If America runs on Dunkin, Korea runs on kimchi. We Koreans eat kimchi every day, if not at every meal. Kimchi is the backbone of Korean cuisine and what keeps us going. This is meant to be a quick introduction for those who are fairly new to kimchi. We will explore kimchi in much greater depth with future posts.
So, what is kimchi?
Broadly defined, kimchi is vegetables that are salted or brined and fermented with seasonings. When we say “kimchi,” we usually refer to spicy napa cabbage kimchi. Napa cabbage is the most common vegetable used in making kimchi.
For other variations, we specify the vegetable name before the word “kimchi” (e.g., “O-ee Kimchi” means Cucumber Kimchi and “Yeolmu Kimchi” means Summer Radish Kimchi). Kimchi is also used as an ingredient for many other Korean dishes such as kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew), kimchi bokkeumbap (kimchi fried rice), and kimchi jeon (kimchi pancake), just to name a few.
Kimchi is a must-have side dish at every Korean meal. Every household in Korea has kimchi in their fridge or in their dedicated, specially-designed kimchi fridge. Koreans need kimchi every day to stay happy and sane. If some say otherwise, it’s a sign they are not real Koreans!
Kimchi smells like fart and that's why you should eat it!
Yep, kimchi smells like fart. But that pungent smell is a sign of health and prosperity coming to your body. The odor is from the magical fermentation that produces beneficial lactic acid bacteria, and that is super awesome for your gut health. Kimchi is also rich in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), calcium and iron.
Some researchers argue that kimchi is great for lowering cholesterol, fighting cancer, boosting immunity and anti-aging. Have you seen the BTS boys' glowing skin? Do you think that comes from lotion? No! Forget about the K-beauty section at Sephora, just eat kimchi already!
Once you go kimchi, you can never go back.
Kimchi may be an acquired taste for some, but once you get passed the initial stage it becomes highly addictive. That’s because kimchi has a very unique flavor and texture that complements just about everything and completes the flavor experience of everything too.
When you eat kimchi, you are tasting the perfect balance of sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness and spiciness. And that’s not all. There is a sixth flavor, ‘umami’ which gives depth and opens up more taste receptors on your tongue. It’s like a natural MSG, but much better. No wonder eating kimchi boosts your appetite. Also, perfectly fermented kimchi has a subtle crispiness and a refreshing soda-like quality due to the CO2 produced during the fermentation process. This is what makes kimchi so perfect for fatty or greasy foods like meat or bacon.
And get this, eating kimchi as a side dish is only part of the deal. When you cook with kimchi, it opens up a whole new world of exciting flavors. Very important note here! Only a little over-fermented kimchi with enough sourness needs to be cooked to create the best flavor. That sour flavor and rich umami depth are magical when heat is brought in to the mix. Anyone who has tried good kimchi fried rice or kimchi jjigae knows exactly what that soul-satisfying, ever-addicting flavor is like.
Ready to jump in?
If you’ve never delved into the world of kimchi before, we hope we piqued your interest. We will share so much more about kimchi in the coming days and months. Come along for a delicious ride with us and follow us on social media for updates!