Kimchi. By now you have most definitely heard this word, but what it is? Why has it become so popular? What are its benefits?
It’s easy to become confused by health trends as they change so rapidly and drastically, but Kimchi has been a staple in Korean diets for hundreds of years. The word Kimchi may only be about 200 years old, but the product that is Kimchi as we now know it, has been around since the 1600s.
So what is Kimchi? Simply put, it’s fermented vegetables. I know, it doesn’t sound overly appealing, however, if you can get past the idea, it is not only delicious, but holds so many possible health benefits.
Kimchi most often is made from fermented cabbage preserved with salt, chili powder for that little “kick”, and fish sauce, as well as radish and other vegetables, with sweet rice flour used in the fermentation process. Fermentation is a naturally occurring process that preserves food in a raw, cultured and living state.
It is a staple in Korean diets because of the fermentation aspect. This is typically a dish served in the winter months, when fresh vegetables were less prevalent, because it provides vitamins and minerals, probiotics, and anti-oxidants required during the colder, winter months.
Jeff Chung, co-owner of the Pictou Lunch Box, notes that on average Koreans eat 37 kilograms each per year of Kimchi, as it is a side dish with most meals.
But what’s really interesting about Kimchi are the health benefits that come along with eating this rich delicacy.
According to Teresa Flynn, Sobeys dietitian in the New Glasgow region, fermented foods are made by adding beneficial bacteria or yeast and allowing time for rest. This process may change the texture, flavour, colour, and in the end may promote a healthy gut, balancing acidity within your stomach.
What that means is things like fermented foods including Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Kombucha, miso, tempeh, and Keifer or yogurt help the gut to produce more of the good bacteria we need for healthy living and the more good bacteria we have, the more difficult it is for the negative or “bad” bacteria to grow, and less likely that we will succumb to sickness. It has been determined that 80 per cent of your immune system is in your digestive system so a healthy and balanced gut is essential and very achievable with fermented foods..
Kimchi has also been known to help add a variety of textures and flavours to our diet that we may not typically ingest allowing us to get more nutrients and fibre in our diet. And it can help with better digestion, meaning less bloating.
Alex Currie of Pyramid Ferments notes there are 200 types of recognized Kimchi recipes.
Currie is a native of Pictou, and he and his wife have had a passion for fermented foods for a number of years, with their Pyramid Ferments growing exponentially through central and western Canada.
Although traditionally served in the winter, Kimchi can be enjoyed any time of the year with any meal. In fact, it is great with cheesy toast, eggs, added to a cheese tray, or even just mixed into some hot rice.
The combinations are endless, as are the Kimchi recipes. Try it, if not for your health, then for your taste buds!
Simple Vegan Kimchi from Pyramid Ferments
1 large head of nappa cabbage
1 smaller daikon radish (optional)
1 bunch green onions
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
2 Tbsp Gochugaru or substitute with a
hot red pepper powder of your choice
1 tsp sea salt
Wash the nappa cabbage and cut length wise into quarters. Chop into strips or pieces approximately 1”x1”.
In a large bowl add the chopped nappa cabbage.
Grate the carrots and the radish and add to the bowl.
Add in chopped green onions, ginger and garlic and gochugaru (a Korean hot pepper powder used for Kimchi).
Add in sea salt.
With your hands, mix ingredients together and massage and squeeze the mixture until well blended. You should begin to see the mixture become juicy as the salt draws out the water in the vegetables. Do not over mix as it will become too mushy.
Pack into a clean, glass mason jar and push the vegetables down until you see the brine begin to rise up. Clean the sides and mouth of the jar and apply a plastic lid. Push the mixture down with a fork daily. Leave on your counter for 5-7 days and when it begins to taste sour and delicious, enjoy and refrigerate after. Kimchi will keep several months in the refrigerator.
Enjoy Kimchi with eggs at breakfast, in a grilled cheese sandwich or on its own.