The faint smell of incense, sesame seed oil and the sound of ice cube hitting the crystal glasses always meant holiday. It meant that aunties were cooking and scotch was being served around the table. Traveling for the holiday at Yun family meant at least one person was going home crying. We were a rowdy, expressive, and judgmental gastronomes. “This Kimchi is at least a week too young,” or “this merlot is too sweet” are some of the phrases we would say to each other. But even for those obnoxious group, there was one dish we all appreciated: Sashimi Kimchi.
The most well-known form of Kimchi, the most (in)famous Korean soul food known for its smell, must be the fermented cabbage with red pepper powder. But to a descendant of North Korean immigrants, fermented radish with halibut sashimi can just as well be it. Three of my four grandparents fled North Korea during the War leaving everything behind. But what traveled with them across the border was some of family recipes. And are we not glad it did!
The mundane raw ingredients mingle and work their magic. Over the fermentation process, the radish becomes so crisp and refreshing with a kick while the fish matures both in flavor and texture with just enough acidity to call for the next mouthful of rice. Rolling around in your mouth, the rice begins to yield sweetness which it then balances the saltiness and bitterness from fiber from the upcoming bite of radish. This lascivious cycle never ends. Taste only consists of five senses. And regardless of how magical my grandmother’s Kimchi may once had been, it could not have been more than some simple combination of saltiness, sourness, bitterness, sweetness and umami. But what makes it so memorable is the time, place, occasion and the company I was with to enjoy the food. For that reason, food is the strongest form of legacy and possibly the cheapest way to time travel. And I would like to actively share my recipe and learn others for as long as I can.