The first word that people usually associate with South Korea is “kimchi,” and with good reason. I don’t know how it started, but Kimchi is a huge part of the culture, and something very unique to Korea. When I first heard that fermented cabbage is a staple in the Korean diet, my initial reaction was “um, why??” I’ve always thought of cabbage as having very little taste or nutritional value, and, why would you feel the need to ferment it?!?
This is kimchi
Koreans eat kimchi ALL THE TIME, with practically every meal. For example, when I ask my Kindergarteners what they ate for breakfast (as an English warm-up question in the morning) the answer is usually “rice and kimchi.” This is pretty much the most un-breakfast-like meal I can think of. Kimchi, while it comes in many varieties, is usually quite spicy. And, white rice? Really?
Now that I’ve been here for a while, and have been eating kimchi at least once a day, five days a week (they serve it with lunch at school), I’ve actually grown to like the taste. It’s really spicy, and I like spice. I think it also has something to do with the fact that we don’t get to eat salad very often here, and kimchi slightly resembles salad, emphasis on slightly. Most foreigners seem to hate it, and maybe I’m just going through a weird phase. Sometimes I even crave it on weekends when I haven’t had it for a day or two. It’s really odd, I know.
Some kimchi varieties
In an attempt to understand this strange concoction that has found it’s way into my stomach (and heart), I did some research…ANDDDD….I stumbled across across a fabulous article, saying that kimchi is actually REALLY GOOD FOR YOU! Health.com lists it as one of the world’s healthiest foods! Read on…
“Koreans eat so much of this super-spicy condiment (40 pounds of it per person each year) that natives say “kimchi” instead of “cheese” when getting their pictures taken. The reddish fermented cabbage (and sometimes radish) dish—made with a mix of garlic, salt, vinegar, chile peppers, and other spices—is served at every meal, either alone or mixed with rice or noodles. And it’s part of a high-fiber, low-fat diet that has kept obesity at bay in Korea. Kimchi also is used in everything from soups to pancakes, and as a topping on pizza and burgers.
Why to try it: Kimchi (or kimchee) is loaded with vitamins A, B, and C, but its biggest benefit may be in its “healthy bacteria” called lactobacilli, found in fermented foods like kimchi and yogurt. This good bacteria helps with digestion, plus it seems to help stop and even prevent yeast infections, according to a recent study. And more good news: Some studies show fermented cabbage has compounds that may prevent the growth of cancer.”
Jar o' kimchi
So, there you have it, folks. There is some reason to all of this kimchi madness. Note: There is even an entire museum in Seoul dedicated to kimchi, which I will definitely be visiting…Eat your kimchi!