Kimchi - that delicately spicy, fermented cabbage dish; that crunch of the slightly sour, slightly sweet taste in your mouth; that feeling of "You know what? Everything is going to be alright" after you take just one bite - is suddenly causing a mini crisis in a country where they eat it with every meal.
South Koreans, pioneers in the art of kimchi-making, are in a pickle these days. Napa cabbage, the main ingredient used to make the fermented goody, has had its production halved because of an unusually long stretch of bad weather, causing all that's left to be sold for twice, or three times its price in the market. Heads of napa cabbage that once cost about $4 are now going for as much as $14. One man was so desperate to acquire cabbage that he stole heads of the vegetable from a farm, and was arrested.
A dish that is served free in all local restaurants, from steakhouses to pizzerias, kimchi is so ubiquitous in South Korea that the government has now taken control of this menace. To seek an immediate substitute, NPR reported that the government has temporarily suspended tariffs on cabbage imported from China. However, they hope to stabilize prices by November just in time for kimjang season -- the annual rite in the Fall when kimchi is traditionally prepared into jars and buried in the ground to ferment through the winter.
Managed to get your hands on some napa cabbage this season? Try this delicious kimchi recipe.