All Koreans have said that no dinner is complete without a plate of kimchi. During the Japanese occupation in the Korean Peninsula (1910-1945), it was once mocked by Japanese imperial leaders as a smelly and muddy dish for the “inferior” Koreans. Ironically, this fermented, hot and spicy cabbage dish has become one of the most favoured dishes by the Japanese themselves.
What is Kimchi?
Kimchi is a Korean dish of spicy pickled cabbage. It is made by salting cabbages and adding red-pepper powder, garlic, ginger, scallions and radishes. These nutritious ingredients are mixed and allowed to ferment to create what we now refer to as kimchi.
History of Kimchi
When the Koreans first began agriculture, they had trouble with the climate in Korea as the winters are extremely cold. It was essential to stock up on food for winter, and the most common way to conserve food was to use salt on various kinds of foods.
Over the ages, Koreans have mastered the art of salt preservation. Other tribes realised how the Koreans maintained their diet during the Three Kingdoms era (57 B.C.E— 668 C.E.), and this is where we discover the first writings about the Koreans’ ability to preserve food.
The original kimchi was produced from radishes as it was a common local produce at the time. Initially, kimchi was made of cabbage and beef stock only. Red sauce, a New World ingredient not found in Korea before the Europeans came into contact with the Americans, was brought from Japan to Korea after the Japanese invasion (1592–1598). It eventually became a crucial component in kimchi, although its use was not recorded until the 18th century.
Red chilli pepper flakes are now used as the primary ingredient for adding spice and heat in many kimchi variants. Other spices were introduced in the twelfth century, producing flavours such as sweet and sour, and colours such as white and orange.
From the era of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) and beyond, kimchi has grown exponentially more common and innovative owing to this dynasty’s long-lasting stabilisation. During this era, preservation would be in soy sauce as salt dropped out of favour. Chilean peppers first became a part of kimchi here. Sometime after 1800 CE, the most popular sort of kimchi, recognised as tongbaechu, was created. There are over 200 distinct types today.
What Makes This Dish So Popular
Many distinct countries adopt fermentation in traditional meals, including pickled ingredients. From German sauerkraut to stinky cheeses to Chinese fermented tofu, these are common fermented foods that we can discover unique flavours that are not found in fresh food.
Like other pickled foods, kimchi provides the savoury sourness you can find in dill pickles and sauerkraut. Kimchi took the globe by storm with its peppery and pungent flavour. Kimchi is the kind of food that can’t be replicated by others, so it’s hard to describe it beyond spicy pickled cabbage–which doesn’t look that appetising–but is surprisingly addictive with a broad range of distinct ingredients.
Maybe you like it with rice, maybe you like it on a taco, and perhaps you like it with your burger. That’s Kimchi’s specialty: you can have it with just about anything!
Where to find Kimchi in Malaysia
The majority of Korean restaurants in Malaysia serve kimchi – for Koreans, it is the equivalent of a side of fries with a burger! Kimchitiam Korea Food (Kuala Lumpur) entertain you with a different and unique version of Kimchi dish, which is a reflection of their restaurant’s name. You can also try delicious kimchi fried rice at Out of Seoul (Kuala Lumpur) with an affordable price.
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