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Ranking the Best (and Worst) Store Bought Kimchis

Half eaten bottle of Seoul Vegan Kimchi from Target. Photo courtesy of Ben Pecherzewski.

Everybody knows kimchi for its classic and delicious qualities: the satisfying crunch, rich flavor, and signature tangy spice. Kimchi is a very old and popular dish found at many stores across the country. While Colorado is no exception and has many major stores carrying a plethora of different kimchis, not all are created equal., there are three major stores found ubiquitously across Colorado that carry different brands of kimchi: Target, Walmart, and Safeway.

The art of kimchi making has existed for over 4,000 years, therefore being very easy to make and very hard to perfect, with more than 180 variations being recognized worldwide. Standard and traditional kimchi is typically made from salted and fermented cabbage with spices, fish sauce, and various vegetables mixed in throughout.

While kimchi can be made at home or bought in-store, it is a hard art to perfect because of the time window in which it can be consumed, right between the long fermenting process and the time it takes to over-ferment and become sour and somewhat soggy.

It has proven difficult to create, and even more difficult to produce and sell because of this tiny time window. However, a quality kimchi might be closer than originally thought, because most major grocery stores carry some variation of kimchi. Today, three different kimchi from three different stores have been tried and compared to the standards of a good kimchi, which include the spice, crunch, and taste which includes the standard umami and slightly fishy flavors.

Starting off weak with Oceans Halo kimchi available at Walmart, this has to be rated the one of the worst kimchi of all time. It doesn’t meet any of the standards that even vaguely familiar to regular Kimchi. This tastes nothing like kimchi, but it tastes exactly like the sauerkraut that one would eat at their local bodega.It lacks any sort of element that could even relate it to the kimchi family. No umami taste, no spice and no sweetness. Pure vinegar. In a kimchi tasting party, participants ranked this kimchi the lowest.

Patience Bebout, a taster, commented that “this tastes bland and like bodega sauerkraut your mom buys for a potluck,” with fellow participant Maile Fukuda adding “There is no texture to this. It’s all shredded”.

So, as the other reviewers agree, this in fact is not kimchi but an overpriced bottle of sauerkraut. 0/10 points. Would not recommend it.

Next, the silver medal for this ranking indubitably goes to Lucky Foods’ “Seoul kimchi” available at Target. A Napa cabbage kimchi with a vegan twist. Overall, this is a solid kimchi that is moderately spicy which makes it easier to eat in large quantities and possesses a more vinegar-heavy taste due to the vegan choice to exclude the fish sauce from this recipe. In addition to the vinegar taste, it has a slightly fizzy aftertaste, which generally means that the kimchi has been properly fermented but is approaching its expiration date soon. While this doesn’t bother and can be enjoyable for some, others find it off-putting and a bad quality in kimchi.

In the kimchi tasting group, everybody unanimously ranked this kimchi in the second place ranking. Emily Robertus commented that “it’s better than the last one and not the best”. She further explained that “the flavor is definitely deeper than the last one, but I don’t really like the aftertaste… it’s just kind of bland”.

Overall, this kimchi was ranked 7.75 out of 10, meaning that this kimchi is pretty good overall, but not the best one on the market.

The final kimchi, which was ranked the best store-bought kimchi, surprisingly hails from Safeway. The bagged kimchi, entitled “Cleveland classic kimchi” was ranked number one in the tasting group and has the best overall characteristics when compared to the criteria of what a good kimchi should have. What this kimchi lacks in fish sauce, it makes up for in flavor and spice.

Participant Patience Bebout stated, “it’s definitely the spiciest but I can’t stop eating it… it’s really good”.

In addition, the recipe used a greater quantity of vegetables which the others don’t use. This addition gives the flavor a more complex and rich taste that the previous two lack. It also possessed a slightly fizzy taste which is less pronounced because of the flavor’s depth, with the inclusion of vegetables and spice resulting in a unique experience that is actually assisted by the slightly umami and fizzy aftertaste because it balances out the sweetness of the carrots and the spices with an earthy flavor many store bought kimchis lack. Overall, this kimchi is ranked a 9/10 which is one of the best rankings a store-bought kimchi can receive due to its unique and rich flavor. It loses a point for being overly spicy which wasn’t an issue in the tasting but can be undesirable for some.

As mentioned before, many people have many different opinions on what good kimchi tastes like, with some not liking kimchi at all. Furthermore, because kimchi is so old there are countless recipes and opinions of what the correct taste is, but generally, a good kimchi is one that tastes good to the eater and one that doesn’t taste like sauerkraut.

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About the Contributor
Ben Pecherzewski
Ben Pecherzewski, Staff Writer

Ben Pecherzewski is in 11th grade and is taking journalism for the first time. He decided to take journalism because he learned about it in middle school, found the process interesting, and wanted to learn more. Ben is interested in reviewing kimchi on Instagram and skiing. Ben also plays tennis often but plays outside of school. He looks forward to writing about things that he is passionate about and getting to interview people for their diverse opinions and recommendations.

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