As it sometimes happens, I was looking for something at my local Meijer and found something else instead. That is how I came upon Kimchi. At one point, it seemed I was hearing so much about Kimchi that I wanted to try it. So now you know why this Friday’s post is all about Kimchi. Kimchi is a food product popular in Korea.
Kwang Reung National Park Korea (sxc.hu/ winchild)
I first heard about Kimchi on the PBS cooking show, The Kimchi Chronicles. Hugh Jackman starred in the first two episodes along with Marja (Allen) Vongerichten and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a world-renowned chef.
Don’t let Marja’s last name fool you. She is Korean. She was born of a Korean mother and a GI. At the age of three, she was put up for adoption and raised by an American mother in Virginia. When she was 19, she reunited with her birth mother. In this reunion, she took many trips with her Korean family to Korea.
Gwanghwamun Palace Seoul, Korea (sxc.hu/fliku)
Those first episodes with Hugh Jackman were confusing to me. I couldn’t figure out whose show it was. I thought it was Jackman’s show. After the first few episodes, Jackman wasn’t there anymore so I assumed it was Marja’s show. But I wasn’t sure if she had any culinary background yet she seemed to be dominating the show.
Korean Dancers (sxc.hu/vancanjay)
In any event, I muddled through the confusion to find a new food: Kimchi.
When I spotted the jars of Kimchi at my local Meijer, there were two varieties: mild and hot. With the little knowledge I had of Kimchi from the show, I knew that the mild was going to be hot enough, so I opted for the mild Kimchi.
As it turned out, the further down I got in the jar, the hotter the Kimchi seemed to be. The spices had settled.
So what is Kimchi? Kimchi is fermented cabbage. It is very similar to sauerkraut and has a similar “crunch” factor. It’s made with Napa Cabbage and there is a distinct red broth surrounding the very packed-down cabbage made from red chili peppers.
I’d like to show you what was in the jar but I ate it all, sorry.
Gimchi, a very common side dish in Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was eager to taste this Kimchi although looking at it in the jar was not an appetizing sight. I wondered what I had gotten myself into! I stabbed some with my fork and tasted a bite. I didn’t care for it at first. I thought it was going to give me terrible indigestion, but that never happened.
Every day I would take a forkful and surprisingly, I began to like it. However, I won’t be running back to Meijer to buy another jar anytime soon but if someone served it to me, I would eat it without hesitation. But some people can’t turn off their desire for Kimchi.
Koreans for example, are obsessed with Kimchi. They even have a Kimchi museum.
Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul, Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Korean families own special refrigerators designed to maintain the “optimal temperature for the stinky vegetables’ fermentation and preservation” and South Korean scientists spent years developing a recipe for a bacteria-free “space kimchi” to accompany their first citizen’s visit to the international space station.
When Koreans have their pictures taken, they don’t say “cheese” they say, “Kimchee!”
Claims about the nutritional benefits of Kimchi vary. Below are the Nutritional Facts from the Sun Yum jar.
Kimchee Nutrition Facts Click to Enlarge
I would think it would have some benefits because it is fermented but I found conflicting evidence about its health benefits, particularly when it comes to cancer.
According to health.com, Kimchee contains vitamins A, B, and C, but its biggest benefit may be in its “healthy bacteria” called lactobacilli, found in fermented foods like kimchi and yogurt. It is served at every meal in Korea and, as it is high in fiber and low in fat, it helps to keep Koreans out of the obesity statistics. Some studies show that there are compounds in Kimchee that may prevent cancer.
On the other hand, some scientists have identified some potential carcinogens in the food and that there is evidence that Kimchee might increase the risk of stomach cancer. Some doctors suggest that kimchi is fine when eaten in moderation, along with a regular diet of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Koreans eat 40 pounds per year per person. That sounds like a lot to me. If you check the cancer statistics for Korea, you will find that stomach cancer is among the 5 leading causes of cancer death for both men and women.
Escalators in Electronics Department Store in Seoul, Korea (sxc.hu/ychi)
If you are willing to try Kimchee, look for it in the refrigerated section of your grocer’s supermarket. I found mine where they keep the tofu, bean sprouts, and ready-made egg roll wrappers.
As far as the Korean photos in this post, I selected photos that showed the traditional Korea and the more modern Korea. I hope you enjoyed them.