Saturday, June 26, 2010

New York Kimchi Contest

Event Link: (specifically this entry)
Cost: $5
Duration: 11am - 2pm
Event Details

In my search for a simple Korean recipe I found many things. Mainly, way too many recipes to shake a stick at! Kimchi is one of those "ancient Chinese secret" type things, meaning everyone and their Korean mother has a recipe and a lot of times they don't want to share the goods. I was looking for something in between this insultingly easy recipe and the type of stuff your Korean grandma buries in her back yard.

This site offers recipes but because there is a wide variety of kimchi recipes, it's hard to pick which one to try that would be simple enough for a novice cook while still bringing the flavor. That's when I noticed the contest, it was soon and it was local. But mainly, it was cheap! What better way to learn about kimchi than to taste other people's. So, after a morning visit from a friend I set out on my adventure.

It was quick ride on the F train which was great. F train is right by me and not having to transfer made for a relaxing ride with my ipod. I've never been to Prospect Park so I was a little nervous about that. Once I exited the train I went the wrong way! Thankfully, a local pointed me towards the park. It was a few blocks, not a huge deal and they were right near the front and easy to see. Being my usual self I was shy and nervous but the people there were very friendly. I also felt a little odd not being Asian but I wasn't the only one so that was a relief.

For some reason, I expected the event to be rather small but there were at least 20 entries! I would say the number of people there was at least 20-30, no more than 50. It was a pretty sweet turn out. It was hard to be there and not dive into all the kimchi though, agh!

Once I paid my $5 I got a free gift. Apparently some sort of dried anchovy treat for children. I love Asian culture and food but some of the things they eat are just way odd to me. The lil fishes still had eyes! I won't be a punk though, I shall taste them one day.

We were given name tags, of course. So now you know it's me! It seemed a little cheesy but being that I had no idea who anyone was it was rather helpful. Plus, the marker I got to write my name with was pink!

There were three judges tasting the kimchi. I watched them for a while, curious how they were judging the flavors. They didn't speak much, however so it was basically just watching people eat. And I was hungry so it was only teasing me! I hadn't eaten anything for breakfast (seeing as I had company) so the wait was killing I went off to do something else.

There were a few other treats around. The picture above is of a tasting offered. Sempio Drinking Vinegar. I know, I know...makes no sense! I have never heard of such a thing and honestly, I was scared. However, since you only live once and I wanted to get the most out of my five bucks I tasted each one. Honey was great, sweet and yummy. Berry I didn't like much, however, went I had another taste of it later in the day it was better when it was more diluted with water. Citron was good too. Prune was in the middle and Red Ginseng was hard to swallow.

There was also a table giving out freebies. Assi was one of the sponsers and brought nice things too! I got a bottle of sesame seeds (which I lost on the way home) a container of hot chili paste (VERY yummy), an apron, a bottle of green tea and a bottle of aloe drink. They also had sesame oil but it was all gone by the time I got to the table.

After I got some swag it was time to get some kimchi! Now, I'm no kimchi expert and usually the times I've had it was at a restaurant or picking some up in the village so this was an experience. There were so many different ones and different flavors. I automatically fell in love with entry number one and then the rest was a blur. Some were too spicy, too fermented, too much ginger, too much salt or all around bland. I liked fifteen as well, though it had a bit too much salt. Some were way too red, one was brown (wtf) and, here is the kicker, one had watermelon! There was also one with cucumber that stood out; mainly because I was expecting great things from it. I love pickles but it tasted like it needed a bit more time to ferment.

What could be better than getting to taste tons of kimchi? How about a good ole Korean lunch! Provided by HanYang Market, this was a true highlight of the day. Usually you go to a restaurant and pay so much for a meal like this. Short ribs of beef, bulgogi, mackerel, a nice lil salad; yum! The fish wasn't edible to me, the fishy favor was far too strong. I didn't get any ribs because they were out when I went up so all I had was bulgogi. But hot damn was it good. I got some of the chili paste and a lil bit of my favorite kimchi to go with it. I had just had bulgogi last week and it cost me like nine bucks and here is this great lunch at a kimchi contest and it tasted even better!

I sat and chatted with a few people as I ate; a guy named Christian, a girl named Nikki and her friend (I missed her name). Apparently the two females had entered the contest as well. There were also other people at the table, a couple at one point. I'm pretty shy but I did chit chat a lil, we talked about the food and how nice the event was. I got some more food and wrapped it up to take home and let mom taste; this time I got some ribs!

After lunch the winners were announced. Number one (the guy with the crown) won first place. I was happy since it was my favorite but I couldn't get the recipe! :( Number fifteen won second (woman at the end in white) so that was also cool since it was my second favorite. Everyone won a box of ingredients.

There was also a raffle. Myself and the guy at my table won goodie bags. Five pound bag of chili powder, sweet rice flour and fish sauce. Whoah! They also gave out bags of rice and HY Marketplace had a trivia contest for little tote bags. After that things died down and there was picture taking. I made sure to fill up my water bottle with that great honey drinking vinegar and another bottle with the citron flavor. Having gone with one bag I left with three very heavy ones. It made it difficult to get home.

On my way home I stopped in my local park and had some shaved ice, only a buck, and reflected on my day. I was glad to get out and do something and with my limited budget, it was a great day indeed! I even got a picture with the woman holding the event! Even if you're not a huge kimchi fan I would recommend going next year, it never hurts to try something different.

Saying hello

Hi world, my name is Ashley. I'm a bored New Yorker who is currently unemployed and I have a lot of free time. I've grown tired of sitting in the house so I'm hoping to find ways to explore and enjoy my city for as little money as possible.

I aim to enjoy free or semi-free activities in this city and get as much bang for my buck along the way. Hope anyone who reads this enjoys!