October 6, 2010
(CNN) — A spike in napa cabbage prices has South Koreans sweating over their national side dish, kimchi.
Many Koreans eat the spicy fermented cabbage dish every day, and a weather-driven crop shortage has forced them to cut back or pay much more. The price of napa cabbage, a key ingredient in kimchi, has climbed fourfold.
“Restaurants are charging for extra kimchi now. They’re charging 2000 won for a refill. A meal generally costs 5000 won,” said Joe McPherson, founding editor of ZenKimchi.com, which features the Korean Food Journal.
Koreans have taken to jokingly calling the side dish “geum-chi,” substituting in the Korean word for gold.
The government has even stepped in. Import duties on cabbages and radishes have been suspended till year’s end to help Koreans cope, said the Yonhap news agency. One hundred and fifty tons of the fresh vegetables are being imported from China as well.
Some Koreans are looking for the government to do more, such as subsidize cabbage sales, said Eun Jeong Lee, a researcher at Seoul-based ZenKimchi.com.
Kimchi-making season is coming up, which might force the issue. Korean families typically gather and make kimchi together in late October or early November, before winter sets in.
“They’re still going to make it. They’re just going to make less of it or use substitute ingredients,” McPherson said.