What is Kimchi? Where did it come from and why?
We can all likely identify kimchi as a smelly orangey red side dish that comes from Korea, but it actually has a history as rich as its flavours and scents.
In a previous blog post, we’ve spoken all about how kimchi has changed over the years, but where did it begin? The history of kimchi can largely be attributed to the freezing temperatures Korea experience in the winters – probably something us Kiwi’s think we can relate to right now (although we probably have it easy!)
Food preservation is key when crops can’t grow in hostile temperatures, so fermentation and preservation played a big role in the birth of kimchi. However, kimchi changed from region to region, and even household to household, so it’s hard to pin down one unanimous flavour or style. Kimchi was simply a style of preserving whatever ingredients were in abundance before the winter hit.
Coastal areas of Korea were more likely to place importance on the role of seafood in kimchi, whereas areas further inland would have used a wider variety of vegetables – and this variety of kimchi remains prevalent in Korea even today, with each household and cook having their own unique way of making the traditional dish.
Nevertheless, cabbage kimchi is now the most widely recognised worldwide, and is the most common kind found in Korean households.
With this history in mind, the question “what is kimchi?” can be answered with one simple sentence:
Kimchi is a fermented dish originating from Korea, and developing from many flavours and ingredients, to one common dish of fermented, probiotic cabbage and spices.
So this winter, if you’re looking for a soulful dish that will warm your tastebuds and clear out your sinuses, choose kimchi, and enjoy the rich history and flavour with your favourite rice and noodle dishes.