A Bite of China – Power of Time on Kimchi
Time is the bosom friend of food; time is the mortal enemy of food. Although we have invented diverse ways to preserve food thanks to science and technology, such old ways as pickling, aeration drying, and bloating can not only keep food fresh, but also lead us to distinct and even more unforgettable flavour than that of fresh food. By far, food made by time twice still has a profound impact on Chinese daily diets. More importantly, it reveals the deep feelings of its people towards their hometown, such as kimchi.
In the morning of golden autumn, the ancient Hulan River, originated from Lesser Khingan Mountains, meanders into Songhua River. It has nourished the eastern lands of Songnen Plain and its dwellers for thousands of years. When it comes to September, black soil along the banks produces high quality rice. Soon, it will be covered with ice and snow after the harvest, as if it were a white ocean.
Inhabitants in Suihua city, Heilongjiang province get accustomed to storing Chinese cabbage for winter in the long course of sever cold. The Korean nationality living here calls kimchi, or spicy cabbage, “grain for winter”. Nowadays, it is not difficult to approach fresh vegetables in winter, but kimchi with unique flavour is still an essential part of the locals’ life. It is no exaggeration to say that it has become a snack sweeping over the world.
In the past, due to the shortage of fresh food in the freezing winter, Manchurian used to make pickles and dried vegetables from the fresh at the end of each autumn. Women in this city now tend to send their products to their children in the metropolis.
Cabbages grown in the garden are planted during the first of the three periods of the hot season. Cabbages with tender leaves are the finest ingredients of making kimchi. But how to make it? After cutting Chinese cabbages, you have to remove unnecessary water in them by saline water. Next, place stones above them, which have become smooth owing to a long period of time. Then comes the process of making kimchi in the real sense. As the priority as it is, the residents at dawn are busy with preparatory work. The key step of making the spicy cabbages is to daub them with seasonings including chilli, apples, pears, fish sauce and shrimp meat. Different as they are, seasonings must comprise chilli powder. In the eyes of the Korean nationality, tteok is an indispensible part during festivals, such as Spring Festival and Mid Autumn Festival. Therefore, refreshing kimchi and this sweet and sticky food absolutely form a perfect combination for celebration. Neighbours are mutually assisting in making spicy cabbages, from one household to another. Half a month later, the cabbages in pots will change into kimchi because of fermentation of lactic acid.
The power of time can never be looked down upon. Desire for freshness lasts forever; nevertheless, pickling food is even more attractive for those who still keep their eating habits even though they have been away from hometown for a long time.