What's the deal with Kimchi?
The origin of kimchi dates back to more than 2,000 years ago, when Koreans began pickling vegetables as a way of preserving food, particurlarly during the hotter months. The earliest form of kimchi was nothing more than just salted vegetables. Gradually, people began to include other spices such as ginger, garlic, onions and red chili peppers to create different flavors. Over time as more vegetables and ingredients became available, kimchi evolved into what we eat today, a tasty and nutritious staple of the Korean diet. There are currently more than one hundred variations of kimchi, the most popular being napa cabbage kimchi.
Perhaps one of the biggest draws of kimchi is its diverse flavor profile. It's salty, it's spicy from the red chili pepper flakes and it's sour from the lacto-fermentation process. Throughout the fermentation process, amino acids and lactcic acid are produced, and together make the special flavor of kimchi.
The most common vegetables used are napa cabbage and Korean radish, called mu. Other varieties include kimchi made from cucumbers, Korean watercress, Ponytail radish, radish leaves, Indian mustard leaves, sesame leaves, green onions, green chili peppers, wild onions and wild leeks.
Seasoning for kimchi varies by dish and region, bu the most common ingredients are garlic, ginger, red chili pepper flakes and small amounts of anchovy fish sauce or salted shrimp.
Kimchi offers different nutritional benefits based on the ingredients used and the level of fermentation. But in general, kimchi is a low-calorie, high-fiber packed with nutritional value. It is rich in vitamins A, B and C, as well as minerals such as calcium and iron. Reasearch has also found that kimchi contains 17 different kinds of amino acids.
The nutrients and activities of the various microorganisms produced during fermentation are also benficial to the human body. Did you know that well-fermented kimchi has significantly more lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus) than yogurt? Probiotics haave been show to help slow or reverse some diseases, improve bowel heatlh and immunity, and aid in digestion. They are also supposed to have anti-inflammatory properties and help in preventing certain kinds of cancers. In addition, having a good balance of gut bacteria and digestive enzymes helps you absorb more of the nutrients in the foods you eat.
While Koreans consider kimchi to be the ultimate comfort food, other cultures have also learned to love the dish for its distinctive taste and myriad health benefits from Lacto Fermentation. A wonderful source of antioxidants, vitamins and probiotics, kimchi can be considered a superfood that your wallet will also love.