Kimchi (also spelled kimchee or gimchi) is a traditional fermented Korean side dish made of vegetables with a variety of seasonings. It is often described as spicy and sour. In traditional preparation, kimchi is often allowed to ferment underground in jars for months. There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi made from napa cabbage, radish, spring onion (scallion), or cucumber as a main ingredient.
- 1 head Wombok (Chinese cabbage, napa cabbage), about 600g (1¼ lb)
- ¼ cup sea salt
- 1 litre water
- ¼ cup chilli flakes (red pepper flakes), up to ⅓ cup depending on the degree of spiciness you prefer
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 3 spring onions (scallions), sliced
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce, optional
- ½ onion
- ½ ripe apple
- ½ ripe nashi
- 1 cup water
- Separate cabbage leaves and chop into bite-size pieces.
- Dissolve a quarter cup of sea salt in a bowl of warm water then pour salt water over cabbage leaves. Give cabbage a gentle toss to distribute salt water. Allow salted cabbage to sit for at least four hours.
- Give cabbage a good rinse to remove excess salt then transfer cabbage to a large bowl.
- Combine a quarter cup of fine red chilli pepper flakes with warm water, stir gently with a spoon to create a red chilli paste, then transfer chilli paste to cabbage.
- Add minced garlic, minced ginger, spring onions, and fish sauce.
- Blend onion, apple, and nashi with one cup of water, then add this natural sweetener to the cabbage.
- Put on a pair of plastic gloves and give everything a thorough toss and rubdown. You want to evenly distribute all ingredients, especially the red chilli paste.
- Transfer seasoned cabbage leaves into a large glass bottle. Be sure to use firm pressure with your hands to push down on cabbage leaves as they stack up inside the bottle.
- Transfer any liquid that accumulated during the mixing process into the bottle as well - this liquid will become kimchi brine. Some liquid will also come out of the cabbage leaves as you press down on them as they are stacked in the bottle.
- Be sure to leave about 5cm (2") of room at the top of the bottle before capping it tightly with a lid. Allow bottle of kimchi to sit at room temperature for at least 24 hours.
- Refrigerate and take out portions as needed. The refrigerated kimchi will continue to ferment slowly in the refrigerator over time. So long as you use clean utensils to take out small portions, it will keep for up to a month in your refrigerator.
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History of Kimchi
The earliest references to pickled vegetables in East Asia are found in the Chinese Xin Nan Shan 信南山 poem of the Shi Jing (詩經), which uses the character 菹 or 葅 (Korean “jeo”, modern Mandarin Chinese “ju1”). The term ji was used until the pre-modern terms chimchae (hanja: 沈菜, lit. soaked vegetables), dimchae, and timchae were adopted in the period of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. The word then was modified into jimchi, and is currently kimchi.
Early kimchi was made of cabbage and beef stock only. Red chilli, a New World vegetable not found in Korea before European contact with the Americas, was introduced to Korea from Japan after the Japanese invasions (1592–1598) and became a staple ingredient in kimchi, although its use was not documented until the 18th century. Red chilli pepper flakes are now used as the main ingredient for spice and source of heat for many varieties of kimchi. In the twelfth century other spices, creating flavours such as sweet and sour, and colours, such as white and orange, were added.
Kimchi is Korea’s national dish. During South Korea’s involvement in the Vietnam War its government requested American help to ensure that South Korean troops, reportedly “desperate” for the food, could obtain it in the field; South Korean president Park Chung-hee told U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson that kimchi was “vitally important to the morale of Korean troops”. It was also sent to space on board Soyuz TMA-12 with Yi So-yeon after a multi-million dollar research effort to kill the bacteria and lessen the odour without affecting taste.
Health Benefits of Kimchi
- Kimchi is fermented, and much like yoghurt, it contains “healthy bacteria” that are called lactobacilli. These aid in the digestion process within your body. Another amazing by-product of its fermentation process is that these probiotics can also fight off various infections in your body.
- It may also have anti-aging benefits. Kimchi, after two weeks of being fermented, is rich in anti-oxidants, which decrease the rate of aging of the skin. It also inhibits cell oxidation, making you appear carefree and relaxed.
- Kimchi helps in reducing obesity rates in women. Researchers tested the effects of kimchi on body weight in a group of obese women. Women who supplemented with capsules containing either 3 or 6 grams of freeze-dried kimchi every day achieved a remarkable decrease in body weight, visceral fat and body mass index compared to the control group.
- Regular consumption of kimchi has a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels. Garlic, which is used to prepare kimchi, is rich in selenium and allicin. Allicin is a component that helps in lowering cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of developing cardiac disorders such as strokes and heart attacks.
- Kimchi is a valuable food that helps to reduce the risk of development of various cancers. Studies performed on kimchi samples have validated its anti-cancer properties. The cabbage present in kimchi contains healthful flavonoids, which are known to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
- Kimchi is made of various vegetables and contains a high concentration of dietary fibre while being low in calories. One serving also provides over 50% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C and carotene.