A Box of Cabbage and a Newly Minted Ajumma

“Hello, Ajumma One, this is Ajumma Two,” said Diana over the phone.

“Ajumma Two, I have a box of cabbage.”

Autumn is kimchi-making season in Korea. I’ve been wanting to make kimchi for a month or so now and decided to do so this weekend. At Good Man’s advice, I invited Diana and Min Gi over for a Sunday kimchi-making session.

Saturday, Good Man and I went shopping for the ingredients. I picked up four cabbages and headed over to the housewares section to get some charcoal (to absorb the scent of the kimchi). I asked the ajumma in housewares for charcoal in Korean. She didn’t understand me, so I explained I needed it for kimchi.


She understood and showed me two different boxes of charcoal. “This one is cheaper for more, you buy this.” My kind of woman! She spied the four heads of cabbage in our cart and said, “No, you can get a box of cabbage. Go ask, it’s cheaper.”

OK, she said the magic word: cheaper.

We were unsure of what kind of cucumbers we needed for the kimchi and I figured she’d know, so I asked, and she went on about how I had the right kind and what to do. Entirely in Korean.

We put the cabbage back and I asked the cashier for a box of cabbage in Korean. She looked at me and nodded knowingly before saying in Korean, “Are you making kimchi? Oh, you like kimchi? Kimchi is so delicious. Kimchi is so healthy. Wait for a minute, please…”

Usually when I speak Korean to the employees of HMart, the employees look surprised and humor me, but yesterday? Yesterday was different. It’s like buying a box of cabbage to make kimchi made me cross a threshold and now I’m one of them and thus it’s completely appropriate to speak Korean to me.

And how big is a box of cabbage? Our box ended up being nine heads of Napa cabbage for $12. We’re going to be making a lot of kimchi.

A Box of Cabbage

One thought on “A Box of Cabbage and a Newly Minted Ajumma

  1. Comment from: Helena [Visitor] · http://wedoitthehardway.blogspot.com/
    Huh, I didn’t know about using charcoal to absorb the smell! Interesting.

    We have an HMart here too.

    Good luck with the kimchi-making!
    10/25/10 @ 23:02

    Comment from: umma2kimchilovers [Visitor]
    I hope you take a lot of pictures of the process.
    Where do you plan to store all this kimchi?
    10/25/10 @ 23:57

    Comment from: Jennifer [Visitor] · http://www.jennipal.blogspot.com
    Crap that’s cheap! Especially after the recent rise in Kimchi prices in Korea!
    10/26/10 @ 00:21

    Comment from: david [Visitor]
    If you have not made your kimichi yet and if you are interested in making a small batch of vegan kimichi, I am willing to share my recipe.
    10/26/10 @ 11:24

    Comment from: admin [Member] Email
    Hey David. We already made it. We just left out the fish sauce when we wanted to make it vegan. I’ve also read you can use soy sauce. What do you do?

    Jennifer, I know.

    Umma, good question. I didn’t really think that part through. Right now they’re just sitting on our porch!

    Helena, it went well! But maybe I need to keep some charcoal in my room. I ate some kimchi at lunch yesterday and when the students returned from recess a few started sniffing the air. “What’s that smell?” Whoops.
    10/26/10 @ 22:26

    Comment from: david [Visitor]
    For salting the cabage, I use Korean sea salt. I use kosher or pink himalaya salt after. I use fresh orange juice, bell pepper and burned cooked rice. Btw, never ever use soy sauce because it ruins the taste.
    10/27/10 @ 01:48

    Comment from: admin [Member] Email
    Well, the idea of soy sauce sounded gross to me and we didn’t use it at all.

    I can’t imagine bell peppers in my kimchi. I’m going to have to try that.

    How does the burned rice fit in? Do you use that instead of glutinous rice powder?
    10/27/10 @ 08:02

    Comment from: David [Visitor]
    I just grind the burned rice in a blender and use it as an ingredient. I strongly suggest freshly squeezed orange juice instead of apple or pear. The sweetness and tanginess of the orange makes for a more refreshing kimichi. Btw, you can omit the glutinous rice powder all together because there is enough liquid to hold everything together if not just use water.
    10/27/10 @ 12:34

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