What makes a perfect kimchi? We enlighten you about the celebrated superfood
What the potato is in Germany, kimchi is in Korea: served with every meal, pickled Chinese cabbage is the national dish of Korea. However, the freshly pickled vegetable has also been celebrating its comeback here for some time now - and not just because of its unique taste! We want to enlighten you a bit about the celebrated superfood.
What is kimchi?
Kimchi is a preserved food that dates back thousands of years, originating from Korea, and generally refers to the preparation of vegetables through lactic acid fermentation, which gives the dish a somewhat pungent and sour taste. The term "kimchi" comes from the Chinese word "chimchae", which in German means "to pickle vegetables in salt broth".
Whether with rice, soup, meat, fish, tofu, green vegetables, classic dumplings or even pancakes, kimchi is almost always served as a side dish in Korea. So it's probably no surprise that kimchi is also referred to as a symbol of Korean culture.
Today, the basic ingredient of traditional Korean kimchi is primarily Chinese cabbage, but there are countless other variations, such as with radish, with leeks, or even completely unique mixtures of these vegetables. Since each family has its own recipe, kimchi has become more diverse from generation to generation.
For newcomers, the taste of lactic fermented vegetables is most likely unusual at first. It often takes a second, third or even fourth bite until you get used to the taste. But we promise: it's worth it, because a unique umami experience is guaranteed!
An indispensable part of Korean cuisine
What was originally a simple dish with little seasoning has evolved over the centuries into truly exciting spice experiments. Since the very beginning of agricultural culture, fermentation has been considered the most natural and common method of preserving vegetables.
For example, kimchi used to be regularly pickled in the fall and stored in large jars so that the family could then be fed on it during the cold winter months. This gave people a food with very high nutritional content, rich in probiotics and vitamins. Especially in the very cold Northeast Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea, people therefore developed a wide variety of recipe creations from their harvests with the help of spices. And even today, in many Korean communities, kimchi is pickled together and shared among themselves so that each household has enough supplies for the winter.
Ask a housewife in Korea about the lactic-fermented vegetable, and each of them will probably have a few clay pots in the kitchen or on the balcony, permanently filled with kimchi - based on her own personal family-traditional way of making it and secret tips.
In Korea, then, kimchi is not just a food - it is the end product of an extensive culinary culture, from the processes and techniques used to make and store it to a wide range of kimchi-based recipes.
Facts and figures
- 100 g of kimchi is eaten by the average Korean adult at least per day
- There are well over 200 different varieties of kimchi in Korea
- Instead of "cheese," people in Korea say "kimchiii" in front of the camera
- In 1984, in Los Angeles, and in 1988, in Seoul, kimchi was offered as a meal at the Olympics
- Because the making of kimchi, called kimjang, is so unique, the preparation method was added to UNESCO's list of intangible world heritage sites in 2013
- In Korea, entire street festivals are dedicated to pickled Chinese cabbage - for example, kimchi prepared annually at the Seoul Kimchi Festival is subsequently delivered to socially disadvantaged people in Korea
- In 2019, the WHO officially announced that Korean women will live to be the oldest in the world - daily consumption of kimchi, i.e. fermented, non-pasteurized vegetables, is listed as one possible positive factor
- And that's not all: countless studies show positive effects of lactic acid bacteria and fermented vegetables on physical health
The basic kimchi recipe
Make kimchi yourself? It's not that difficult! Because traditionally, kimchi is made in the same way as our well-known sauerkraut: The classic fermentation, that is, without heating the vegetables. There are numerous, different preparation methods. But even for fermentation beginners it should not be too difficult.
Basically, the procedure is always as follows: Chinese cabbage and Korean radish are salted, kneaded with red bell pepper powder, garlic and other spicy ingredients and then left to ferment: The vegetables are placed in an airtight brine at various temperature levels for a few days.
In this environment, the lactic acid bacteria that are already present on and in each vegetable begin to work, producing lactic acid as they break down the carbohydrates. The result is a shelf-stable food, altered in texture, taste and nutritional value, full of probiotic life.
After fermentation, which usually means several days to weeks, the pickled vegetables are then stored in the refrigerator to keep the natural fermentation process from continuing.
By the way, we have a general fermentation guide with simple recipes to get you started - free download for you.
Radish kohlrabi kimchi in curry
400 g Chinese cabbage
250 g kohlrabi
3 spring onions
13 g sea salt (rule of thumb: 2% salt)
approx. 1 l water
chili flakes as needed
Canning jar of your choice
Here's how we proceed
- We start by thinly slicing the Chinese cabbage, radish, kohlrabi as well as the scallions. Then add the vegetables to the large bowl.
- Add chili flakes and curry powder (as needed), as well as the salt and knead everything properly. We use only unrefined and untreated sea salt for all of our ferments - we would encourage you to do the same.
- Before you fill the vegetables into the jar, it is best to rinse it with boiling water first, so that no mold forms in the ferment during storage. Then press the finished mixture firmly into the jar and add water until everything is sufficiently covered with liquid.
- To seal the brine airtight, (if not using an extra fermentation container) a weighted object should be placed on top of the pickled vegetables so that the fermentation process can proceed without oxygen for the next few days.
- That's it! Now it's time to wait patiently. It is best to let the vegetables ferment in the jar at room temperature with as little light exposure as possible for about 10 days.
Have fun fermenting and enjoying!
Your team from Completeorganics
But that's not all, now the real fun begins! If you need inspiration: You can also find variousrecipes at , which you can conjure up from our cuts and condiments or even from your own ferment.
Feel free to write us at Instagram - show us your fermentation results, give us feedback on the fermentation instructions or even ideas for new recipe creations - or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org