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KIM CHI

New Facts About an Old Myth


Becoming an International Favorite Believe in Beauty The Humor in Kimchi
Beyond an Exotic Dish Kimchi's Potential Cabbage Agriculture
Kimchi Packing Kimchi Potpourri Facts About Kimchi
The Versatile Kimchi

 

Kimchi is a uniquely pungent mixture of fermented vegetables and its variations amounted to roughly 80 kinds of dishes during the Choson period.  For spring, summer and fall consumption, kimchi was cured in a small quantity, but for the winter months, large quantities were made so that it could be eaten over three or four months.  The kimchi-curing for the winter season was called, "kimjang" and was usually done in late November.

In ancient times, kimchi was made of greens picked and salt or a salt and alcohol mixture. By the end of Unified Shillan ad the beginning of Koryo, sliced-radish kimchi pickled in brine became popular.  Soon thereafter chili was introduced to Korea around 1500 and it was added to make kimchi as well.  During the late Choson era, powdered chili, together with chotkal  (fish or shellfish paste), bcame the favored ingredients in kimchi.  In the southern regions, the chotkal was amde of anchovies, while in the northern regions, croaker and shrimp chotkal were more popular.  The climatic differences of each region affected the taste of kimchi as well.  In warm places, chotkal andchili poweder were used in abundance so that kimchi could be prevented from going bad.  On the other hand, kimchi made in colder areas was less salty and pungent.  Today, many firms are mass-producing kimchi.

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Kimchi

Tangy and hot, it's the accent and counterpoint to a traditional meal of rice and soup, but nowadays, kimchi is turning up in pizzas and burgers, making it a most versatile ingredient, not to mention the test of a good cook.  Even bachelors who can hardly cook to survive know how to transform leftover kimchi and rice into sizzling fried rice or bubbling kimchi stew.

The process of making kimchi is an excellent example of how Korean women approach cooking.  (Most men never enter the kitchen, and most women learn how to cook only after marrying and under the tutelage of their mothers-in-law.)

Measurements?  A handful of this, a pinch of that.  Food processors? Bare hands rigorously pound, mash or rub.  Fingers are dipped into the sauce for a taste.  Seasonings are adjusted drop by drop.  The best makers of kimchi are "old hands," literally, because Korean cooking is very much a manual-intensive labor and the best cooks are said to have a magic touch.

No recipe book can substitute for the year of trial and error necessary to develop tastebuds to detect subtle variations of flavor and the intuition to season accordingly.  in the past, all the women who married into one family learned to make kimchi in the same kitchen with their mothers-in-law.  The family's distinctive flavor of kimchi has been handed down through generations.

These days, fewer women have the time or space to make kimchi in the traditional way.  With nuclear families now the rule, urban households living in apartments are unable to join together for Gimjang, the annual winter kimchi making during which enough batches are made to last several households all winter.  Kimchi used to be stored underground in earthenware jars that aided the fermentation process, but nowadays, special containers and even refrigerators are being developed to allow modern women to make smaller batches all year round.

The easiest and quickest kimchi to make is mul kimchi, or water-kimchi. Slightly sweet and very refreshing, it's the perfect comlement to heavy, rich dishes.  Unlike most other forms of kimchi, this one does not require fermented salt shrimp paste (jeotgal), and is fermented within days.

 Becoming an International Favorite

Kimchi is a "great cultural myth from the old dynasty era of ancient Korea..." There is a superbly palate-pleasing kimchi to delight every taste.  A global favorite, kimchi is a food that adds zest to all kinds of meals and its appeal cuts across all social, economic, ethnic and geographical boundaries.  Kimchi is an exotic, super spicy side dish.  While no one is quite sure whether kimchi is a pickle or a salad, its wide range of flavors, types and styles make it a palatable part of an irresistible side-dish, a great appetizer, and a naturally cultured healthy raw vegetable.  Kimchi has been served daily with every meal throughout generations of Korea for thousands of years.  Kimchi sparkles with the flavor of garlic, ginger, scallions and chilies.  Kimchi adds zest to all goods.  Kimchi is an excellent contributor to the human body.  Unlike other similar foods, kimchi has its own unique nutritional value of promoting health and preventing disease, there is "none better" and it is "well worth" to the human diet.

