What is Kimchi? What to Eat it With + a Homemade Recipe
If you like Asian food and spicy food, you haven’t lived if you haven’t tried kimchi. A staple food in Korea that is enjoyed in a variety of ways. From as a cold side dish to warm stews and soups.
To follow, we’ll explain exactly what kimchi is, what to eat it with, why it’s so famous from a health perspective. And finally, a homemade recipe so you can try making it for yourself! Let’s dive in.
Want to skip ahead?
- What is kimchi made of?
- What does it taste like?
- What to serve with this dish
- Dishes that work well with kimchi
- Steps to take in making the dish
- A homemade recipe
What is kimchi and what is it made of?
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish usually made out of napa cabbage (typically called “Chinese leaf” in UK supermarkets), garlic and ginger, chilli peppers, fish sauce (usually in an undetectable amount), salt, and sugar.
This mix is pickled and allowed to ferment for 4-5 days or longer, although there are some last-minute kimchi recipes that can be made and eaten within just a few hours, though they aren’t as flavourful.
You can use other abundant vegetables such as carrots, Korean radish (known as “daikon”), and spring onions.
Invented over 3,000 years ago as a way of preserving summer vegetables. Through the long cold winter when starvation was common. So you can make it with almost any vegetable you have to hand.
Kimchi can now be found in the Asian section of most major supermarkets in a jar. And some have kimchi in the refrigerated section where you find other chilled side dishes like coleslaw and potato salad.
But making your own is cheaper and allows you to tweak the ingredients and heat level to your liking.
What does it taste like?
The taste varies a little depending on the recipe and how long it has been allowed to ferment for. But it is generally spicy with garlic and ginger undertones.
And a vinegary taste that’s common amongst all pickled foods. Some kimchi recipes add sugar, which gives it a slightly sweeter taste.
Most traditional recipes use some form of fish sauce which adds an umami flavour, but don’t fret if you don’t like or eat fish, because kimchi is very easy to make vegan.
In Korea, kimchi is served with almost everything – including savoury breakfasts! It’s generally served as a cold side dish.
But there are hundreds of recipes that include kimchi as a primary ingredient.
Kimchi is a great way to add flavour to a dish you’re throwing together because it contains lots of flavour. For example, kimchi fried rice makes for a delicious last-minute meal. That has a junk-food feel, but isn’t bad for you!
What dishes can it be used for?
Once you’ve been introduced to kimchi, you can start experimenting with all the different ways you can use it. Many Korean dishes serve it in its own bowl on the side, so try it as a side to a stir fry first for an authentic experience. Once you’ve tried that, add it to some recipes such as:
Why is kimchi so good for you?
This dish is so good for you because it’s full of antioxidants and vitamins which help to keep your cells and immune system happy. But it is most well known for its digestive benefits.
All fermented foods are probiotics, which essentially means they contain good bacteria your gut needs to function properly.
Eating fermented foods like kimchi can help reduce symptoms of IBS and similar digestive issues.
Also known to help reduce bad cholesterol and chronic inflammation, both of which can take a serious toll on your health over time and lead to serious diseases like heart disease.
Who would have thought some spicy vegetables could do so much for your health?
You’ll see a few different ways to make kimchi depending on the recipe you’re following, but they generally follow this process:
- The napa cabbage is rinsed and cut into pieces
- Salt and cold water are combined in a large mixing bowl and the cabbage leaves are dipped into it, then allowed to drain
- Coarse salt is sprinkled all over the cabbage and massaged into the leaves
- The leaves are allowed to sit for 3-6 hours, depending on the desired saltiness
- The leaves are rinsed thoroughly and allowed to drain for about 30 minutes
- Water and sweet rice flour are boiled in a pot with some sugar, and then allowed to cool completely
- The mixture is added to a large mixing bowl where garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and chilli flakes are added and then mixed to form a paste
- The paste is then massaged into the cabbage
- The kimchi is then ready to store – it can be eaten immediately but the deeper flavours take 2-3 days to start to develop
- The kimchi is allowed to “breathe” once in a while (essentially leaving the lid off for a little while) and the kimchi is pressed down to push out any air bubbles
- Once fermentation begins, the kimchi can be stored in the fridge for as long as it tastes good!
How to Make Kimchi at Home:
A Homemade Recipe
There are hundreds of different recipes, so you’re not limited to the one we’ve listed here. Here is a simple homemade recipe:
Simple Recipe And Directions
- 600g napa cabbage
- 65g coarse salt
- 150ml water
- 1 tbsp sweet rice flour (or substitute with almond flour, cornflour, potato starch, or similar)
- 150ml vegetable stock
- ½ tbsp sugar + 1 tsp sugar
- 4 garlic minced
- 1 tsp ginger minced
- Up to 60g red pepper flakes (adjust to your spice level)
- 70g carrot matchsticks
- 3 spring onions sliced into small sections
You’ll also want some rubber gloves and need an airtight container or two.
- Cut the cabbage into halves then into 1.5-inch width strips and add to a bowl
- Add the water and 40g of salt
- Allow it to stand for about 2 hours, stirring it every 30 minutes
- Make the paste on the hob by combining the sweet rice flour with the vegetable stock and bring to a boil for 3 minutes, then turn off the heat and add the ½ tbsp sugar
- Allow it to cool
- Add the mixture to a bowl or food processor and add the remaining sugar with the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and mix thoroughly (or puree if using a food processor) to form your kimchi paste
- Rinse the cabbage thoroughly and drain well
- Add the carrot and spring onions with the cabbage in a large bowl and massage the paste into the vegetables (wear gloves for this!)
- Transfer the mixture into an airtight container and compress so no air can get inside.
- Serve immediately if necessary, and/or leave at room temperature to ferment for 2-3 days. Or leave it in the fridge for 2 weeks
- Whenever you eat some, press down on the remaining kimchi to ensure there’s no air.
Once you’ve discovered kimchi, it’s sure to become a staple in your kitchen. It’s healthy, delicious, and easy to cook with!