Review: Wildbrine Korean Mat Kimchi
Located in Windsor, Calif., about 60 miles north of San Francisco, this small specialty food company has been making kimchi, sauerkraut and pickles since 2011. All the fermented products are naturally fermented, without vinegar. Wildbrine differentiates its kimchi from its sauerkraut by the type of cabbage used. Fermented western cabbage products are labeled “sauerkraut,” and Nappa cabbage ferments are marketed as “kimchi.”
Wildbrine’s first kimchi was “Japanese Miso Horseradish Kimchi.” When chef Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ fame stumbled upon the product at a Whole Foods Market store, he tweeted his disdain:
I wonder how he’ll react when I tell him Wildbrine also makes Thai “kimchi.”
Yet Wildbrine does make a traditional Korean kimchi. The jar I ordered from Azure Standard had the Korean word 맛 maht in large stylized magenta Hangul, so I hoped the taste lived up to the marketing.
맛 can mean flavor, but it’s also a style for this staple of 한식 hanshik (Korean food). Mat kimchi is made of sliced Nappa cabbage, precut into bite-sized pieces before fermentation. The cabbage leaves are left intact to brew what’s commonly called 배추김치 baechu kimchi.
I tasted Wildbrine’s mat kimchi on its own and in 김치볶음밥 kimchi fried rice and kimchi grilled-cheese sandwich.
Upon twisting open the jar, I caught a very strong but pleasant whiff of ground chili paste. Yet a hint of smokiness on the nose of this kimchi confused me, because the label said the product was “raw.” That means ingredients such as those peppers weren’t roasted, or even heated to microbe-killing temperature.
The paste for this 맛 was not made from reconstituted pepper flakes. Wildbrine blended fresh chilis, ginger and garlic into base for the kimchi. But there’s no fish sauce or shrimp paste in it, a seemingly common omission from kimchi made by non-Koreans.
I paid $5.05 per bottle for Wildbrine’s Korean kimchi through Azure Standard. You can also order it online from Clark’s Nutrition (or in their Southern California grocery stores). If you life in the Midwest, you can find it at Willy Street Co-op in Madison, WI (or order it from them online).
Wildbrine Preservation Foods
399 Business Park Ct, #506
Windsor, CA 95492