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Q: If you have a view in Seoul, you’ll also have a view of giant brown ceramic pots. They seem to grow like weeds, sprouting up on rooftops, fire escapes and balconies. What’s up with that?

A: The earthenware pots, a must-have for any Korean household, traditionally have been used to store kimchi, a staple of Korean food. In summer months, kimchi — made of cabbage that is salted and placed in brine with lots of red chili and garlic to ferment — usually is made fresh, stored in the pots for only a short time. But in winter, large batches are made and can be stored in the pots, which usually are buried underground, for months.

Technological advances — no, not your iPod — one day may render kimchi pots a thing of the past. New containers offer easier ways to store and ferment kimchi, and a special kimchi refrigerator now is on the market, already a top-seller and high on the registry list for many newlyweds.

Want your own kimchi pot? Go for it, but know this: Americans in South Korea are warned not to store food in the pots, as some may contain lead that can seep into the food inside. Not an appetizing thought.

This is a What’s Up With That reprise that originally ran Oct. 23, 2005, in Stars and Stripes. Got a question about goings-on in the Pacific? E-mail


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