How many types of kimchi are there?
When you think of Korean flavors and cuikorsine, kimchi is probably one of the many foods that come to mind. However, kimchi is a lot more than a fermented mix of cabbage leaves in hues of fiery red. Kimchi is a category of side dishes made from pickled and fermented vegetables, of which many varieties with different tastes and textures exist (per BBC GoodFood).
Although when exactly kimchi came to be is a matter of debate amongst historians, says Bon Appétit, the tradition of making kimchi came from the need to preserve vegetables during the bitter months of winter in Korea when fresh produce was harder to find. Consequently, vegetables were salted, stored in earthenware, and placed underground to ferment and preserve. On The Gas also notes that though kimchi makers used salt for preservation, it was also added to aid digestion of carbohydrates in the carb-heavy Korean diet.
Theories reported in ‘On The Gas’ suggest that the iconic hot red kimchi is a relatively new invention, a result of Korea's war with Japan in the 16th century, during which the spicy red pepper was introduced under the guise of Japanese mustard. This event is perhaps why there also exist chili-less, watery varieties of kimchi.
Needless to say, the varieties of kimchi go far beyond the presumed fermented mix of red chilies and cabbage. You may even be surprised to find that some types of kimchi don't need fermenting at all! Here a few Kimchi facts to know before your next Korean BBQ visit.
Origin of Kimchi : Kimchi was created as a way to preserve vegetables for the winter months. What started as cabbage simply pickled in salty brine slowly transformed into the kimchi we know today, through the addition of various spices and seasonings such as hot pepper powder.
Nutritional Value of Kimchi : Kimchi is high in nutritional value and has many health benefits, earning its spot as one of the top five healthiest foods in the world according to American health magazine “Health.” Thanks to the fermentation process, kimchi contains lactic acid bacteria, a bacterium that helps with digestion and combats harmful bacteria. Kimchi also boosts the immune system and helps prevent the growth of cancer.
Types of Kimchi : Regions, temperatures and other environmental conditions have led to the creation of more than 100 different types of kimchi. The most common types of kimchi served are baechu kimchi, kkakdugi, and nabak kimchi.
Where to Buy Kimchi is available in a variety of types and packaging sizes at convenience stores and supermarkets. For the convenience of travelers leaving Korea, duty free shops located in major international airports and seaports also have airtight sealed kimchi products available.
Baechu kimchi: Cabbage Kimchi : Popular kimchi enjoyed by most Koreans, baechu kimchi is made with a whole, uncut salted cabbage mixed with Korean chili powder, garlic, fish sauce and other spices, which is then left to ferment.
Kkakdugi: Diced Radish Kimchi : The basic ingredients used for creating this kimchi are similar to those used to make baechu kimchi, with the exception of using radish instead of cabbage. The crunchy texture is the distinct characteristic of this kimchi.
Nabak kimchi: Water Kimchi : This is a less spicy version of kimchi that uses both cabbage and radish. Using a great deal of kimchi stock, it tastes sweeter than other types of kimchi due to the addition of sliced fruits such as apple and pear.
Source: Khyati Dand, Tasting Table (March 23, 2022)
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