“What is kimchi, and why should I eat it?”, you might be asking yourself. What is it and why is it so popular?
Kimchi is a kind of traditional, slightly spicy Korean sauerkraut made from fermented vegetables.
Its basic vegetables are usually napa cabbage, daikon radish, and carrots. Garlic, ginger, and Korean chili (gochugaru) are added for flavour.
This mixture is then lacto-fermented so that it develops a pleasant acidity and keeps longer.
In Korea, kimchi is served with almost every meal. It is used as both a side dish and a condiment. With its complex flavours and spiciness, it will enhance any dull dish.
Beware, once you have tasted kimchi, it is easy to get hooked!
What Does Kimchi Taste Like?
Kimchi has rich and complex flavours.
During the fermentation process, the vegetables become slightly softer, while keeping their crunchiness.
They also acquire a nice acidity offering a pleasant freshness in the mouth.
In addition, most kimchis contain Korean chili. Also known as gochugaru pepper, this chili is medium hot, but has a delicate, fruity, slightly smoky flavour.
Gochugaru is usually sun-dried and sold as a powder. It gives kimchi its spiciness and beautiful red colour.
The chili is combined with other herbs, such as garlic and ginger. Some recipes also include seafood or fish sauce. These additions give kimchi a complex “umami” flavour.
In summary, kimchi is a tangy, spicy, and fragrant condiment. You can’t get enough of it!
To learn more about this delicious condiment and its origins, check out 9 amazing facts about kimchi.
Kimchi is consumed around the world for its great taste, but also for its benefits.
What Are the Benefits of Kimchi?
Kimchi is all about healthy vegetables, full of fibre and nutrients.
One of the advantages of fermentation is that it preserves the goodness of the vegetables. In addition, some bacteria synthesize new nutrients, such as vitamins C and B.
Kimchi is therefore a good source of vitamins and minerals.
Kimchi was originally produced to preserve the nutrients in vegetables during the long Korean winters.
During fermentation, the carbohydrates naturally present in the vegetables are consumed by the bacteria. Kimchi is therefore low in calories and high in fibre.
A Healthy Microbiota
During fermentation, kimchi develops good probiotic bacteria. As these bacteria grow, they ‘pre-digest’ the vegetables, thus increasing the supply of nutrients (1).
Kimchi is considered both a probiotic and a prebiotic. Both types of nutrients can, from a scientific perspective, support our microbiota. Because gut health is important for our overall health!
Indeed, studies have shown a connection between kimchi consumption and better diabetes management. The good lactic bacteria found in kimchi are believed to help reduce insulin resistance (2, 3).
Other studies are looking at the connection between microbiota and obesity. Kimchi consumption has been studied to help reduce obesity and improve metabolism in obese individuals (4, 5).
Studies on fermented foods and the microbiota are increasing! For more information, see our article on the benefits of kimchi according to science.
Kimchi is downright delicious! During the fermentation process, the flavours of the vegetables and herbs blend together, creating complex new aromas and tastes.
The rich and strong taste of kimchi can take some getting used to. It is like a strong cheese: once you get used to it, you will ask for more.
In addition, the fermentation and some ingredients (such as fish sauce) create “umami” flavours. These compounds bring out the other flavours, making us want to take another bite!
The initiated can’t get enough of it. Try it and see for yourself!
How to Cook Kimchi?
Kimchi is usually used as a side dish. However, we love to incorporate it into recipes. Here are some ideas for eating kimchi!
In a Bowl of Rice (Bibimbap)
Bibimbap is a comfort food dish made with rice, meat, vegetables and topped with an egg. You mix everything together when you eat it. The acidity and freshness of the kimchi blend perfectly!
In a Soup (Kimchi Jjigae)
Kimchi soup is delicious and comforting. The tasty kimchi gives the broth its flavour, to which meat, tofu, vegetables, noodles, etc. are added.
In Savoury Pancakes (Kimchi Buchimgae)
Mixing kimchi into pancake batter and baking it makes crispy pancakes, similar to latkes.
In Dumpling (Kimchi Mandu)
Simply mix some meat (choose from pork, beef, or chicken) with finely chopped kimchi. With all these ingredients, kimchi gives the stuffing a wonderful flavour!
In Fried Rice
Add kimchi at the end of the cooking process so that it retains its crunchiness while sharing its flavour with the rest of the ingredients.
In a Grilled Cheese Sandwich
You can make the best grilled cheese sandwich with tasty bread, melting cheese, and chopped kimchi. A must-try!
For more recipe ideas, see 44 ideas for eating fermented vegetables.
Where to Find Kimchi?
Kimchi is easily found in Asian grocery stores in the fresh refrigerated products section. It can also be found in many supermarkets in the health food section.
However, kimchi is very easy to make at home!
You just need to know the basics of lacto-fermentation and get some fresh vegetables. Then just follow the recipe! Here are some great ones to start with: