All About Kimchi: Types, Recipes, and Heart-Healthy Benefits
What is Kimchi?
Kimchi (Korean: 김치) is a fermented dish typically consisting of vegetables, red chili peppers, and a seafood-based sauce, which is then put in a stoneware pot to ferment in the sun. The longer it ferments, the stronger the flavor.
Kimchi originally existed in ancient Korea--nearly 3,000 years ago, when it was referenced in a book of Chinese poetry called The Book of Si-Kyong. Kimchi was originally made with vegetables and beef stock, but began incorporating stronger spices in the 1100s, when foreigners began transporting different spices to Korea. Red chili peppers, the main ingredient in kimchi, was not introduced until after 1500.
Kimchi was originally created to prevent the loss of nutrients and minerals. They began using pickling methods to store it to help them combat the harsh winter months. The spicy flavor and numerous, nutritious ingredients kept them healthy until the Spring, when they could begin creating more kimchi.
The passage of time also led to different varieties of kimchi. Everyone is familiar with baechu kimchi, the famous cabbage variety that finds its way into hungry Koreans' stomachs every day. But there are many, many other varieties--over 100, if you consult the Korean Food Academy.
Today Kimchi is considered a condiment instead of food, used to top rice, as a delicious additive to kimbap, and even in soup. Its characteristic spicy, sour flavor is addictive, but this addiction is very healthy for you!
Kimchi is very healthy--according to Health Magazine, Kimchi is one of the healthiest food in the world. Only one serving of Kimchi provides almost 80 percent of the daily recommended allowance of carotene and vitamin C, which improves cognition, improves the body's ability to absorb iron, and is packed full of antioxidants, chemicals that prevent cell abnormalities.
Kimchi is also rich in calcium, iron, vitamin B2, vitamin B1, vitamin A, and lactic acid, which improves digestion and reduces several types of cancer. Kimchi may also reduce the risk of heart disease.
There are hundreds of types of kimchi in existence today. The varieties differ from region to region, season to season, and even personal preferences. The most common types of kimchi include:
- Baechu kimchi: made with cabbage
- Bae kimchi: cabbege kimchi without its hot spices
- Gat kimchi: made with mustard leaves
- Oisobagi kimchi: made with cucumbers--great during the summer months!
- Muchae kimchi: made with thin slices of radishes
- Gaktugi kimchi: made with cubes of radishes
- Tong baegu kimchi: made with a whole cabbage, not sliced
- Goldubaegi kimchi: made with lettuce
Kimchi also differs from location to location. Kimchi in South Korea's northern provinces tend to be more watery, whereas the southern provinces produce stronger, spicier versions that even make the most tolerant stomachs bubble with heat. North Korea also has its own version of kimchi, which is much milder and less aromatic.
It takes a long time to make kimchi. After you mix the ingredients together, you must wait for it to ferment to release that wonderful, spicy and somewhat sour flavor. My mom says to leave it for one week--some say less, some say more. In my experience less fermentation makes it more crunchy, but the real flavor does not peak until you ferment it for more than a week.
If you have the patience, and don't want to spend over $10 to buy a jar of commercial kimchi, try these recipes below:
Recipe by Maangchi (best!)
Learn More About Kimchi
- The Hidden Benefits of Kimchee (AssociatedContent.com)
Kimchee has been a staple in Korean cuisine for centuries, but did you know it can make you healthier? It can - and the benefits of eating this fermented cabbage may cause you to live a longer, healthier life.
- Kimchi: Korea's Food (LifeinKorea.com)
Life in Korea spotlights kimchi - Korea's food.
- Kimchi (Wikipedia.com)
Information on kimchi from Wikipedia.