Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made through the fermentation of a variety of vegetables and seasonings. Many Asian dishes, such as kimchi, have gained unforeseen popularity and recognition throughout the world, including the United States of America, Europe, and so on, as a result of the rising popularity of K-dramas, K-pop, and Asian culture in general.
Kimchi has a complex flavor profile that includes spicy, tangy, sour, and sweet notes. As a result, those who have never tried kimchi may find it difficult to imagine how it tastes. So, let us go down the kimchi rabbit hole and try to discover how it tastes, as well as the history and uses of kimchi, how to make and store kimchi, and so on.
What is Kimchi?
Kimchi is the national dish of Korea. Historically, during the Silla dynasty, Buddhism took over Korea and promoted a vegetarian lifestyle, thus making kimchi somewhat mainstream. In modern times, during the Vietnam war kimchi became commercially industrialized in order to provide ration to the Korean troops. Nowadays kimchi has begun crossing the borders of Korea and is well on its way to becoming an international phenomenon.
Kimchi is basically a fermented side dish that you can eat with many different items. The main ingredients of kimchi include some types of vegetables like napa cabbage or radish, water, and salt. The ingredients of the kimchi paste include rice flour, gochugaru, water, sea salt, fish sauce, chives, minced ginger, garlic, sugar, onions, etc. Get your kimchi seasoning here.
There are many varieties of kimchi depending on the ingredients and preparation methods among other things. Generally, kimchi is named after the main vegetable that was used. Some of the most popular types of kimchi are baechu kimchi (napa cabbage kimchi), baek-kimchi(white kimchi), nabak-kimchi (mildly spicy watery kimchi), oi-sobagi(cucumber kimchi), etc.
What does kimchi taste like?
Due to the array of ingredients used in kimchi, it has flavors that are so multi-layered that it is virtually impossible to describe its taste in one or two words. Moreover, the fact that all the ingredients are then fermented after being combined makes the taste even more intense.
The strongest taste notes that kimchi typically gives off are spicy, sour, and salty. However, the kimchi might also taste a little sweet depending on the amount of sugar used. Let us explore these flavors one by one.
Firstly, when most people hear of kimchi, they envision a red and spicy-looking cabbage dish. This is because of the red pepper that is used in the kimchi paste. Because the most popular recipes use a lot of spice, often the first thing you taste while eating kimchi is spiciness. However, the spicy flavor will vary from mild to extreme depending on your spice tolerance and the recipe you are following.
Secondly, one of the main factors behind kimchi being so distinctive from other dishes is the fact that it is a fermented dish. As we know, during the fermentation process, the bacteria in the kimchi produce lactic acid, which causes the kimchi to taste quite sour. Therefore, one of the prominent flavors of kimchi is the sour taste.
Thirdly, the saltiness and sweetness of kimchi will depend on your individual preference. Some people like their kimchi to taste sweet, and others prefer it when it tastes salty.
Again, the vegetables you are using will drastically change the taste of your kimchi as they act as the base of the whole dish. A cabbage-based kimchi will taste different than a radish-based kimchi. The same thing goes for cucumber-based kimchi. The texture will also vary.
Uses of Kimchi
Kimchi is mostly consumed as a side dish. This is because you can pair kimchi well with many different types of food items. These are some popular ways to consume kimchi:
Firstly, you can eat kimchi with rice, meat, and other Korean dishes. Kimchi fried rice is a popular Korean dish. It is made by combining cooked rice, kimchi, other vegetables, eggs, and meat by stir-frying. This dish has a great taste because of the umami flavor that kimchi brings to it.
Again, if you do not want to eat kimchi the traditional way, you can try incorporating it into your sandwiches or burgers. This way, the bread or bun can help balance the strong flavors of kimchi, resulting in a delightful and refreshing twist to your regular burger.
Also, kimchi can be used as a filling in burritos and wraps along with the original ingredients like rice and beans. You can also top your pizza and noodles with some kimchi. This way, you can incorporate kimchi with your everyday food to try and get used to the flavors of kimchi. It is also a great and fun way of remixing food from different cultures.
Finally, you can add kimchi to your soups and stews to spice them up. It will also give them additional nutrients along with enhancing the taste. Kimchi-jiggae is one such Korean stew.
How can you store kimchi?
As kimchi is a fermented dish, depending on the recipe and ingredients, it can be stored for up to 3 to 6 months. However, to do so, you need to know the ins and outs of storing kimchi properly.
Firstly, use an airtight container to store your kimchi. It will slow down the fermentation process. If you want to preserve your kimchi for an extended amount of time on a regular basis, consider investing in a kimchi container. These specifically made containers will keep your kimchi tasting like it was made yesterday, even after a month! Get these kimchi containers here.
Next, it is important to keep your kimchi in a temperature-controlled cold atmosphere. To prevent your kimchi from fermenting too quickly and spoiling, it's important to minimize its exposure to oxygen and high temperatures. Keeping your kimchi in a refrigerator with a temperature range of 0-4 degrees Celsius is the best way to extend its shelf life and ensure that it stays fresh for longer.
In conclusion, kimchi is a beloved Korean side dish that is not only delicious but also versatile and healthy. Its unique combination of spicy, sweet, sour, and umami flavors makes it a perfect accompaniment to many other dishes.
Recently, kimchi has gained much more attention, and in my humble opinion, it deserves all the love it is receiving. If you are someone who enjoys trying new things, I highly recommend giving kimchi a try and experiencing its delicious flavors for yourself!