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Korea's National Dish: Kimchi

Posted by Kalina Ewing on

Korea's National Dish: Kimchi

Kimchi (김치), the national dish of South Korea, is a name almost synonymous in the country with eating a meal. Whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner, a meal is not considered complete without a side of kimchi. For those unfamiliar with this fabulous dish, (let us give you a bit of background,) kimchi is made up of salted fermented vegetables. In its most popular form, it is made of salted fermented napa cabbage, carrots, radish, scallions, and a paste made usually from garlic, chili powder, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce. This popular form is called tongbaechu-kimchi (통배추김치.)

Throughout the county of Korea, there are hundreds of variations of this fermented dish, and the ingredients can vary greatly by region or season.  Kimchi has been around for over 2000 years, but in its humble beginning, it resembled more of a pickled vegetable than the red, spicy version we are used to today. The current form was not invented until the 17th century when chili peppers were introduced by Portuguese traders. Even then they were not widely used in kimchi until the 19th century. Traditionally stored in clay pots buried in the earth called onggi (옹기), the making of kimchi was and still is a time for bonding among family members. Recipes are handed down through families that date generations back. (If you would like to know more about the different types of kimchi click here.)

Although no longer as common to store kimchi in clay earthen pots, it is still customary to get together to make large batches as a family or a community. Traditional kimchi festivals are held in Korea around late October or early November. Historically this was the best time to store it in the buried ceramic pots as the weather turned cold. 

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For me this is a must have experience. So, decided to book Kimchi Making for Foreigners Class at Seoul Kimchi Festival. This year will be held in the early November, you can check the website http://seoulkimchifestival.com/2018/ for the next Kimchi Festival in Seoul. You can book to join at the festival and email if you need special requirements (eg : as muslim, you need a halal and muslim friendly ingredients). It's held in front of City Hall, so it's easy to find. @ktoid #kto #ktoid #jelajahkorea #explorekorea #travelkorea #destinasikorea #photochallengektoid #akudankorea #visitkorea #autumn2017 #Seoul #KimchiFestival #SeoulKimchiFestival #한국여행 #가을2017 #서울 #서울김장문화제 #축제 #김장간 #제4회서울김장문화제

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Today a large portion of the Korean population lives in apartments making the usage and burying of onggi difficult. To offset that, the kimchi refrigerator was invented to keep it at the perfect temperature throughout the fermentation and storage process. Kimchi is best fermented at a cool 2 to 7°C (35.6°F to 44.6°F) and stored at 0 to 5°C (32°F to 41°F). It can be eaten at several stages during the fermentation process. For every person, when to eat it is a personal preference. Some prefer it freshly made while others at at different stages in the fermentation process. Whatever the preference keep in mind that the longer kimchi ferments the sourer it becomes.

Apart from being a great tasting dish, kimchi is also known for its health properties. High in vitamins and lactic acid, it is used in diets to maintain a healthy weight, reduce inflammation in the body, and was even thought to help in the fight against the SARS epidemic. This tasty food is not only eaten as a side dish but also used in other Korean dishes like seafood pancakes or haemul pajeon (해물파전), kimchi stew or kimchi-jjigae (김치 찌개). It's also a popular flavor for ramen noodles or added to fresh ramen. (If you would like to know more about the many other types of Korean side dishes click here.)

These are only a few of the uses for kimchi which has become a global phenomenon. It has been featured in many global cuisines from toppings on hamburgers, tacos, hot dogs, sandwiches and pizzas to added flavor in fried rice, hummus, and deviled eggs.  

From a restaurant in Florida serving kimchi quesadillas (http://www.chimikimchi.com/) to kimchi covered hot dog in Toronto, Canada (https://fancyfranks.com/), the uses and flavor of this unique dish have caught the attention of the world. However you decide to use it, this amazing dish has multiple applications and looks to be around for many years to come.


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