Kimchi is generally served as a side dish alongside traditional and modern Korean cuisines. It is actually a combination of fermented vegetables including cabbage, radish, and garlic, etc.
It’s popular for its spicy and slightly sweet taste. What it’s also popular for is its probiotic nutritional value. That’s right; Kimchi contains high amounts of probiotics since it is a fermented food.
Fermentation is practiced to preserve the freshness and flavor of vegetables for long stretches of time. So it is used for making Kimchi with a wide variety of vegetables like cucumbers, cabbage, radish, carrots, scallions, garlic, etc.
This will naturally lead you to think about this next question…
What Does Kimchi Taste Like?
The flavor and aroma of Kimchi depend on how you make it. It’s varied in that you can add ingredients that make it either extra spicy or extra sweet or somewhere in between.
The 3 flavor notes of Kimchi, however, fall in either one of these categories: sweet, spicy, or umami. And that’s how you can also adjust the ingredients (salt, sugar) to alter the flavor of Kimchi.
With that out of the way, let’s talk a bit about what goes in Kimchi that makes it taste so unique and prominent.
Like I said before, fermentation prevents spoilage. It is made up of salt, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, and chili. You must have heard of this kind of fermentation before, it’s called “pickling.”
These ingredients are pickled and fermented. Then, combined with vegetables like carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, onions, etc. to enhance flavor and aroma. And since Kimchi is all plant-based, you can experiment with many vegetables.
What Is Kimchi Eaten With?
Kimchi can be eaten as is or alongside every meal including breakfast! Some people also enjoy eating Kimchi with non-Korean dishes like sandwiches, pasta, and burgers. The pickled flavor is very delicious and goes well with almost every recipe you can think of!
If you want to cook the main course with Kimchi, you can easily make Kimchi fried rice or noodles and stir-fried recipes. A popular dish in Korea is a traditional stew made with Kimchi known as ‘Kimchi jjigae.” Made with soy sauce, tofu (or meat), red pepper paste, Korean chili oil, and cabbage.
In many areas, Kimchi also tastes perfectly well with eggs as it adds a savory texture to the otherwise bland eggs.
Can I Make Kimchi At Home?
Homemade is always better than store-bought and packaged foods. You can never be sure how much salt or sugar or preservatives go into packed food.
So if you’re worried about the nutritional value of Kimchi, you can make Kimchi at home. This way you’ll control how much salt or sugar or garlic goes into Kimchi.
When made properly, Kimchi is also beneficial for digestion. Homemade with ingredients you know for sure are healthy and fresh can further aid digestion.
Since you are making Kimchi at home, it can be made hot or cold. The choice is entirely up to you. But for health purposes, cold Kimchi contains more probiotics than hot because the heat burns most of it.
But it’s entirely safe to cook with Kimchi. In many popular stir-fried and easy Korean recipes, Kimchi is served hot. So with that out of the way, let’s look at the most common Kimchi recipe that you can make at home.
What you need:
- One-fourth cup of sea salt
- One piece of ginger (about 3 inches)
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoon cayenne (add less if you don’t prefer it too spicy)
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar (optional to add balance the chili)
- Other vegetables of your choice – carrots, cucumber, turnip, beetroot, etc.
- Soak chopped cabbage in a bowl with 1-liter water plus 2 tablespoons of sea salt. The optimal time for soaking the cabbage in this mixture is about 2 to 4 hours. Make sure no piece of cabbage is sticking out of the water. It should be completely soaked in the water/sea salt mixture.
- Add minced garlic and ginger in a smaller bowl. Combine with cayenne pepper and agave nectar. To mix it well, use a food processor to do a better job of blending all these ingredients well.
- Drain the cabbage and place the brine in a separate bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients together with the cabbage and slowly toss in the garlic-ginger mixture. Add a few spoons of the brine to coat the vegetables well and cover with plastic wrap.
- Take a separate zip-lock bag and fill it with water. Add 2 tablespoons of sea salt to the water and seal it. Place it on top of the plastic wrap that is covering the vegetables. Seal the entire thing with a kitchen towel and place the bowl aside.
- It should take about 48 hours for the fermentation process to begin. So keep checking on the vegetables once every day for 5-7 days. A week is a good enough time for the pickled vegetables to taste like Kimchi but with much less salt and no preservatives.
- Once the Kimchi is ready, transfer it to a glass jar with a tight seal. You can refrigerate it and it’ll stay fresh for months. You can take it out at any time for eating as a side dish or in cooking recipes such as fried rice, stir-fried noodles, etc.
For a plant-based diet, Kimchi is a wonderful dish. It’s nicely seasoned and pairs well with fried rice, noodles, soup, and other such aromatic recipes.
Making Kimchi at home takes anywhere from 4 to 7 days or longer if you want a stronger Kimchi flavor. But if you don’t have the time to make Kimchi at home, you can buy preservative-free, nutritious Kimchi from your closest supermarket.
Once you buy it, you can store it for months in the refrigerator. But considering its sweet-savory and prominent flavor, I highly doubt that it will last for that long!