Before you buy kimchi, you may want to clear it with your family members or anyone who shares a fridge with you. This stuff is addictive, delicious, healthy — and will remind you it’s there every time you open the refrigerator (in Korea, many people have a separate, specialised kim chi fridge). If your family is willing to put up with the pungent funk of the spicy fermented cabbage (or other vegetables), the taste reward will be massive -- and luckily, ready-made kim chi is becoming widely available in the UAE.
The brand you’re most likely to come across is South Korea’s Chongga label, which sells bags of whole cabbage kim chi as well as smaller pots of “mat” or cut cabbage kim chi -- the most manageable (and the easiest to sneak straight from the fridge). It’s found in larger Spinneys and Waitrose stores, and recently started being stocked in Carrefour Markets. Chonnga is a vegetarian brand, meaning it doesn’t contain fish sauce or dried shrimp, typical ingredients in kim chi, meaning it’s not quite as pungent as others; they also have whole and cubed radish kim chi, and white kim chi, which does not contain the red chilli flakes that makes regular kim chi so fiery.
The UAE’s Asian supermarkets also stock homemade kim chi, again focusing on cabbage and radish varieties (cucumber is a delicious, refreshing alternative that’s sadly rarely stocked). In Dubai, head to A-Mart on Shaikh Zayed Road, next to Med Care hospital (call 055-8829920), Hanarum in Karama (04-336-8022) or 1004 Mart in Barsha (04-3234536, they also deliver. In Abu Dhabi, head to K-Mart near Safeer Center in Mussafa (02-5534842).