Kimchi: Fresh or Funky?

After tasting kimchi from a small container, DWB loved the fermented funk and vinegary tang enough to acquire an industrial-sized jar—"the kind that makes you remove a shelf from the fridge to accommodate it." The problem? The new jar had none of the tang or funk that DWB liked so much.

"Sounds like you bought fresh kimchi," says alwaystired, referring to kimchi that hasn't been aged long enough to taste pointedly fermented. There's nothing wrong with that; in fact, alwaystired prefers the fresh stuff. If you want the intense, fermented flavors, just leave your fresh kimchi in the fridge for a week or two, alwaystired says, or kick-start the process by leaving it out at room temperature for a day.

Whether you prefer fresh or heavily fermented kimchi, check the jar. Many brands come labeled with the length of time they were aged: The longer the aging process, the funkier the kimchi, says wolfe. Aside from the taste changing, alwaystired thinks kimchi tends to get redder as it ages, as water seeps out of the cabbage and into the chile broth. JungMann describes the color of aged kimchi as more auburn than red, perhaps as the chlorophyll that leached out of the vegetables darkens the liquid.

"There's of course nothing like making your own batch, which is surprisingly easy," JungMann says.

Discuss: KIMCHI FUNK

Photograph of CHOW's Basic Napa Cabbage Kimchi by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com