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Not your ajumma's kimchi

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Bulgogi glazed spareribs with kimchi and pickles by Red Door chef Troy Graves at Green City Chef's BBQ 2012 in Chicago (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)

Kimchi is the new pickle! Fermentation is the new canning! So the food trend forecasters say. But in Chicago, we've  been putting up and down for years. And at Saturday's inaugural Kimchi Challenge at the Good Food Festival & Conference which kicks off three days starting today, fermentation revivalist and author of The Art of Fermentation, Sandor Katz himself, will crown our first Kimchi Champion.

Beet-cured sturgeon with ramp kimchi by Blackbird chef/owner Paul Kahan at RampFest 2008 in Chicago (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)
Our best known Korean crossover chef Bill Kim has created a kimchi kingdom with Urban Belly, Belly Shack, and bellyQ. And Will Song, chef/owner of bopNgrill slings Korea's traditional national dish on burgers and fries. 
Braised heritage pork belly, smoked eel, Marcona almonds, wild leek kimchi, and green grapes by chef Paul Kahan at James Beard dinner 2008 in Chicago (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)
But even non-Korean, non-Asian chefs here have been dipping into kimchi jars. Red Door chef and veteran Troy Graves learned to make kimchi from a barracks-mate, and Paul Kahan has upped the game using ramps, our native namesake wild stinking onion.
 
I'm one of the judges at the Kimchi Challenge and have promised to smuggle back samples to WBEZ. And don't worry, they won't be forgotten in the office fridge.
 
Duck sausage with housemade kimchi, steamed bun, and relish by Perennial Virant chef/partner Paul Virant at Green City Market Chefs' BBQ 2012 (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)

 

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