A study of kimchi history reveals that people were enjoying kimchi's unique goodness more than 4,000 years ago.  In about 2030 B.C. the inhabitants of northern India brought seeds of this vegetable to Mongolia, and the preservation of greens with other vegetables soon became common as cultured raw vegetables.  Kimchi is the most versatile food.  In Japan and Korea it is served as a side dish.  An impressive range of all kinds of kimchi is becoming very popular in America, Hawaii, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and way down under in Australia.  Indeed, it is found and enjoyed almost everywhere nowadays.  Kimchi is never fickle where flavor is concerned.  Its tantalizing taste attracts particular eaters.

In Japan, Korea, and both northwest and southeast Asia, each person munches an average of ten to fifteen kilograms of kimchi a year.  In South Korea alone, that is about four hundred tons per year or more of kimchi consumed than any other vegetable.

Currently, kimchi has become a popular health food in the "New World" ever since the first immigrant settled in the Hawaiian Islands and North America from many Asian countries.  The kimchi patch provided great emotional comfort to those under exiled conditions far away from their homeland.  Kimchi touched and appealed to many ethnic settlers who started making kimchi and spoke enthusiastically its zesty flavors.

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Believe in Beauty

In both Eastern and Western history, the most famous femme fatales, Cleopatra and Yang Gyuibee, were devoted eaters of cultured raw vegetables, and believed that cultured raw vegetables had made them more beautiful.  Queen Elizabeth was another royal cultured raw vegetable fancier.  The Emperor of the Han Dynasty enjoyed this vegetable everyday, and fighting men from the days of Julius Caesar's troops through the time of Napoleon on up until today have found them a delicious addition to drab soldiers' meals.  During both the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Korean government drafted kimchi into the Korean armed forces diet and earmarked almost 90% of shelf-stable (canned) kimchi production for the Army, Navy and Marines. Going even further back, there is a reference to a sailor's salted and cultured raw vegetables in the eleventh book of the "Odyssey."

Kimchi is popular and is becoming more popular.   For thousands of years in various forms "the famous and the not-so-famous" have enjoyed its unique ability to please the palate for cultured raw vegetables.  Whether or not Cleopatra and Yang Gyuibee were right and this type of vegetable actually made them more beautiful, millions of cultured raw vegetable eaters for countless centuries agree that it has limitless appetite appeal.  Everybody's favorite, it adds sparkle and zest to any food: a sandwich, a salad, a banquet, a snack.... or is delicious when accompanied with rice, noodles and eaten with every main dish as a great functional appetizer or a perfect side dish.

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The Humor in Kimchi

Kimchi is a happy and cheerful food and more than a hundred different types of kimchi offer something to appeal to every personality and taste.  The Koreans build kimchi awareness with humor, for example, they say "smile with kimchiiiii's sound!", instead of "cheese!" when they are taking photographs.

The fine autumnal harvest season is the right time for kimchi making for the long winter months.  Every household is customarily and consistently serious in their efforts to preserve the best possible product for the family and other kimchi-fanciers, eaters or adorers in every neighborhood.  At the same time, they recognize the nearly unlimited opportunities in keeping people's awareness of the role of the cheerful kimchi in brightening a meal or a day.  Koreans say that the surest way to get an honest laugh is to talk about kimchi.  Throughout the nation, many cities, counties, and villages traditionally have their customary events like new-kimchi-festivals, kimchi-fairs and or kimchi making contests, mostly in autumn, when new crops are harvested to celebrate the abundant blessings from God in their happy and healthy lives.

It is believed that a woman's housekeeping skill or quality is mainly evaluated by "how to make and preserve kimchi best" in their home throughout all generations from ancestors until now.  Kimchi is also used as a raw material or an ingredient for a variety of other delicious dishes.  Thus, making, preserving, and eating kimchi is a naturally healthy, wealthy food pattern Koreans have cherished and inherited.  'How to make Kimchi' for the Korean diet is not merely a proud, but an unavoidable mission to the people and the nation.

Now, kimchi makers are planning to organize an international event, "the World Kimchi Fair" with cooperation between the North & South Korean Ministries of Culture to explore their ancestors' mythic wisdom of unique food culture in the year 2002 in Seoul, Korea.

