I went to a Korean grocery market recommended by my A Cook's Guide to Chicago the other day. This market - Chicago Food Corp - is easy to drive to but parking is almost impossible. I spent close to 30 minutes waiting to get in the parking lot and it took another 10-15 to wend my way into a spot. For as popular as this place is, they really need a lot as big as WalMart's but instead have one the size of a Hummer.
Chicago Food Corp is actually a combo lunch counter, supermarket with a killer fish and meat section, drugstore, and Ace Hardware. From what I could smell, the lunch counter must be fabulous, but I had no time for a snack as I was shopping for Kim Chee.
Most Westerners describe kim chee as a spicy Korean sauerkraut, and there is some truth to that. it is fermented and made out of a type of cabbage and it is spicy, but that is just the basic kim chee. You can have all sorts of greens kim cheed. One of the spiciest is green garlic stem, which I find to be so hot it blisters my tongue. I have also had a sweet dried squid kim chee and white kim chee, which is just fermented nappa, carrots, and other veggies but without any red pepper.
At Chicago Food Corp, the hav a kim chee bar where you can pick up small dishes of a wide variety of kim chee and pickles as well as a kim chee refrigerator, which has its own staff person. I went over there to pick up a large bottle of white kim chee and a large bottle of medium spicy kim chee. The poor staff woman was a bit flumoxed. Maybe white people in Chicago don't like kim chee. Or maybe she was just so excited that I wanted multiple types of kim chee, I don't know. But she was so excited that I was there, we ended up having a 15 minute discussion on the types of kim chee in the frig and she helped me avoid the ones that I would find too spicy.
Sadly, I don't like the medium spiced kim chee I got here as well as the stuff I got at the Japanese supermarket in Arlington Heights. I tend to like my kim chee medium spicy and very pickled, while this stuff was more spicy and less pickled. It is not bad by any means. It is just not my favorite. I won't tend to eat it for breakfast with my brown rice, which is something I actually like doing.
Still it makes an excellent kim chee tofu stew.
Take 8 oz of tofu and cut into cubes. Throw is in a non-oxidizing pan (not cast iron here - enamel or clay works best). Add in about a cup of spicy kim chee and juice (you might have to cut it up if it comes in huge chunks rather than bite-size pieces). Cook until hot. This makes 1-2 servings, depending on how hungry you are. Serve with plenty of brown rice. it's even better the second day.