In recent years, the traditional Korean pickled side dish, kimchi, has become increasingly popular all over the world, including the United States. Maybe you’re not in the know yet, but kimchi is one of Korea’s staples. Kimchi is a fermented cabbage dish, flavored with red pepper, salt, and sometimes other vegetables.
Traditionally, kimchi is eaten with rice and other Korean dishes, but as globalization gives us a taste of new dishes from all over the world, there are many ways that kimchi can be integrated in foods that you love.
Including pickled foods, many different cultures embrace fermentation in traditional dishes from German sauerkraut to stinky cheeses to Chinese fermented tofu. From fermented foods, we are able to discover unique tastes that aren’t available in fresh foods.
We also benefit from the shelf lives of fermented foods. Unlike fresh vegetables and dairy products, a jar of kimchi can sit in the refrigerator or even in the cool, dark area of a cabinet, for an extended period of time, and it’s still safe to eat. Which is why pickled foods are so popular in traditional cooking from a number of different cultures. Before refrigeration, people needed a way to maintain a healthy diet when fresh vegetables weren’t available.
But why do we love kimchi so much?
Like other pickled foods, kimchi offers the savory sourness that you can find in dill pickles and sauerkraut. With the extra kick of the spice and a very specific taste, kimchi is taking the world by storm.
Kimchi is the kind of food that can’t be replicated by others, so it’s difficult to describe it beyond pickled spicy cabbage–which doesn’t exactly sound that appetizing–but it is surprisingly quite delicious with a wide variety of different foods. Maybe you like it with your rice, maybe you like it on a taco, maybe you like it with your burger. That’s the beauty of kimchi: you can have it with just about anything!
The Health Benefits
Not only do fermented food provide us with vitamins that we seek in fresh foods, which aren’t always available, but they also provide other health benefits that we can’t find in other foods. Fermentation allows food to create certain kinds of bacteria that help us digest. Fermented foods also normally have probiotics that we can’t find in other foods. Probiotics help us digest, support a healthy immune system, and can even be traced to reducing inflammation.
You’ve probably heard of umami as a recently discovered taste along with the standard sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. Umami is the earthy flavor you might find in mushrooms or soy sauce. It’s also found in MSG, which you can often find in Asian food seasoning. Fermented foods often have a very strong umami taste which occurs naturally rather than being added with MSG. By adding a fermented dish to your meal, you expand the flavors available in your day-to-day meals.
If you haven’t already added fermented foods like kimchi to your diet, it’s time to explore!
Interested in trying out Kimchi? Click below!