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Beyond an Exotic Dish

Kimchi is naturally cultured raw vegetable that originated in ancient Korea.  Kimchi has been served daily in every household at every meal throughout generations of the nation for thousands of years.  Kimchi sparkles with the flavors of garlic, ginger, scallions and chilies.  Kimchi adds zest to all foods. Kimchi is an excellent contributor to the human body.  Unlike other similar foods, kimchi has its own unique nutritional value of promoting health and preventing disease; there is "none better" and it is "well worth" for the human diet.  It adds spice, flavor, and an appetite to meals and joy to living.  Cheerful and bright, the flavor-packed kimchi is a friendly favorite that enlivens a meal and lifts the spirits.

The power of kimchi is the power of peaceful, prosperous people who smile while working, instead of laughing at work.  Because theirs is an ancient wisdom, Koreans have had an immense opportunity to note what is sound and what is likely to be of enduring value.  In addition, since their is the food that has historically brought mankind a chuckle as well as refreshment, they are perhaps a little closer to the well springs of honesty and good cheer.  They know that the ability to smile at oneself is a compliment to one's accomplishments, the reward of reasonable men, and the sign the humanity is in a happy condition.

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Kimchi's Potential

Although kimchi is similar to sauerkraut and other pickled products in its method of fermentation, it differs from them because of the mixed spices and salt concentration that are used.  In Korea, kimchi is served as a staple food and many "cooking with kimchi" recipes have appeared during recent years.  Kimchi is served in Japan as a "health food."  Thousands of professional scientists are working in kimchi research teams with an industry team functioning along side them.

There is the Kimchi museum, the Kimchi Foundation, the Kimchi Research Institute as well as Kimchi science departments in colleges in Korea.  All of these institutions and programs' approach to research means that overlapping disciplines develop a comprehensive method of coping with research problems.

As  many as 500 or more agricultural co-operations, academic institutions, science and technical programs, and big or small private industrial firms throughout the nation co-operate in devising ways to improve the product.  Working through state institutions, the research program co-ordinates activities concerned with such aspects as horticultural breeding for better raw materials, quality controls, improving ideal flavor, ensuring shelf stability, culturing and preservation studies, packaging required, postproduction handling, and controls.  Changing food patterns created the need for conveniently packed kimchi products.  This in turn, required new types of products and completely different packing techniques.

From Asianinfo Info

More from Wikipedia,

Kimchi

김치(Korean)

Kimchi (김치; pronounced /ˈkɪmtʃɪ/, Korean pronunciation: [kimtɕʰi]), also spelled gimchi, kimchee, or kim chee, is a traditional fermented Korean dish, made of vegetables with varied seasonings. Kimchi may also refer to unfermented vegetable dishes. There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi, made with a main vegetable ingredient such as napa cabbage, radish, green onion or cucumber. Kimchi is the most common banchan, or side dish, in Korean cuisine. Kimchi is also a main ingredient for many popular Korean dishes such as kimchi stew (김치찌개; kimchi jjigae), kimchi soup (김칫국; kimchiguk), and kimchi fried rice (김치볶음밥; kimchi bokkeumbap).

History

 
Ancient Kimchi

The oldest references to kimchi can be found from 2600 to 3000 years ago. The first text-written evidence of its existence can be found in the first Chinese poetry book, Shi Jing (詩經). In this book, kimchi was referred to as jeo (菹). The term ji was used until the pre-modern terms chimchae (hanja: 沈菜, lit. soaked vegetables), dimchae, and timchae were adopted in the period of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. The word then was modified into jimchi, and is currently kimchi. Early kimchi was made of cabbage and beef stock only. Red chili, a New World vegetable not found in Korea before European contact with the Americas, was added to kimchi recipes some time after 1500. Red chili pepper flakes are now used as the main ingredient for spice and source of heat for many varieties of kimchi. In the twelfth century other spices, creating flavors such as sweet and sour, and colors, such as white and orange, were added.

Main ingredients


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 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 (hangul: 오이소박이), a cucumber kimchi with hot and spicy seasoning; gat-kimchi (hangul: 갓김치), boochoo-kimchi (hangul: 부추김치), Kkaennip (hangul: 깻잎) kimchi features layers of perilla and other spices.

The Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul has documented 187 historic and current varieties of kimchi. Although the most common seasonings include brine, scallions and spices, ingredients can be replaced or added depending on the type of kimchi being made. Common seasonings also include ginger, chopped radish, garlic, saeujeot (hangul: 새우젓), and aekjeot (hangul: 액젓, fish sauce).

