Confession time: for years after I became a vegetarian, I continued to eat kimchi. I knew that it was made with dried fish, or fish paste, but I couldn’t help myself. Kimchi is just that good. But after a while I put an end to it; I would have to do without. Cut to February, when I was at the Gotham West Market when I spotted Mama O’s Vegan Kimchi at the Brooklyn Kitchen outpost there and I immediately bought a jar to bring home. I tasted it two different ways: as is, straight out of the jar, and also cooked in a recipe (which I’ll post about another time). The kimchi wasn’t as pungent as the real stuff and not nearly spicy enough, but the cabbage was crisp and it was nicely salty. Then two weeks later I was checking out the new Whole Foods here in Brooklyn, and I saw Mother-In-Law’s Vegan Kimchi. I tried it in exactly the same two ways as I had the Mama O’s. Here was the wonderful fermented funkiness I had been missing for these past few years; if I didn’t know it was vegan, I would have sworn it was the real deal. The spice level was also higher, a definite plus for me.
For a long time I’d been scouring labels of every kimchi bottle I found looking for a vegetarian one. I’d seen both Mama O’s and Mother-In-Law’s kimchis in various specialty stores around NYC, but never the vegan varieties. Now that I’ve tasted both, I’m ready to pick a favorite. Although both are good, Mother-In-Law is by far the one I prefer, both raw and cooked. So if you’re like me and have been searching for a vegetarian jar to fill that kimchi-sized hole in your life, you know what to do. (It should be pointed out that as a fermented product each jar of kimchi may be at a different stage, and so a single jar may not be enough to represent an entire company.)