Korean Kimchi (or Kimchee in Korea)
Kimchi is Korean people’s staple and their favourite food. Koreans eat kimchi at every meal as a side dish (banchan in Korean) together with rice. Kimchi is also used as ingredient in some Korean dishes such as kimchi-jjigae (stew), kimchi-guk (soup) or kimchi-jeon (Korean pancake).
Kimchi is made mainly by salting Chinese cabbage and dressing it with red pepper powder, garlic, ginger, scallions and radish. This mixture is then placed in clay containers calledonggi (which are then buried in the ground)and left to fermentate slowly. However, this is only the basic kimchi recipe because there are different types of kimchi, made with different types of vegetables and spices and each region has its own specialties.
It is interesting to note that Koreans also have special fridges designed for storing kimchi. The reason being, that kimchi needs to be kept at an appropriate temperature in order to be preserved at its best.
History of kimchi
Kimchi has been made in Korea since unmemorable times, maybe even 3,000 years ago. However, at the beginning it was simply salted without spices. It was not until the XII century that spices were added and red chillies only arrived in Korea in the XVII century (being chillies native of the Americas). So, Korean kimchi started becoming spicy only five hundred years ago and the modern kimchi, as we know it today with Chinese cabbage, started being produced in the XIX century.
Health benefits of kimchi
Korean kimchi is considered to be one of the healthiest foods in the world. Kimchi contains a high amount of vitamin C, calcium and lactic bacterium that help keeping the digestive system in good conditions. Kimchi also contains antibiotic substances, which help prevent infections.
Types of kimchi
As we mentioned above, in Korea there are many varieties of kimchi, with each region having its own specialities. Below we list some types of kimchi:
- Baek kimchi – it means white kimchi and it is made without red chillies. It has a refreshing taste.
- Tong baechu kimchi – it is the most ‘classical’ kimchi, made with unsliced Chinese cabbage leaves.
- Nabak kimchi – this is made with thin sliced radish and cabbage
- Gaji kimchi – made with aubergine that is sliced, stuffed with spices and left to ferment
- Jiokpa kimchi – the main ingredient in this type of kimchi are spring onions rather then cabbage
- Chonggak kimchi – made with young radish
Kimchi museum and festivals
Kimchi is so important in Korean culture, that there is also a museum dedicated to kimchi. The Kimchi Museum is in Seoul, inside the COEX Mall (Samseong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul). There you will be able to learn everything about kimchi. The Kimchi Museum also hosts a kimchi festival and exhibition once a year.
Another interesting kimchi festival is held every year in Gwangju. The Gwangju Kimchi Festival focuses on the Honam (Jeolla-do) Province food culture and kimchi. During this festival, you will be able to taste many varieties of freshly made kimchi. The Gwangju Kimchi Festival also includes kimchi making competitions, a kimchi workshop (to learn how to make kimchi) and various performances.