Kimchi varieties

 

Kimchi can be categorized by main ingredients, regions or seasons. Korea's northern and southern sections have a considerable temperature difference. Northern regions tend to have longer winters compared to the southern regions of Korea.

Kimchi from the northern parts of Korea tend to have less salt as well as less red chilli and usually do not have brined seafood for seasoning. Northern kimchi often has a watery consistency. Kimchi made in the southern parts of Korea, such as Jeolla-do and Gyeongsang-do, uses salt, chili peppers and myeolchijeot (hangul: 멸치젓, brined anchovy allowed to ferment) or saeujeot (hangul: 새우젓, brined shrimp allowed to ferment), myeolchiaekjeot (Hangul: 멸치액젓, "kkanariaekjeot" 까나리액젓, liquid anchovy jeot, similar to fish sauce used in Southeast Asia, but thicker). In the Seoul area saeujeot is preferred.

Saeujeot (hangul: 새우젓) or myeolchijeot is not added to the kimchi spice-seasoning mixture, but is simmered to reduce odors, eliminate tannic flavor and fats, and then is mixed with a thickener made of rice or wheat starch (Hangul: 풀). This technique has been falling into disuse for the past forty years.

Other brined jeot can be used, but are no longer common as modern commercialization has made aekjeot (액젓; either myeolchijeot or saeujeot) more affordable and convenient.

White kimchi is baechu seasoned without chili pepper and is neither red in color nor spicy. White radish kimchi (dongchimi) is another example of a popular kimchi that is not spicy. The watery white kimchi varieties are a popular ingredient in a number of dishes such as cold noodles in dongchimi brine (dongchimi guksu) and are eaten widely during the summer months

 

This regional classification dates back to 1960s and contains plenty of historical facts, but the current kimchi-making trends in Korea are generally different from those mentioned below.

  • Hamgyeong-do (Upper Northeast)

Due to its proximity to the ocean, people in this particular region use fresh fish and oysters to season their kimchi.

  • Hwanghae-do (Midwest)

The taste of kimchi in Hwanghae-do can be best described as "moderate" — not bland but not overly spicy. Most kimchi from this region has less color since red chili flakes are not used. The typical kimchi for Hwanghae-do is called pumpkin kimchi (bundi).

 
Kimchi Buchingae
  • Gyeonggi-do (Lower Midwest of Hwanghae-do) Gyeonggi-do kimchi is known for its eye-catching decorations.
  • Chungcheong-do (Between Gyeonggi-do and Jeolla-do)

Instead of using fermented fish, people in the region rely on salt and fermentation to make savory kimchi. Chungcheong-do is known for the greatest varieties of kimchi.

  • Gangwon-do (South Korea)/Kangwon-do (North Korea) (Mideast)

In Gangwon-do, kimchi is stored for longer periods of time. Unlike other coastal regions in Korea, kimchi in this area does not contain much salted fish.

  • Jeolla-do (Lower Southwest)

Salted yellow corvine and salted butterfish are used in this region to create different seasonings for kimchi.

  • Gyeongsang-do (Lower Southeast)

This region is famous for salty and spicy flavors in its dishes and their kimchi is no exception. The most common seasoning components includes myeolchijeot (멸치젓) which produce a briny and savory flavor.

  • Foreign Countries

In some places of the world where Baechu also known as Napa cabbage is not available, people sometimes make kimchi with western cabbage. The taste can be sweeter and less spicy than the original.

By season

Different types of kimchi were traditionally made at different times of year, based on when various vegetable were in season and also to take advantage of hot and cold seasons before the era of refrigeration. Although the advent of modern refrigeration —- including kimchi refrigerators specifically designed with precise controls to keep different varieties of kimchi at optimal temperatures at various stages of fermentation —- has made this seasonality unnecessary, Koreans continue to consume kimchi according to traditional seasonal preferences.

Chonggak kimchi

 

Dongchimi (동치미) is largely served during winter.

  • Spring

Traditionally, after a long period of consuming gimjang kimchi (hangul: 김장김치) during the winter, fresh potherbs and vegetables were popular for making kimchi. These kinds of kimchi were not fermented or even stored for long periods of time but were consumed fresh.

