Basics About Kimchi: A Practical Guide

Easy Facts Revealed About Kimchi

Kimchi is a huge part of Korean cuisine. In fact 64% of of South Koreans eat kimchi at breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. The dish doesn’t come in just several variations, actually, there are more than 100 recipes for kimchi across north and south Korea. Traditionally made in autumn by families, it’s a way of preserving cabbage for the winter months. In its early days, kimchi is fermented by sealing it in big jars and then burying them in the ground. Some families in Korea still do that today.

For a quick study, here are the basics of kimchi. First, what are its common ingredients? Kimchi is typically made from fresh cabbage that’s been chopped and submerged in a salty brine with flavourings such as onions, garlic, fish sauce and a Korean chili powder called Gochugaru. Where does it color come from? The Gochugaru gives kimchi its bright red color, but doesn’t add too much heat. It gives an earthy, sweet and peppery flavor.

Kimchi is fermented. After the flavorings are added, the mixture is sealed to allow bacteria to feed on the sugars; sometimes bacteria is added to the mixture using a prepared ‘starter’ culture. How long do you wait before you eat it? It’s ready to eat – after two to four days of fermenting, when the cabbage becomes softer and the kimchi acquires its distinctive sour-fizzy taste. Then you can store it in the fridge to be enjoyed for months.

Why are there so many variations of kimchi?

Because that depends on regional specialties. Some add raw oysters, boiled eggs and tiny fresh shrimp to the mixture, while others replace the cabbage with other leafy vegetables or cucumbers. When you tasted a family’s kimchi, you would know where in the country they were from. Where is kimchi popular? While the Korean peninsula is considered the home of kimchi, it’s also produced and enjoyed in Japan and China, and more recently around the world.

Kimchi today is readily more available commercially, in supermarkets and grocery stores. Even in Korea now, many people in the big cities, they buy their kimchi instead of making it. Manufactured kimchi has now become very good, and there’s not too much difference with the kimchi that is made at home. It is best though to buy kimchi that has been kept refrigerated, to ensure its living bacteria have not been sterilized. Bacteria is important for flavor and for its health benefits for the gut.

Kimchi at Korean Tofu House

If you’re around UW in Seattle, visit the Korean Tofu House. We’ve got your favorites on our menu – all the Korean classic dishes you love.