Kimchi Love Affair: A Delicious Fermentation History
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish included in most meals. It is also commonly used in soups, stews and other entrees. I’m no history buff, so I looked up a quick google search for when kimchi was invented. Most research indicates that kimchi is around 4,000 years old!
Kimchi (pickled vegetables) is one of the most distinct dishes in Korean culture. There are hundreds of varieties, the most popular types being cabbage, radish and cucumber. It’s spicy, sour, pungent taste is perhaps an acquired taste but one worth getting used to if you don’t immediately vibe with it. I have always LOVED it.
My mother used to tell me stories of the winters in Korea. She grew up on a farm in the countryside and they didn’t own a refrigerator. She said that when it snowed, they had to make sure all of the food that was harvested would last through the cold winter. It was traditional to ferment kimchi in earthenware jars called “onggi”. Vegetables like cucumber, radish and cabbage were brined and soaked in vinegar. To ensure the kimchi did not freeze, they buried these jars letting the natural cold of the ground act as a refrigerator.
I was always fascinated by these stories and frequently imagined what it was like to grow up with such scarce convenience of technology. But what was present in Korean’s technical approach to ensuring a well-fed winter was the OG refrigeration: a beautiful and simplistic tradition.
Now kimchi is an available Korean food at almost any grocery store including American ones. But the irony to me is that due to health code in most states, the kimchi that is sold isn’t nearly as fermented as it should be. The fermentation process creates most of the alluring health benefits that are creating a buzz amongst non-Koreans. So my next post will be about how to make your own kimchi at home! Don’t worry, it’s super easy!!!
Enticing Health Benefits
Apparently all of my Korean aunts have been right: kimchi is good for you. It boasts high levels of vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, and riboflavin. Vitamin K is essential for bone health and wound healing. And for all my female readers: did you know vitamin K can relive heavy menstruation?! Amazing! Many vegans will be glad to be able to get their source of riboflavin that can be lacking in vegan diets. Riboflavin is responsible for energy production and aids metabolism.
Kimchi is rich in probiotics due to the fermentation process. Probiotics are incredible for GI health and maintaining a healthy level of good bacteria in your gut. The lactobacillus probiotic found in kimchi reportedly boosts immune health. Kimchi contains a compound (HDMPPA) which lowers and suppresses inflammation which is the root of many diseases and chronic pain. Kimchi may help candida overgrowth (a yeast found in the body that can cause infection if levels become too high). Many women suffer from yeast infections as a result of candida overgrowth.
Kimchi is a low calorie, nutrient dense Korean food that is also high in fiber. It is inexpensive and easy to make so will be a great food to incorporate in your diet! I include kimchi in a ton of my recipes and I find it to be one of the healthiest, most delicious parts of Korean cuisine!