  • Summer

Young summer radishes and cucumbers are popular summer vegetables made into kimchi, yeolmu kimchi (hangul: 열무김치) which is eaten in several bites. Brined fish or shellfish can be added and freshly ground dried chili peppers are often used.

  • Autumn

Baechu kimchi is the most common type of kimchi in the fall. It is prepared by inserting blended stuffing materials, called sok (literally meaning inside), between layers of salted leaves of uncut, whole Napa cabbage. The ingredients of sok (hangul: 속) can vary, depending on the different regions and weather conditions. Generally, baechoo kimchi used to have a strong salty flavor until the late 1960s when a large amount of myeolchijeot or saeujeot had been used. Since the advent of aekjeot (액젓, Korean fish sauce) in the early 1970s, however, low-sodium kimchi is preferably made both at homes and at factories.

  • Winter

Traditionally, the greatest varieties of kimchi were available during the winter. In preparation for the long winter months, many types of kimjang kimchi (hangul: 김장 김치) were prepared in early winter and stored in the ground in large kimchi pots. Today, modern kimchi refrigerators offering precise temperature controls are used to store kimjang kimchi. November and December are traditionally when people begin to make kimchi; women often gather together in each others' homes to help with winter kimchi preparations. White kimchi (baek kimchi) is a popular kimchi to make during the wintertime. "Baechu kimchi" is made with salted baechu filled with thin strips of radish, parsley, pine nuts, pears, chestnuts, shredded red pepper, manna lichen (석이버섯), garlic, and ginger.

 Nutrition and health

Kimchi is made of various vegetables and contains a high concentration of dietary fiber, while being low in calories. One serving also provides up to 80% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C and carotene. Most types of kimchi contain onions, garlic, and peppers, all of which are salutary. The vegetables being made into kimchi also contribute to the overall nutritional value. Kimchi is rich in vitamin A, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), calcium, and iron, and contains a number of lactic acid bacteria, among those the typical species Lactobacillus kimchii.The magazine Health named kimchi in its list of top five "World's Healthiest Foods" for being rich in vitamins, aiding digestion, and even possibly reducing cancer growth.

Kimchi jjigae. A popular stew made with kimchi, it is commonly cooked with kimchi, fresh vegetables and pork or tuna although countless variants exist.

 
 

On the other hand, some research suggests that consumption of kimchi and other related fermented vegetable foods contributes to Korea's relatively high rates of gastric cancer.

One study conducted by Seoul National University claimed that chickens infected with the H5N1 virus, also called avian flu, recovered after eating food containing the same bacteria found in kimchi. During the 2003 SARS outbreak in Asia, many people even believed that kimchi could protect against infection, although there was no scientific evidence to support this belief. However, in May 2009, the Korea Food Research Institute, Korea’s state food research organization, said they had conducted a larger study on 200 chickens, which supported the theory that it boosts chickens' immunity to the virus.

Nutritional composition of typical kimchi
Nutrients per 100 g * Nutrients per 100 g
Food energy 32 kcal Moisture 88.4 g
Crude protein 2.0 g Crude Lipid 0.6 g
Total sugar 1.3 g Crude fiber 1.2 g
Crude ash 0.5 g Calcium 45 mg
Phosphorus 28 mg Vitamin A 492 IU
Vitamin B1 0.03 mg Vitamin B2 0.06 mg
Niacin 2.1 mg Vitamin C 21 mg

* Per 100 g of edible portion.

1996 Kimchi dispute

In 1996, Korea argued that Japanese kimchi was substantially different from traditional kimchi (in particular, that it was not fermented), and that it therefore should not be labeled kimchi. Korea lobbied for an international standard from the Codex Alimentarius, an organization associated with the World Health Organization that defines voluntary standards for food preparation. A non-binding standard was published in 2001 that described production methods similar to those traditionally used in Korea.

 2010 Kimchi ingredient price crisis

Due to heavy rainfall shortening the harvesting time for cabbage and other main ingredients for kimchi in 2010, a major spike occurred in the price of kimchi ingredients and kimchi itself. Korean newspapers have labeled this a national tragedy. In response to the Kimchi price crisis, the South Korean government announced the temporary reducing of tariffs on imported cabbage to coincide with the Kimjang season.

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