Thanks to the explosion of the Korean wave, Korean cuisine is now sought after worldwide, and kimchi, Korea’s famous food is now one of the most popular side dishes due to its unique umami taste and health benefits.
What is kimchi? It is a spicy fermented vegetable that is served in almost every meal in South Korea. The common kind of kimchi is made from napa cabbage, but there are other variations using different types of vegetables as well. Using more than 15 different ingredients, kimchi takes the natural taste of these ingredients and enriches it through an extended period of fermentation to create a well-balanced flavour that maintains its crispy yet juicy texture.
A peak at the past
So, how did the idea of fermenting vegetables start? The farthest record starts around the Three Kingdom period, around 57 BCE. Winters in Korea were harsh and very cold, and they needed to save food for the winter. One of the popular ways was to preserve food using salt. Koreans store kimchi in large earthenware (also known as Onggi) which they left underground to prevent freezing. The first kimchi recorded was not spicy nor were they made of cabbage, but radishes.
The Goryeo period (918 – 1392) marked the beginning of Korean trading with other kingdoms where they were introduced to other vegetables and spices. That gave birth to the kimchi recipe made from napa cabbage with garlic.
The Joseon Dynasty (1392 – 1910) marked the influence of the Japanese people who introduced soy sauce into food, hence adding another method in preserving kimchi. Through the continuous trade with China, chilli peppers were also introduced, creating the kimchi recipe that is now used.
Types of kimchi
Baechu kimchi – The most popular and usually eaten at every meal. It’s made from napa cabbage, chilli powder, chopped garlic, ginger, and fermented anchovy sauce.
Baek (white) kimchi – the non-spicy version that’s white. Chives, radishes and grated fruit like Korean pear is fermented together to make this kimchi.
Kkakdugi (radish) kimchi – made with the same ingredients as baechu kimchi, but this is juicier, sweeter and has a crunch to it.
Nabak (red water) kimchi – non spicy, nabak kimchi is like a red cold soup made with radish, carrots, scallions, napa cabbage, garlic, ginger and brined in Korean pear juice. A little red pepper is added to give it its red colour.
Oi sobagi (cucumber kimchi) – a summer favourite, it is stuffed cucumber kimchi. Crisp, crunchy and deliciously refreshing, it is filled with garlic chives and seasoning.
Health benefits of kimchi
Do you know that kimchi is not only delicious but also offers many health benefits? It is also packed with nutrients and low in calories too, perfect for those who are on a diet. It also contains probiotics which helps to strengthen your immune system.
Are you a fan of kimchi? Tell us in the comment section which is your favourite kimchi.