What you need to know when shopping for authentic Kimchi outside of Korea
Kimjang – the practice of making Kimchi
It is a bit of an understatement to say that for Koreans no meal is complete without a dish of kimchi. Kimjang, the collective practice of making kimchi, was inscribed in 2013 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
For most westerners, Kimchi is known as a spicy fermented cabbage – the Chinese leaf variety – side dish. In Korea it’s terminology “fermented vegetables” and there are hundreds of varieties.
Kimchi is always fermented and made with a widely varying selection of seasonings including chili powder, spring onions, garlic, ginger and sometimes even salted seafood – vegans beware!
The Onggi: how is kimchi made
Kimchi is traditionally fermented in clay pots known as Onggi. Due to their porous nature, they allow air to flow between the inside and the outside of the pot. Koreans call this “Onggi drawing breath”
Even though today most kimchi is fermented in plastic, glass or steel due to convenience, connoisseurs insist the Onggi encourages a particularly vibrant ferment.
Making of kimchi follows a yearly cycle: in spring, seafood is procured for salting; in the summer sea salt is purchased and red chili peppers are dried and ground; late autumn is Kimjang season where families gather to make the kimchi which traditionally provided sustenance for the long, harsh winter months.
Real kimchi is always refrigerated
Since traditional kimchi is consumed alive (unpasteurised) it has to be refrigerated in order to reduce the activity of the micro-organisms involved in the fermentation process.
At room temperature, Lactic Acid Bacteria will continue to feed on sugars and fibers producing lactic acid as a by-product, which gives kimchi the characteristic sour taste.
An aged kimchi is more sour and the vegetables have a softer texture, whereas a fresher kimchi is sweeter and crunchier.
In many Korean households you’ll find special kimchi refrigerators – pictured here.
We source the best British-made kimchi. You are guaranteed to find at least 2 jars of live kimchi in every We Ferment box.
Inspiration: Kimchi is not always a side dish
Kimchi goes really well as a side-dish to most dishes, it’s amazing served over rice but can also serve as a star ingredient in other dishes.
Popular ones, pictured on the right, include Kimchi-jjigae (a kimchi stew) and Kimchi-buchimgae (kimchi pancake) .
Cooking kimchi will kill the Lactic Acid Bacteria and negate some of the medicinal properties associated with consuming live fermented foods, however some benefits remain, including increased bio-availability of micronutrients.
Head over to our Instagram for more dishes starring kimchi.