You may not understand a whole lot of Korean, but you've certainly heard of the word "kimchi." What pops up in your mind at the sound of this word? Most likely it's a plate of fermented cabbages or radishes whose red color can be attributed to chili powder. It is always served at that popular Korean restaurant in town as an appetizer. "Kimchi," you mutter to yourself. What is kimchi?

History

vegetable, pepper, feast, tea
Vicky Nguyen

As the food industry becomes increasingly diverse and international cuisines circulate all around the world, you might want to learn a few things about kimchi - the national food of both Koreas.

First of all, the origin of this seemingly simple dish can be traced all the way back to 37 BCE-7CE, otherwise known as the period of Three Kingdoms, when fermented vegetables were commonly eaten. There have been controversies on when people started adding chili pepper to kimchi, and a common perception is that this was after the 1600s, when Portuguese traders introduced chili peppers to Korea.

However, according to a scientific journal published in 2015, red peppers had been an essential ingredient of kimchi all along, silently performing the most important duty during production processes - deterring the growth of harmful microorganisms.

What Is Kimchi?

shrimp, sauce
Shelby McLennan

So what is kimchi? An earlier form of the word "kimchi" - chimchae - literally meant "salting vegetables." While different recipes have slight variations in terms of the variety of vegetables and amount of seasoning, most people use cabbage, mixed with salt, vinegar, garlic, chili peppers, and other spices.

These ingredients are fermented in a closed jar for anywhere between two days and a week. However, if you refrigerate it properly with a tightly closed lid, it can last for months!

Health Benefits

milk, coffee, yogurt, cream, sweet
Kristine Mahan

The biggest reason that kimchi consumption has been on the rise is its famous title of one of the "World's Healthiest Foods," according to the Health Magazine.

Not only does this Korean dish offer an abundance of fiber and nutrients such as vitamin A, B, and C, it also contains healthy bacteria that will help fight off infections and has proven effects in boosting your immunity. A dish that is both delicious and healthy, what else can you beg for?

There is much more to say about the health benefits of kimchi, but you are probably dying to jump to the next section already. "Just tell me how to eat it already!" you shout at the top of your lungs. And yes, here it comes!

How Do I Eat It?

vegetable, meat
Jocelyn Hsu

In Korea, kimchi can be served as a main dish or a side dish with rice, noodles, or soup. Some of the most popular dishes ordered at Korean restaurants include kimchijeon (kimchi pancakes), kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew), and budae jjigae (army stew). These delicious stews often contain a variety of meat and vegetables, and are the number one comfort food on a cold, rainy day.

Just because that these are the ways that kimchi is traditionally served does not in anyway constrain your choices. In fact, we have enough options for even if you want to just eat kimchi for the next month. If you want to take your game to the next level, check out our recipes of kimchi mac and cheese, spicy beef kimchi buns, and tofu kimchi peanut butter sandwich. If you can think of it, we can make it happen!

Now that you are a scholar on kimchi, you probably can't wait to teach your friends what kimchi really is the next time you sit together at a table in the Korean restaurant. So go out and explore and wonderful world of kimchi!