Kimchi, also spelled gimchi, kimchee, or
kim chee, is any one of numerous
traditional Korean pickled dishes made of vegetables with varied seasonings. Its
most common manifestation is the spicy baechu (cabbage) variety. Kimchi is the
banchan, or side dish, in South Korea and many South Korean
communities and locales.
Kimchi is also a common ingredient and combined with
other ingredients to make dishes such as kimchi stew (kimchi jjigae) and kimchi
fried rice (kimchi bokkeumbap). Kimchi is so ubiquitous that the Korea Aerospace
Research Institute (KARI) developed space kimchi to accompany the first Korean
astronaut to the Russian-manned space ship Soyuz.
Early kimchi was made of cabbage and beef stock only, and in
the twelfth century people began to include other spices to create different
flavors, such as sweet and sour flavors, and colors such as white and orange.
In modern times however, the main spice and source of
'heat' for most kimchi is a paste made from red chili peppers, a New
World vegetable that would not have been found in Korea before European
contact with the Americas. Consequently, red chili peppers were not
added to kimchi recipes until some time after 1500.
Left: Chili peppers
drying for kimchi.
Kimchi varieties are determined by the main vegetable
ingredients and the mix of seasonings used to flavor the kimchi. The most
popular type of kimchi is the baechu (also known as Chinese cabbage) variety but
there are many regional and seasonal varieties. Popular variants include
ggakdugi which is a kimchi made with cubed radish, pa-kimchi (made with
scallions), chonggak-kimchi and oisobagi, a cucumber kimchi with
hot and spicy seasoning. Kkaennip kimchi features layers of perilla
and other spices.
Although the most common seasonings include brine, scallions
and seasonings, ingredients can be replaced or added depending on the type of
kimchi being made. Common seasonings also include, ginger, onions, and aekjeot