A South Korean group is working on fermenting a less-pungent product.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated June 29, 2017
Lucia Lambriex / Getty Images

According to The Washington Post, a group of scientists at South Korea’s World Institute of Kimchi are working to make a toned down version of kimchi that they hope will appeal to people with more timid palates. The traditional Korean side dish is built around fermented vegetables and potent spices like garlic and ginger, so we guess a fair question for those who aren’t a fan would be, “What did you expect?” Hey, you can’t please everyone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try.

In a world currently obsessed with probiotic-packed fermented foods, these scientists say they are looking to help “globalize” kimchi by tweaking it more for Western tastes… and noses. “We’re trying to engineer the smell out of kimchi,” researcher Lee Mi-ae told the Post. “But it’s difficult because the smell is linked to the flavor of the kimchi.” That’s not to say kimchi doesn’t appeal to any Americans. As the Post points out, Whole Foods alone sells 163 different kimchi products. Still, the World Institute of Kimchi hopes that by increasing the amount of good bacteria and tempering the smell, kimchi’s audience can continue to grow beyond South Korea – where residents down an impressive 26 kilograms of the dish a year.

However, the work brings up a larger question: Is kimchi without the distinct smell still kimchi? As the Huffington Post discovered, people have been taking to Twitter to defend the dish as it is. “I want my kimchi stinky, spicy, fizzy, and fermented as heck,” wrote one user. “Traditional food is about culture, not tourism,” wrote another, “they shouldn't change kimchi just because some foreigners don't like the smell.” Hey, at least it’s the World Institute of Kimchi who is doing this research. We can’t imagine these efforts wouldn’t go down as easily if they were happening at, say, Texas Tech.