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The World of Korean Healthy Food: Kimchi

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Korea’s national dish, kimchi, embodies the ideology of Korean cuisine. It uses a technique of preserving and fortifying vegetables―mostly through the process of fermentation. There are over 100 different types of kimchi that are made using seasonal ingredients. Any vegetables can be used such as radish, onions, cucumbers, eggplant, etc. It can be made from almost every vegetable and it can also be made from fruit such as apples and pears.

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Thanks to Fermentation with Red Pepper Powder, Kimchi Has Crispiness and a Distinct Spicy Taste


Ancient recipes indicate that the original kimchi was made from boiling salted cabbage with beef stock. The problem with this type of kimchi was shelf life and it did not have the nutrition of today’s kimchi.
The ubiquitous cabbage kimchi that Koreans love and adore has been around since the 17th century. The red chili powder was introduced around the year 1580 via Portuguese missionaries who were traveling through Asia. At first the chili powder was considered crude and base―only commoners would use it. However it was soon discovered to be nutritious and it was great for increasing the storage life of vegetables. Therefore it was added to a mixture of garlic, ginger, daikon radish, fermented fish and onions to make the basic seasoning for kimchi. These combined ingredients will preserve and fortify the vegetables and start a natural fermentation process.
Kimchi is rich in dietary fibers, lacto bacilus, lactic acid and acetic acid, which is extremely beneficial to the digestive system. The fermentation process allows kimchi to be stored for long periods of time. In the past, kimchi would be only made before the start of winter at the kimchi making festival, Kimjang. This festival would unite families and villages, as people would make hundreds of heads of kimchi and then store them in special slab pottery pots called onggi that they would bury up to the neck of the pot in the ground. The burying process would help the fermentation and keep the vegetables at the optimal temperature. These days specialized kimchi refrigerators are used to maintain correct temperature and humidity.
Today, kimchi is still seen at almost every meal in Korea. It has been used in Western dishes including pasta sauce, hotdogs, tacos, hamburgers, and in savory pancakes. Also, it can be used as a filling for dumplings and flavoring for noodles. As kimchi becomes universally known, the applications for this dish become endless.

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Diverse Kimchi Dishes


In Korea there are endless varieties of kimchi but one that Koreans specialize in is sour, aged kimchi called mugeunji kimchi. The cabbages for mugeunji kimchi are heavily salted and stored in constant temperature without exposure to air. This process can take up to two years and some places will age them for over three years. The result is a flavor-bomb kimchi that makes excellent stews and braises. The pungent kimchi is usually braised with pork and the acid from the kimchi helps marinate and tenderize the meat. The flavorful kimchi topped with pork is delicious with a bowl of hot rice. The stewing process tenderizes the leaves of the kimchi so they can easily be pulled apart with chopsticks. This kimchi is also great for sauteing―especially for kimchi fried rice. The kimchi should first be sauteed with some roasted sesame oil to balance the flavor. Then, add rice and mix. I like to top my fried rice with some shredded, roasted seaweed and a sunny side up egg. This kimchi when chopped up works as a great topping for hotdogs and hamburgers as well. The sour kimchi goes great on plain noodles or Janchi-guksu (thin noddle in clear broth) or knife-cut noodles.


To Get Kimchi Pancakes
Pancake at Kwangjang Market
Jongno-gu Yeji-dong 6-1

Place to Get Kimchi Hotdogs
Bulldogs
Yongsan-gu Bogwang-ro 116

To Get Mugeunji Kimchi Stew
Omori Kimchi
Jongno-gu Gwansu-dong 160-4

To Get Kimchi Fried Rice after Having Beef Barbecue
Daedo Restaurant
Seongdong-gu Hongik-dong 431

Where You Can Learn to Make Kimchi
O’ngo Food Communications
Jongno-gu Nakwon-dong 55-1 3rd Floor

Park Sung Eun  parkse@agrinet.co.kr

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