Let’s learn all about kimchi – what, why, and how. The reason why the process of making kimchi became famous is that it was not always possible to grow fresh produce all year round. Fruits and vegetables could not be harvested in extreme weather conditions.
Hence, it was only natural that people would start looking for alternate ways to preserve the vegetables they produced in season. The most popular methods were those of pickling and fermentation. These processes generally use an enzyme that changes the chemical structure of food to make it last longer.
Fermentation is different from pickling in the sense that there is no vinegar involved. Fermented foods are those that have gone through a process of Lacto-fermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food, creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food.
For the uninitiated, Kimchi is Korea’s national dish. It is always on the table and is eaten with every meal – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is an inherent part of Korean culture, life and everyday eating.
Generally, Kimchi is any type of fermented vegetable or fruit. The four most traditional types of kimchi are radish kimchi, cabbage kimchi of two different kinds, and cucumber kimchi. The core of it is that it must be fermented and seasoned with sugar, onions, salt, garlic, peppers, etc.
Currently, there have been many renditions of Kimchi using spinach, eggplant, carrots, beetroots, and the like. This side dish works well with almost any savoury main and should be a staple in all our meals due to the abundant health benefits it provides. If you want to know more about the benefits of Kimchi, keep on reading.
How to make Kimchi?
The first step is to choose your base vegetable – cabbage, carrot, radish, cucumber or whichever you want. Here, we will use cabbage, the process is the same for any veggie. Take one medium head cabbage and cut it lengthwise into quarters. Remove the cores and then cut crosswise into two-inch strips.
Take the cabbage strips and put them into a large bowl. Into that, add about quarter of a cup of salt and massage it into the cabbage thoroughly until the leaves soften. Cover the cabbage with water and place a plate on top. Then, take a glass or something heavy and weigh down the plate. Let it sit for about two hours. Rinse the cabbage under cool water and drain.
In a separate bowl, add a tablespoon of grated garlic, a teaspoon each of grated ginger and sugar, three tablespoons of seafood flavour or stock and mix well to form a smooth paste. Add red pepper flakes – either one or 3 tablespoons depending on your spice tolerance. Add this paste into the dried cabbage. If you want, you could add chopped radish and scallions as well.
Gently work the paste into the vegetables. Pack this into a jar and press the vegetables down until the brine covers it completely. Let it sit for a couple of days in room temperature – and voila! Your Kimchi is ready to be devoured.
Health Benefits of Kimchi
The fermentation process involved in Kimchi is what makes it so incredibly healthy because the lactic acid is really good for your guts. It indeed is one of the superfoods of the world and we can reap the following benefits from it:
It is almost a balanced diet by itself. It is packed and filled with nutrients. On the upside, it is also not extremely high in calories. Cabbage, being one of the main ingredients of Kimchi, is so high in vitamins and minerals. As the ingredients of Kimchi differ in different kinds, the nutrients present will not be the same.
Nevertheless, every kind of Kimchi is nutrient-rich without a doubt. The vegetables used account for most of the nutritional profile and therefore are the reason for the widespread benefits of Kimchi.
2. Helps improve gut health.
Consuming fermented foods like Kimchi can play an important part in having good health, especially the health of your gut. The gut is said to be the foundation of physical, emotional, and mental well-being. The process of fermentation of Kimchi creates the healthy bacteria your body needs.
3. Riboflavin Rich
The Vitamin K present in most green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, spinach and celery increase bone metabolism, helps in the process of bone clotting, assists in cellular growth, and regulates the production of energy in our body.
4. Great for a detox
The health benefits of Kimchi also stem from its high sulphur content due to the radish which is really good for the liver and the kidneys to detox.
5. Packed with everything necessary.
It has massive amounts of vitamin C and vitamin K-2 which is normally seen in grass-fed dairy but is also seen in Kimchi. It also has minerals like calcium and iron. It is high in fibre and contains essential amino acids along with a powerful assortment of antioxidants.
6. Aids Digestion
Another health benefit of Kimchi is that it improves digestion. A healthier balance of gut bacteria equals a healthier digestive system. The cabbage, as stated above, helps detox the body and in eliminating waste and toxins. It also helps in aiding and cleaning up the intestines while stimulating the better assimilation of nutrients in the body.
7. Can help lower cholesterol levels.
If your cholesterol levels aren’t where they should be, consuming Kimchi can help get them back on track. This benefit of Kimchi is derived from the garlic in it. This, in turn, also reduces the risk of developing a stroke or heart disease.
The health benefits of Kimchi go as far as to prevent early ageing. There’s a reason so many Koreans tend to look younger than they are. Being rich in antioxidants makes Kimchi a great way to reduce the rate of ageing in the skin.
So, if you’re still debating whether you should include kimchi in your diet – here is your sign. Do it! It is not short of benefits; it is yummy, and it basically sells itself. What are you waiting for?