our taste. But heat lovers will savor the wonderfully long-lasting kick of cayenne on the finish. A version with homemade fish sauce is in development. 16 ounces, $10; available at the Bethesda Central Farmers Market (info@bethesdacentralfarmmarket.com) on Sundays.

Wills Valley. Organic; tastes more like garlicky sauerkraut or cabbage kombucha than kimchi. Made with finely chopped cabbage and carrots, it's puckeringly sour without the spicy kick or fish-base note of classic recipes. 12 ounces, $10.99; available at Takoma Park Silver Spring Food Co-op.

-- Jane Black

Post a Comment

Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company