Kimchi is the Korean national food that’s eaten alongside almost every meal. Korean soldiers take kimchi to war, the first Korean astronaut took a jar with her to space, and the Korean Prime Minister admitted when visiting the USA that he longed for kimchi more than his wife! This spicy cabbage based condiment is a cleansing accompaniment to most dishes.
What is kimchi?
Kimchi is a spicy, pungent condiment made from fermented vegetables. It’s a staple of Korean cuisine, and many families make their own. The origins of kimchi go right back to around 37BC – surviving Chinese records of the time indicate that the Korean people were already skilled in making pickled and fermented foods to make sure none of their harvest went to waste.
The most common vegetables used to make kimchi are cabbage (particularly napa cabbage) and radishes – the large, white Asian varieties rather than the small red Western ones. These are finely sliced and layered with Korean sea salt, gochugaru – Korean red pepper powder – garlic, ginger, spring onions and anchovy sauce. This is the basic combination, but recipes vary in different parts of the country and also from household to household.
Kimchi is a huge part of the Korean national identity. In fact, in 2015, the tradition of kimchi making was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This identifies kimchi as an essential and integral part of Korean culture.
How do I use kimchi?
The easiest and most popular way to use kimchi is to simply serve it in its own dish alongside a main meal. Other common ways to use kimchi include stirring it through plain noodles or rice, or as a filling for Korean savoury pancakes or steamed buns.
There are lots of recipes that use kimchi. Try our kimchi bokkeumbap – a fried rice dish with shiitake mushrooms, spring onions, kimchi and a fried egg. Chefs in the West have wholeheartedly embraced this spicy condiment, too. Kimchi burgers and kimchi hot dogs are wildly popular, and are a great way to introduce yourself to this Korean staple.
Kimchi is traditionally made with fish sauce, but vegetarian kimchi made without it is now available here.
If you prefer to make your own, try our kimchi making set with recipe card.
Ingredients: Cabbage 80%, salt, chilli, sugar, garlic, carrot, spring onion, ginger, fish sauce (water, fish, salt), preservative E270. Contains fish.