Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The art of Kimchi

As I was out exploring Daegu...I came across a place I affectionately will call Kimchi town...which really is a row of kimchi huts and pots dedicated to the private production of kimchi.

Kimchi is a staple in every traditional Korean meal that is often likened to the fermentation of a fine French wine. It literally means soaked vegetables. You prepare the right mixture of red peppers, onions, garlic, spices and cabbage and allow time to work. Kimchi was created about 3,000 years ago to stave off hunger during the poor winter months. Since most of my friends have grimaced with my extreme taste for spicy foods, I naturally became a huge fan of kimchi, (though in my opinoin...it is relatively mild) even before I set foot in Korea, having explored a number of hidden Korean restaurants in of all places...Montgomery, Alabama. I had to laugh because in my seven years in Miami-Dade...I couldn't find a single place.

Though kimchi could have faded away with the passage of time, it has become a part of the culture where traditional methods of preparing kimchi are still in use today...it is living archeology. The types of kimchi that is available is dependent on the region of Korea you are in, due to the variations of temperatures; or the season it is produced. Not meaning to turn this into a history lesson, ah, but indulge me. The earliest form of kimchi was salted water and cabbage, after all necessity is often the mother of invention.
The best thing I can tell you about kimchi is it is extremely healthy for you once you get past the pickled smell. It is very low in calories, high in fiber, rich in B vitamins, calcium and you almost get a full days worth of vitamin C and carotene just from one serving. The other benefit from most forms of kimchi...it's cancer retarding properties. It's obvious why there isn't an obesity problem here in South Korea. Though there are Western influences here, not all have taken hold. There are no 'super-sized' menus and the only thing I have seen Koreans buy in bulk are Laver leaves and toilet paper.


Heart's Desire Jewelry said...

I'm really enjoying all of your posts about Korean culture, but I have to say that this one is especially interesting to me because I love spicy Korean food! Thanks for all of the great info.

Marilyn said...

I have lucked out being in Daegu...this reagion is known for their love of spice...and take pride in their Kimchi. Fortunately, with refrigeration, Kimchi only takes about two weeks to make...in ancient times they would dig a hole and put the Kimchi pots beneathe the earth for the fermentation process...however, I bet there are a few old school people that still make Kimchi this way.