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Posted by on Nov 5, 2009 in Korean Food | 3 comments

Treating myself to kimchi-making in San Francisco

Treating myself to kimchi-making in San Francisco

I took a day off work on Oct. 27 to travel to San Francisco to take a kimchi- and sauerkraut-making class. Urban Kitchen San Francisco (UKSF) and the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) sponsored the workshop hosted by Happy Girl Kitchen‘s Chef Todd Champagne at San Francisco’s landmark Ferry Building.

Here was the advertising hook to get people interested in the class.

Worried about flu season? Boost your immunity and get your probiotic fix with fermented foods.

They had a limit of 30 students, and the class sold out quickly. I’m glad I got in as quickly as I did. I invited several of my Bae-friends to come along with me, Lin was available to take me up on it (since she works in the city). I didn’t have to attend the class by myself. We were the last two who made it into the class.

I started my trip by driving from California North Coast wine country to the ferry terminal in Larkspur. I could have just driven all the way into San Francisco. However, it is difficult to find parking in San Francisco, and what is available is expensive. Beside, taking the ferry is convenient, because the kimchi class was held at the Ferry Building. Also, parking at the Larkspur terminal is included in the ticket price.

When I arrived at the Ferry Building, I met up with my friend Lin, and we took the Muni transit to Westfield Mall on Market Street. We had an early supper at Sorabol, a Korean fast-food restaurant in the food court. After we filled up on japchae and other yummy Korean food, we rode Muni back to the Ferry Building just in time for the class. 

Most of the students were from the San Francisco area. I had traveled the greatest distance to take the class (more than 50 miles each way).

During the two-hour class, we were given plenty of hands-on learning in chopping the various vegetables (and apples). The kimchi we were making featured the following:

  • nappa cabbage
  • carrots
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • green onions
  • finely chopped dried chile de arbol.

We added just enough chile de arbol for flavor and a kick but not enough to color the kimchi. These chilies are a bit milder than Thai chilies, but they added a decent amount of heat. These are not for people who think jalapenos or chipotles are hot stuff.

We made sauerkraut next with the following:

  • regular cabbage
  • apples
  • beets
  • carraway seeds
  • black pepper
  • juniper berries

The funny part is, the sauerkraut ended up with a fuchsia hue because of the beets. I have never seen pinkish sauerkraut before. This was a first. But the kimchi — with the chile de arbol — looked like a water kimchi. 

Anyone who has taught a class — ESL, Bible study or a cooking — will tell you every session has its own dynamic. First, I noticed that most of attendees were far more interested in learning about kimchi than sauerkraut.

Second, I noticed most of the questions revolved around what to do if the kimchi gets too sour or too old. Our teacher assured us that regardless of how sour the kimchi develops, it will not go “bad” in the sense of making one sick. However, every person has a different tolerance for sour food.

However, I wish I would have taken the opportunity to tell the class about what Koreans do when their kimchi goes “bad.” That’s the kind of kimchi that goes into kimchi chigae.

Chef Champagne told us to encourage natural fermentation by leaving the kimchi and sauerkraut unrefrigerated and open. The kimchi would need only a few days, but the sauerkraut required about one to two weeks, depending tolerance of sourness. He also gave us jars of salted water to make sure the sauerkraut remained submerged in salt water to encourage the proper bacterial growth.

All kimchi photos courtesy of Lin, 2009. 


  1. Sounds like a fun class! I would love to learn how to make kimchi!

  2. It's not hard but it's a little time consuming because you need to have all your veggies pre-chopped first.

  3. I think I'd die with all that hot food around!

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