Unless you have been living in a cave or been leading a solitary monk-like life, you would know about the Korean wave that has taken the world by storm. Male and female South Korean actors grace the many screen devices of people who do not even speak the language, and of course, K-pop music can be heard blasting out of the speakers in shopping malls everywhere.
Besides its music, dramas and variety shows, one aspect of South Korea that has been gaining popularity is its cuisine. And when we think of Korean food, the first thing that pops up in our minds is probably kimchi.
Kimchi, The One that Reigns Supreme
Kimchi is a staple part of Korean cuisine. You would be hard-pressed to find a Korean meal that does not come with a side of kimchi. For those who are unfamiliar with kimchi, let us find out more about this beloved national dish.
The Basics of Kimchi
Kimchi is essentially a type of fermented food. Cabbages make up the foundation of kimchi, while other vegetables, spices and seasonings are added to enhance the flavour of the dish. These ingredients can include radishes, carrots, green onions, garlic, ginger, fish sauce. Chilli powder is usually added as well to add a level of spiciness to the dish.
Kimchi, More Ways than One
Do you know that kimchi is available in various types? The various types of kimchi might differ depending on the ingredients used, level of spiciness, and length of fermentation. These three factors will alter the taste of that particular type of kimchi. This also means that certain kinds of kimchi pair better with specific dishes.
The Art of Making Kimchi
In Korea, each family might have their own standard kimchi recipe, which has been passed down through generations. A family’s kimchi recipe can sometimes even be considered a treasured possession that has to be safeguarded and protected.
Step One: Brining
The task of making kimchi usually falls onto the hands of mothers or grandmothers, and is a time-intensive process as big batches are usually made simultaneously. The first step involved in the kimchi-making process is salting the cabbages, also known as brining. This allows all of the extra moisture in the cabbages to drain off. The purpose of brining is also to extend the preservation life of the cabbages, as well as enabling the other spices and seasonings to easily absorb into the cabbages.
Step Two: Making the Kimchi Paste
During the brining process, all of the other ingredients will be combined in a separate bowl and mixed thoroughly to create the kimchi paste. Once the brining stage is done, the paste will be spread out evenly onto the cabbages.
Step Three: The Fermentation Station
The finished product will then be stored in a container and kept in the fridge to allow fermentation to take place. Keeping the kimchi in the fridge also slows down the fermentation process, as well as enables the flavour to fully develop. Traditionally, the kimchi would be stored in a jug and kept underground to allow it to stay cool during the warmer seasons, while preventing it from freezing during the winter season. Some families in Korea still maintain that practice today, while others opt for the modern method of refrigeration.
Why You Should Eat Kimchi
Kimchi, along with other kinds of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and sourdough bread have recently enjoyed a surge of popularity. Just search online and you will find a plethora of websites providing recipes to these fermented foods. This is largely due to the different benefits consuming fermented foods have on our health, including:
Keeping Our Gut Healthy
Our gut consists of an ecosystem made up of a countless number of diverse microorganisms. The diversity of our gut’s ecosystem partly depends on the food we consume. A healthy, balanced diet will maintain a good diversity of microorganisms, while an unhealthy diet, such as a high-sugar diet, can increase the number of bad microorganisms in our gut. Consuming fermented foods like kimchi is one way to help our gut maintain a diverse ecosystem.
Achieving Clear Skin
Who would have thought that eating fermented foods can have a positive impact on our skin? Again, our gut health plays an important role here too. When you regularly eat fermented foods such as kimchi, it promotes the growth of good bacteria in your gut. These good bacteria can in turn help to reduce inflammation. Since inflammation may be one of the causes of acne in some people, including kimchi or other fermented foods in our diet may help acne sufferers achieve clear skin.
Promoting Food Satiety
To a certain extent, how satisfied we feel after eating a meal depends on the types of nutrients available in our food. One of the nutrients that promote food satiety is fibre. Examples of high-fibre foods are oatmeal, avocadoes, lentils, and you guessed it, kimchi! Since kimchi consists of a different assortment of vegetables that are high in fibre, consuming kimchi will help you feel full, which will in turn prevent you from overeating.