What is Kimchi and How is it Made?
There is a growing number of people who are going crazy over Kimchi. It is one of the hottest trending food fads today. This is not surprising given that Kimchi has a very unique, very complex flavor profile. This popular Korean food also has many uses. Its nutritional value does not disappoint either. So what is Kimchi and how do people make it?
A Look at Kimchi
Kimchi has been around since 37 BC. It is a very important part of traditional Korean cuisine. Ancient Koreans, called the Goguryeo people, harvested vegetables prior to the onset of winter. Since there were no refrigerators yet at the time, they had to think of more ingenious ways to preserve their harvest. One solution was to pickle the vegetables.
The traditional Kimchi recipe calls for the pickling of vegetables. They are then fermented in large ceramic pots, which the Goguryeo buried in the ground. This helped prevent the kimchi from freezing. The main Kimchi ingredients include Korean radish and Napa cabbage. They are pickled with spring onions, ginger, garlic, chili powder (gochugaru), and salted seafood (jeotgal).
Today, there are many variants of Kimchi. There are those who still prefer to adhere to the ways of the old. Some use scallions and cucumbers instead of cabbage. Different regions have their own take on what kimchi should contain. What is important to understand is that kimchi is nothing more than pickled and fermented vegetables.
The Flavor of Kimchi
Is Kimchi spicy? It depends on the type and amount of chili peppers added to the recipe. It can be very mild or very spicy. It can also be sour. This is because it is a fermented product. The fermentation process leads to the production of lactic acid. This gives Kimchi its distinct pungent and tangy flavor. People say that it tastes like sauerkraut.
Most Kimchis will also have a distinct fishy flavor and aroma. This is because of the inclusion of a fermented fish paste in the recipe. It gives the fermented vegetables its umami flavor. There are Kimchi recipes that do not use fish paste. These often have a fresher and lighter flavor. Is Kimchi vegan? If you get the Kimchi that doesn’t use fish paste, then it is vegan.
There is also a strong garlic flavor in the Kimchi. It works with chili peppers in giving the dish its characteristic ‘heat’. It also helps intensify the base flavor of the dish. You will also notice hints of sweetness and saltiness to the dish. Everything depends on the amount of sugar and salt that is included in the recipe.
Cabbage-based Kimchi has a stronger flavor. Those that use radish or cucumber will have a much lighter taste.
Benefits of Kimchi
The different ingredients used in this popular Korean food give many Kimchi benefits. For starters, the vegetables alone already contain dietary fiber that are beneficial in improving digestion. They are also rich in antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that can support the different metabolic processes of the body. The good news is that these vegetables are low in calories. You can consume more than a bowl of Kimchi and never worry about gaining weight.
Kimchi also relies on Lactobacilli in its fermentation. This is the same species of bacteria that people use in the making of yogurt. Lactobacilli are a probiotic that can help improve the population of good bacteria in the digestive tract. This promotes healthier digestion while boosting the immune system.
Garlic also contains powerful bioactive compounds. It contains selenium and allicin. These substances have been shown to have the ability to reduce the level of total cholesterol in the blood. A reduction in cholesterol helps lower the chance of getting a stroke or a heart disease.
The antioxidants found in Kimchi can also bring about a number of benefits. It can promote a more radiant skin and healthier hair. It can also address some of the early signs of aging, such as wrinkles and fine lines.
Chili peppers contain capsaicin that can help increase the rate of metabolism of the body. This can increase the amount of fat molecules burned, helping people lose weight.
Kimchi can also help prevent stomach cancer. They contain isocyanate, which can play an important role in the prevention of stomach cancer. Isocyanate and sulfide can also detoxify heavy metals found in the kidneys, small intestines, and the liver.
Kimchi is no longer just a traditional Korean side dish. It has clearly crossed international boundaries to become one of the most popular dishes to ever come out of the Korean peninsula.
- All You Need to Know About Kimchi, the Traditional Korean Side Dish – Culture Trip
- Spicy Cabbage Kimchi Recipe – Allrecipes