Kimchi: A Korean Staple
Kimchi is one of Korea's proudest culinary creations. 7th-century Koreans developed kimchi as a way to preserve vegetables during the winter.
They discovered that over time, this pickled vegetable dish would not only remain edible but also develop different flavors through the fermentation process.
Since then, hundreds of variations on the original kimchi recipe have found their way to Korean homes and eateries across the world. Traditionally, kimchi was stored in earthenware vessels in the ground. Pre-refrigeration, this was the best way to ensure great flavor.
During the 17th century, Koreans began adding red pepper to kimchi, providing both color and heat. This is the kimchi we are familiar with today. No Korean meal is complete without a side of steaming rice and a big bowl of kimchi.
Although there are hundreds of variations on kimchi, there are 10 standard recipes. These recipes include cabbage or radishes, garlic, ginger, cucumber and onions. Kimchi has a strong and distinctive odor, which varies by its freshness.
Kimchi has been praised as one of the world's healthiest foods - perhaps one of the reasons Koreans have such long and healthy life spans. Studies have shown that kimchi is high in vitamin content, aids in digestion, and may help prevent cancer. Kimchi also has healthy quantities of ascorbic acid and carotene.
Making kimchi was once a community event, called Gimjang. As soon as the cold weather began to approach (late October to early November), each household would spend a few days preparing enough kimchi to last the entire winter. Families and neighbors would come together to wash, cut, and stuff nearly 200 cabbages per family.
Thanks to its healthful properties and unique flavor, kimchi has gained world-wide appeal. If you like a bit of heat, try kimchi at your local Korean restaurant. If you prefer home-cooked, making your own kimchi at home is very simple, and it has a great fridge life.
Basic Kimchi Glossary:
- Poggi Kimchi - Napa cabbage kimchi; the traditional recipe
- Baek Kimchi - White kimchi; the earliest recipe (pre-red pepper)
- Khakdugi - Radish kimchi
- Oi Kimchi - Cucumber kimchi
- Bok Choi Kimchi