Koreans consume almost 2 million tons of kimchi every year and they are not the only one. While the trend of raw food is rising, the dish with the cabbage that has undergone fermentation is spreading beyond the Korean peninsula and it is gaining more and more fans of tasty food and healthy eating. Well-known chefs and food bloggers turn Kimchi into a hot and modern dish but for Koreans it is not a trend. It’s about survival, tradition and cultural identity.
Kimchi appears in Korea, during the period of Three Kingdoms ( 1st century BC – 7th century AC). At that period, families were already using different conservation methods in order to have enough food during the harsh winter time. So, when the first vegetables came to Korea in 2030 BC, families let this product get fermented in order to preserve it. In 16th century, the first chili peppers arrived from. Since then, a mix of Chinese cabbage, vegetables, fish sauce, Kimchi, was established as the basic ingredient of Korean cuisine.
Undeniably, Kimchi is the food that Koreans can’t live without. It appears every day in different ways, either with hot pot, fried rice or even on its own. In autumn, North Koreans employers offer to their employees the “kimchi bonus,” which is a fund for the purchase of the ingredients needed for their annual kimchi preparation. The dish is prepared by women and each family has a characteristic secret recipe. Even today,that the industrial products have intruded in our lives – including kimchi from China- the majority of Koreans continue preparing it in their kitchens.
The importance of kimchi was highlighted in 2010, when heavy rain and hurricanes destroyed the cabbage crop of that year and this deficiency lead to a sudden price explosion and economic crisis that demanded the intervention of the government.
There are many varieties of kimchi, as it is made by different vegetables. Traditionally, they stored kimchi in pot containers, called onggi, which were suitable for the fermentation. They usually placed them beneath the soil to avoid freezing during winter and remain cold during summer or in a special storage place. Those traditions have changed due to the fridge introduction.
North Korea has a well-known rich and interesting cuisine. Some people claim, that the variety of vegetables that is used in this cuisine, makes it one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. One of its characteristics is the variety of accompaniments in a meal. Kimchi is served in almost every traditional meal in North Korea. The famous Kimchi is made with Chinese cabbage but many other vegetables can be used in this recipe. This dish helps us to understand how Korean cuisine has developed throughout the centuries and it also shows to us that this dish goes back in time, when survival was a top priority and preservation of food was of utmost importance.
The fermentation procedure is used for the production of sauerkraut as well- lactic acid fermentation-in both cases, the bacteria that ferment the sugar in vegetables, are beneficial. They are excellent probiotics. They not only preserve the food but also they give to it a unique flavor. Despite their similarities, kimchi and sauerkraut differ in some points. It is pickled Korean radish and Chinese cabbage, a variety of herbs as well as the fish sauce.
How can we include kimchi in our meal? Let’s make it clear that you don’t need to add anything, as you can eat it the way it is. You can add it in the rice, in the bowl of cornflakes, in savory crepes and pancakes, in tomato sauce for the pot roast and in the rabbit stew. You can try it with fried eggs, with a tortilla with avocado for breakfast or snack. What about pasta? Asians add it in noodles, so why not trying it in pasta? Forget about the tomatoes. Caramelize a little bit of kimchi with butter and you won’t stop eating!
When your jar is empty, don’t throw the juice that has remained! It’s a treasure liquid in flavor. You may add it to the mayonnaise in order to make a savory dip, a basis for the dressing or the liquid with which the rice will be cooked. You won’t regret it!
Adding Kimchi in the blender, you can create a delicious sauce, which you can use in order to create your own Kimchi. Cut fresh vegetables (Chinese cabbage, cucumbers etc), add them in a bowl and add the sauce above them. Mix the ingredients and let them in the fridge for half an hour the least, up to 12 hours before serving it.
Despite being so simple, Kimchi continues connecting Koreans with their traditions and it introduces the rest of the world to new gastronomic aspects.