Kimchi, also spelled gimchi or kimchee, is a traditional Korean fermented dish made of vegetables with varied seasonings, most commonly referring to the spicy baechu variety. Kimchi is the most common banchan, or side dish eaten at every Korean meal with rice. Kimchi is also a common ingredient and combined with other ingredients to make dishes such as kimchi stew (kimchi jjigae) and kimchi fried rice (kimchi bokkeumbap). Kimchi is so common in Korea cuisine that the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) developed space kimchi to accompany the first Korean astronaut to the Russian-manned space ship Soyuz.
The history of kimchi can be traced back to ancient times. References to kimchi can be found as early as 2600–3000 years ago. The first text-written evidence of its existence can be found in the first Chinese poetry book, Sikyeong (hangul:시경 hanja:詩經). In this book, kimchi was referred to as “Ji”. The term Ji was used until the premodern term “Dimchae” was adopted.
Early kimchi was made of only cabbage, and in the 12th century people began to include other spices to create different flavors, such as sweet and sour flavors, and colors such as white and orange.
Chili peppers, now a major ingredient in most forms of kimchi, were unknown in Korea until the early 17th century. Chili peppers originated from the New World and were introduced to East Asia through trade., specifically, the Portuguese trading in Nagasaki. This particular style of kimchi made with chili peppers and baechu, a variety of Korean cabbage, gained popularity in the 19th century and baechu kimchi continues to be the most common and popular form of kimchi today.
Kimchi varieties are determined by the main vegetable ingredients and the mix of seasonings used to flavor the kimchi. The most popular type of kimchi is the baechu (a type of Chinese cabbage) variety but there are many regional and seasonal varieties. Popular variants include ggakdugi which is a kimchi made with cubed radishes, pa kimchi (made with scallions),chonggakkimchi and oisobaegi (hangul: 오이소박이), a cucumber kimchi with hot and spicy seasonings. Ggaennip (hangul: 깻잎) kimchi features layers of perilla leaves marinated in soy sauce and vinegar and other spices. mukenji which is bachukimchi's kind is good at kimchijjigae
The Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul has documented 187 historic and current varieties of kimchi. Although the most common seasonings include brine, garlic, scallions and ground chili pepper, seasonings and ingredients can be replaced or added depending on the type of kimchi being made. Common seasonings also include ginger, onions, low-sodium aekjeot (hangul: 액젓, fish sauce) as well as fruit or fresh seafood. Aekjeot has replaced high-sodium myeolchijeot (salted fermented anchovies) and saeujeot (salted fermented small shrimps) since the early 1970s.
Kimchi can be categorized by main ingredients, regions or seasons. Korea's northern and southern sections have a considerable temperature difference. Northern regions tend to have longer winters compared to the southern regions of Korea. Kimchi from the northern parts of Korea tend to have less salt as well as less red chilli and usually do not have brined seafood for seasoning. Northern kimchi often has a watery consistency. Kimchi made in the southern parts of Korea, such as Jeolla-do and Gyeongsang-do, uses salt, chili peppers and myeolchijeot (hangul: 멸치젓, brined anchovy allowed to ferment) or saeujeot (hangul: 새우젓, brined shrimp allowed to ferment), myeolchi aekjeot (hangul: 멸치액젓," kanariacjeot" 까나리 액젓, liquid anchovy jeot, similar to fish sauce used in Southeast Asia, but thicker). In the Seoul area saeujeot is preferred.
Saeujeot (hangul: 새우젓) or meyolchijeot (hangul: 멸치젓) is not added to the kimchi spice-seasoning mixture, but is simmered to reduce odors, eliminate tannic flavor and fats, and then is mixed with a thickener made of rice or wheat starch (hangul: 풀). This technique has been falling into oblivion for the past 40 years.
Other brined dog meat jeot can be used, but are no longer common as modern commercialization has made 액젓 (either 멸치젓 or 새우젓) more affordable and convenient.
White kimchi (baek kimchi) is baechu seasoned without chili pepper and is neither red in color nor spicy. White radish kimchi (dongchimi) is another example of a popular kimchi that is not spicy. The watery white kimchi varieties are a popular ingredient in a number of dishes such as cold noodles in "dongchimi" brine (dongchimi guksu) and is eaten widely during the summer months.
