If you wander into just about any Korean restaurant, you’ll likely find kimchi on the menu. This popular Korean side dish is packed with delicious flavor and beneficial nutrients. But what is kimchi? For the uninitiated, a basic overview of this savory delicacy is in order.
What Is Kimchi?
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables (most often napa cabbage and Korean radish).
There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi available, but the one that Americans are most familiar with is made from salted napa cabbage and spices. Kimchi is often mixed with other vegetables like radish, onion, and garlic. It makes for a great low-carb, vegan snack and can be prepared in countless ways. Some regional varieties are made with cucumber, and kimchi often has a spicy kick thanks to the red pepper flakes in it.
The Health Benefits
Kimchi is noted for its health properties due to its primary ingredient, napa cabbage. This vegetable is an excellent source of vitamins K, C, and B6. And because the vegetables are fermented, they have excellent probiotic qualities. Kimchi may help with conditions like inflammation, digestive issues, and overall gut health. Kimchi is also high in fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium.
How to Use Kimchi
Kimchi is typically reserved as a side dish, but it can also be used to create some pretty killer entrées. Kimchi can be consumed on its own for a healthy, tasty dose of nutrients.
Incorporate kimchi into rice, noodle, or pancake dishes. You can also mix it into wraps and pitas.
How to Make Kimchi
Preparing kimchi is fairly easy, but it does take a bit of time. Traditionally, the dish was stored underground in jars and kept frozen in winter, but thanks to modern technology, we can now let our refrigerators do the chilling for us. If you’d like to make your own kimchi at home, follow the steps below.
2 1/2 lbs. napa cabbage
1/2 sheet nori
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 radishes, trimmed
1 tbsp. fresh ginger
1 tsp. sugar
3 tbsp. Korean red pepper flakes
Peel the napa cabbage into strips and rinse it. Add cabbage to the mixing bowl with 1/4 cup of salt, and then mix.
Add water to the bowl until the cabbage is covered. Cover the bowl with a heavy plate and let it sit overnight. Pour the mixture through a strainer to drain the water. Rinse the cabbage and allow it to drain for about 15 minutes. Set aside.
Get a small mixing bowl and add one tablespoon of water, 1/2 sheet of nori (cut into small pieces), sugar, and Korean red pepper flakes. Mix the ingredients into a paste. Add a tablespoon of salt and two cups of water.
Add the paste and cabbage to a large mixing bowl. Add garlic cloves, radishes, and ginger. Mix until everything is evenly distributed.
Seal the kimchi in a mason jar and place it in direct sunlight for 24 hours. Open the jar briefly to let out the gases, and then close the jar again.
Park KY, Jeong JK, Lee YE, Daily JW. Health Benefits of Kimchi (Korean Fermented Vegetables) as a Probiotic Food. J Med Food. 2014;17(1):6-20.doi:10.1089/jmf.2013.3083
Cabbage, Kimchi. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Updated April 1, 2019