food

Everything to know about kimchi - the easy-to-make Korean dish everyone is raving about.

Pop into a trendy restaurant and you’re bound to see kimchi on the menu.

But if you’re wondering “what is kimchi?” you’re not alone. The Korean side dish (or as some call it, a condiment) is made from fermented cabbage. Kimchi has been eaten in Korea for centuries, but in recent years it’s been gaining popularity with everyone else.

What is kimchi?

Kimchi is a tasty condiment or side dish that can be added to many meals. It’s commonly made from cabbage and Korean radishes, but sometimes other vegetables. These veggies are mixed with brining salt and spices and left to ferment at room temperature for a number of days then kept in the fridge to be used.

Like its fermented side dish cousin, sauerkraut, kimchi can be a bit of an acquired taste.

Kimchi has been eaten by people in China and Korea since before 1000AD. Back before refrigeration was widely available, pickling vegetables was a great way to preserve them for eating all year round. Kimchi has evolved a lot since then though and now involves a lot more spices and flavours, including garlic, chilli and ginger.

What are the health benefits of kimchi?

Kimchi has many health benefits, explains nutritionist Elyse Lagos.

“These little power foods not only add extra punch to your meals but also do wonders for your health, particularly, your gut health,” The Natural Nutritionist practice manager writes in her article about fermented food.

“The human gut is made up of a diverse range of bacteria, with over 100 trillion single-celled organisms. This community of microorganisms is known as our ‘gut flora’, which affects mood, mental focus, immune system function, fat storage and vitamin synthesis.”

Elyse explains that fermented vegetables – like kimchi – are one of the easiest and most convenient sources of good bacteria.

what-is-kimchi-health-benefits
Kimchi is easy to make at home. Image: The Natural Nutrionist.
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"Fermented foods, in general, contain billions of beneficial microbes, which drive out pathogens and therefore protect gut integrity.

"In addition, the bacteria pre-digests the food for us, which means we have greater access to nutrients."

The salt brining in the fermenting process in kimchi first kills off the bad bacteria and then allows the good bacteria to grow. However, it's best to keep this high salt quantity in mind when thinking about your daily sodium intake.

An easy kimchi recipe

Here's a simple kimchi recipe from The Natural Nutritionist's Elyse Lagos, which has been republished with permission from its original post here. For more from The Natural Nutritionist, follow them on Instagram.

Elyse’s super easy kimchi recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 head of green cabbage
  • 2 carrots
  • ½ large sweet potato
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger root
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black cumin
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • A pinch of black pepper

Directions

  1. Put aside a couple of larger outer leaves of the cabbage. You will need this later to keep the cabbage submerged in its liquid.
  2. Slice the cabbage, carrots and sweet potato in fine pieces or shred in a food processor.
  3. Cut the onion, garlic and ginger into fine pieces and put all Ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.
  4. Let it sit for about 30 min, until the cabbage becomes watery and limp.
  5. Place in a large enough mason jar and press down firmly until cabbage is compacted, air has been pushed out and mixture is well covered with juices. Top with the cabbage leaf and weight (eg. a smaller mason jar filled with water) to stop pieces of cabbage floating to surface.
  6. Stand the jar in a cool place for 3-5 days. (Your fermentation time may vary depending on the temperature and how fermented you like your kimchi. Keep out of direct sunlight).
  7. Store in fridge. Drain well before using.(Inspired by Peace, Love and Vegetables)

What should I serve kimchi with?

Kimchi is served alongside many traditional Korean dishes, such as bibimbap (mixed rice) and bulgogi (marinated, barbecued beef ). But you can incorporate kimchi into most meals.

You could serve kimchi with your eggs and toast in the morning, add it to your toasted cheese sandwich instead of mustard, serve with rice or noodles and your favourite protein or even toss it through a salad.

Have you tried kimchi before? What's your favourite way to eat it?

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