Where can I buy Kimchi? Many new comers to the Thai culture are likely to ask that question when they visit Phuket or Krabi. After all, eating fresh Krabi or even eating dried Krabi is an extremely enjoyable and tasty experience, but where do you buy it from? Fortunately for expats, Thailand offers a wide variety of franchisee outlets where one can purchase tasty and nutritious snacks for relatively small sums of money.
The very first question anyone who has eaten Korean food in Phuket or Krabi will most likely ask is “Where can I buy Kimchi?” Unfortunately, while there are a number of places across Thailand that sell authentic Korean dishes, they are not all necessarily located in the capital cities. So where can one find authentic kimchi if they don’t live in the capital, or in Bangkok for that matter? Luckily for expats, there are a number of outlets in Phuket and Krabi that are dedicated to selling this type of snack food from the country of Korea.
Most people who visit Phuket and Krabi realize that the main attraction of the cities are the beaches, and rightfully so. The two main beaches in Phuket are Phuket Bay and Patong Beach, and while neither is particularly spectacular, they offer a stunning view of the surrounding islands and the water beyond. On the western side of the island, there is the popular Patong Beach, and further north are Phuket Town and the nearby village of Chaweng. Across from the beaches of Phuket and Krabi proper, lies the city of Jeju, which boasts of being Asia’s largest Special Administrative Region. All of these sites provide excellent places to eat kimchi seafood soup.
To make your kimchi seafood soup in Phuket or Krabi more authentic, it’s best to buy it from a restaurant. Restaurants in Phuket that specialize in Korean foods (which makes their cooking very familiar to locals) make the best kimchi you can find. There are a number of restaurants in Phuket that serve this type of soup, ranging from small hole-in-the-wall restaurants to large, full-service restaurants. If you’re eating at a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant, try asking the chef if the soup is marinated in ginger or garlic before ordering it. Small restaurants usually don’t offer customized menus, but if the chef is knowledgeable about the dish he should be able to let you know which spices to use to flavor the seafood soup.
One of the most important things to remember about kimchi is that it needs to be made with fresh ingredients. Kimchi should not be stored for long periods of time; if left on ice, it will curdle and become an unpleasant taste. Ideally, it should be made right away, so that its flavor doesn’t dissipate as it sits on the refrigerator. The ingredients you use to make your kimchi should be fresh, as well; spicy ingredients such as korean chili flakes should not be frozen, and they’ll quickly lose their spiciness when they are placed in the fridge.
The best way to learn how to buy kimchi is to find a restaurant that specializes in it. Most Korean restaurants in Phuket or Krabi have a department devoted to serving up delicious vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, including kimchi. While you can get the typical vegetables and meat in a kimchi recipe, there are also a number of recipes that feature sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and chilies, as well as seafood and vegetables. If you visit one of the more popular vegetarian restaurants in Phuket, such as Maekara in Patong, you can find a vegan version of the classic fare, or you can ask them to make any of the off-the-beaten-path vegetables a bit healthier.
If you’re not particularly adventurous, then you probably want to stick with the traditional recipe for kimchi, which means a pot of boiling vegetables and meat with a tasty sweet flavor that’s usually added in the broth. A traditional pot of kimchi might use beef stock or chicken stock (or even beef fat, if you happen to be feeling adventurous), ginger, sesame oil, and maybe an inch or two of ginger root. If you use a traditional broth, then you may need to add in more soy sauce, or adjust the seasonings so that the sweet flavor isn’t lost.
A more adventurous cook might decide to create a slightly more unique version of the classic dish by substituting kimchi for beef or shrimp. Begin with a traditional recipe and just change everything around until you achieve the flavor you want. You could replace the beef with chicken (use the bones for crunchy bits) or fish, change the beef and seafood sauces to something more interesting, or substitute soy sauce for your traditional barbecue sauce. Kimchi is so versatile that you might be surprised at the results. Experiment with ingredients, seasonings, and techniques. The result will surprise you, and if you have the time and patience, it’s well worth making your own kimchi from scratch and taking it to the grocery store.