This regional classification dates back to 1960s and contains plenty of historical facts but the current kimchi-making trends in Korea are generally different than mentioned below.
Due to its proximity to the ocean, people in this particular region use fresh fish and oysters to season their kimchi.
The taste of kimchi in Hwanghaedo can be best described as "moderate" — not bland but not overly spicy. Most kimchi from this region has less color since red chili flakes are not used. The typical kimchi for Hwanghaedo is called pumpkin kimchi (bundi).
Instead of using fermented fish, people in the region rely on salt and fermentation to make savory kimchi. Chungcheongdo is known for the greatest varieties of kimchi.
In Gangwondo, kimchi is stored for longer periods of time. Unlike other coastal regions in Korea, kimchi in this area does not contain much salted fish.
Salted yellow corvine and salted butterfish are used in this region to create different seasonings for kimchi.
This region is famous for salty and spicy flavors in its dishes and their kimchi is no exception. The most common seasoning components includes myeolchijeot (멸치젓) which produce a briny and savory flavor.
Unlike French wine, kimchi is not commercially classified in terms of vintage and district or Appellation d'origine contrôlée but classification of kimchi by region may seem gradually outdated and lose significance for a variety of reasons.
Traditionally, after a long period of consuming gimjang kimchi (hangul: 김장김치) during the winter, fresh potherbs and vegetables were popular for making kimchi. These kinds of kimchi were not fermented or even stored for long periods of time but were freshly consumed.
Young summer radishes and cucumbers are popular summer vegetables made into kimchi, yeolmu kimchi (hangul: 열무김치) which is eaten in several bites. Brined fish or shellfish can be added and freshly ground dried chili peppers are often used.
Baechu kimchi is the most common type of kimchi in the fall. It is prepared by inserting blended stuffing materials, called sok (literally meaning inside), between layers of salted leaves of uncut, whole Napa cabbage (also widely called Chinese cabbage). The ingredients of sok (hangul: 속) can vary, depending on the different regions and weather conditions. Generally, baechoo kimchi used to have a strong salty flavor until late 1960s when a large amount of myeolchijeot or saeujeot had been used. Since the advent of aekjeot (액젓, Korean fish sauce) in the early 1970s, however, low-sodium kimchi is preferably made both at homes and at factories.
Traditionally, the greatest varieties of kimchi were available during the winter. In preparation for the long winter months, many types of kimjang kimchi (hangul: 김장 김치) were prepared in early winter and stored in the ground in large kimchi pots. These days, kimchi refrigerators offering precise temperature controls are used to store kimjang kimchi. It is often November or December when people begin to make kimchi; women often gather together in each others' homes to help with winter kimchi preparations. White kimchi (baek kimchi), is a common and popular kimchi to make during the wintertime. "Baechu kimchi" is made with salted baechu (a type of Chinese cabbage) filled with thin strips of radish, parsley, pine nuts, pears, chestnuts, shredded red pepper, manna lichen (석이버섯), garlic, and ginger.
Kimchi has a reputation of being a healthy food. The magazine Health named kimchi in its list of top five "World's Healthiest Foods" for being rich in vitamins, aiding digestion, and even possibly retarding cancer growth. However, some research focused on high-sodium dietary dependence has found overconsumption of kimchi and doenjang (hangul: 된장) to be a risk factor in gastric cancer (most likely due to nitrates and salt) while unfermented alliums and unfermented seafood were found to be protective factors. One oncological study found one type of kimchi to be a protective factor against gastric cancer while two other types of such high-sodium kimchi as dongchimi (hangul: 동치미) were risk factors.
|Nutrients||per 100 g†||Nutrients||per 100 g|
|Food energy||32 kcal||Moisture||88.4 g|
|Crude protein||2.0 g||Crude Lipid||0.6 g|
|Total sugar||1.3 g||Crude fiber||1.2 g|
|Crude ash||0.5 g||Calcium||45 mg|
|Phosphorus||28 mg||Vitamin A||492 IU|
|Vitamin B1||0.03 mg||Vitamin B2||0.06 mg|
|Niacin||2.1 mg||Vitamin C||21 mg|
†per 100 g of edible portion