What Is Kimchi: Origins, Properties and Benefits
In the past, it was not always possible to grow fresh vegetables all year round. Therefore, people developed methods to preserve food, such as pickling and fermentation, a process that uses enzymes to cause chemical changes in food. In Korea, kimchi was made by fermenting vegetables and burying them in the ground in ceramic pots called onggi during the winter. Kimchi is now found in every Korean household, and it is also becoming increasingly popular in western cultures.
In this new OneHOWTO article, we describe what is kimchi, its properties, and how you can prepare it.
What is kimchi: origins and history
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables, such as Napa cabbage and Korean radish. Many spices are used, including gochugaru, scallions, garlic, ginger, and jeotgal. Kimchi is also used in a variety of soups and stews.
Kimchi has been part of Korean culture for a long time, serving as a source of vitamins and even a probiotic due to its fermentation process. Kimchi is not just a cabbage salad, it is an integral part of Korea's culture. Kimchi originated over 3,000 years ago. The tradition of making kimchi began as a way to ferment and store vegetables during the cold winter, when many Koreans starved to death. Kimjang, the tradition of preparing kimchi, brought together entire villages and neighborhoods to turn hundreds of heads of cabbage into a source of food.
There are hundreds of different varieties of kimchi in Korea, and about 1.5 million tons are consumed each year. The ritual of kimjang is so important to the country's identity that UNESCO has included this tradition in the representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Fermented foods have many health benefits. Continue reading this article to learn which fermented foods are best to eat.
Benefits and properties of kimchi
Kimchi is not only a healthy product because it contains no fat and is not processed, but also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. However, the outstanding feature of its composition and one of its great properties are the bacteria that are produced during fermentation, namely Lactobacillus kimchi.
During the fermentation process, bacteria are formed in the food that can be useful for our body and become probiotics. In this case, the bacteria that make up kimchi are very special because they protect the stomach and boosts the immune system. Undoubtedly a superfood that is studied for its multiple health benefits, which include:
- Boost your immune system: The Lactobacillus bacteria in kimchi boost your immune system.
- Contains probiotics: Fermentation also creates an environment where other friendly bacteria can thrive and multiply. These include probiotics, which are live microorganisms that are beneficial to your health when consumed in large quantities. These probiotics can slow cellular aging and even prevent infections.
- Very nutritious: Chinese cabbage alone, one of the main ingredients in kimchi, is rich in nutrients and contains vitamins A and C, at least 10 different minerals and over 34 amino acids. Many of the green vegetables included in kimchi, such as cabbage, celery and spinach, are good sources of nutrients such as vitamin K and riboflavin.
- Supports weight loss: Fresh and fermented kimchi are both low in calories and can promote weight loss.
If you want to learn more about the benefits of fermented cabbage, one of the main ingredients of kimchi, read this article about fermenting cabbage in a jar.
How to eat kimchi
Although you might find kimchi strange if you have never tasted or seen it, you should know that it is found in almost all types of Korean food. It can be eaten as a side dish to main dishes to snack on and change the flavor, or even as a condiment for an elaborate dish, such as: Kimchi Jjigae, Kimchi Kuk, Kimchi Bukum Bab, Kimchi Bikimkutsu or Kimchi Mandu.
During the fermentation process, it acquires a flavor that is between salty and sour, as well as a spicy note that is very characteristic of this region. In recent years, softer kimchis have been developed, making them more accessible to all palates, but the original must melt in the mouth and be full of contrasting flavors.
There are other ways to start eating kimchi that may be less intimidating: Kimchi pancakes. They are crispy, delicious, and tasty, and they are super easy to make, too. To find out how, check out our article how to make kimchi pancakes crispy.
How to make homemade kimchi
Wondering where to buy kimchi? Currently, there are many supermarkets and restaurants in Western cities where you can buy kimchi. However, if you want to make homemade kimchi at home, it is best to go to an oriental supermarket and buy Chinese cabbage, fish paste, Chinese chili powder, soybean paste and rice flour. To make kimchi, you'll also need sugar, salt, garlic, ginger, water, and sesame seeds. It does take time, but you can learn to do it by following these steps:
- Wash and cut the Chinese cabbage into medium sized pieces.
- Let it sit in a brine with water and coarse salt for 12 hours.
- Make a paste of the garlic and ground ginger and add it to the mixture of rice flour, chili powder, fish sauce, soybean paste, sesame seeds and sugar to make a kind of red, lumpy paste with a strong smell.
- After 12 hours, mix the Chinese cabbage with the red mixture in sealable jars.
- Keep Korean kimchi in the refrigerator for 8 days until it ferments.
As we mentioned earlier, there are many varieties of kimchi. If you want to know how to prepare one of the most popular recipes, Napa cabbage kimchi, continue reading this article on how to prepare traditional Napa cabbage kimchi.
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