Saturday, March 1, 2008

Revolution of my Tastebuds

My first encounter with Korean food was 4 years ago. I was ignorant all along and thought that Korean food was similar to Japanese food, prepared with simplicity and mild tasting. When I took my first bite into those little condiment plates of kimchi, I thought I was in the wrong restaurant. And the complimentary glass of iced water served at the time was a life saver as my tastebuds were on fire!

Yup.... my tastebuds were tasteless then. Despite being born and raised in Malaysia, where spicy food is ubiquitous in each and every group of the Food Pyramid, from its pickled vegetables 'Acar' to any homecook curry or its famous hawker favorites of noodles such as Assam Laksa and Kari Mee, I was the bland one. My mum used to be a one pot dish fan and when she cooks curry for dinner, I had to survive on bread and butter while my brothers gobbled up every bits and pieces of whatever is in the curry including soaking up every drop of the gravy till there was no more rice left and they had to share my loaf of bread to scrap the side of the curry pot! The choice of their condiment that goes with their daily meal were either chilli paste with garlic or the pickled fiery little chilli pepper called 'Cili Padi', planted and harvested right from the backyard of our house. At times I even heard my dad complained about the birds stealing his chillis! That was how much the Malaysians love spiciness.

Something happened last September. I grew bored of the usual pickle and cukes for my sandwich as I find the vinegar was overpowering in every bottle that I tried. There was a bottle of kimchi sitting at the fridge door, bought by Curry for his weekends ritual meal of instant noodle with sausage and fried eggs. The cabbage was drenched in the red pepper and my throat was already washing down saliva when I peeked through the bottle. But I had the urge to try it out and I was hooked! As Curry only eats it with his ritual weekend meal, he was shock to find that only 1/8 of the medium sized jar of kimchi was left. I was nibbling away everyday without realizing how crazy my tastebuds must have felt! And the fact that I was not eating it as a condiment but a snack on its own, specially served in my specific little sauce bowl is evidence that my palate nerves have found its long lost Malaysian roots.

Luckily my love with Kimchi was a good one as it is reported to contain enzymes that cleanses the toxins in the body and its contents of cabbage, garlic and chilli pepper together with vinegar might be cancer preventable. Hey, if it is good for my health and to perk up my appetite, spicy is never a word I fear anymore. And to Curry, he can be assured that I will replenish every disappearing jar of kimchi in the fridge dutifully.

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