The most popular staple of all Korean cuisine is, undoubtedly, Kimchi. Korean cuisine is famous for its many banchan, or side dishes, that come in endless variety. You never quite know what different assortment will accompany a meal. However Kimchi is utterly indispensible from the Korean table and often eaten with every meal of the day.
Kimchi is a fermented dish of, most often, cabbage but can also be made with cucumber, radish, or other substantial vegetables. The main vegetable is fermented with salt, ginger, lots of garlic, and a generous host of other spices that are particular to a certain region or time of year. Red Kimchi, which gets its color from chili pepper seasoning, is most popular. However there is a milder white kimchi, made without the peppers, for those who prefer less spicy Korean cuisine. Special heavy kimchi pots are used during the fermentation process. Fermenting kimchi can be done in a matter of days, however those who take their kimchi seriously swear by the kind that has been let to ferment for a number of years.
Kimchi is also used as a main ingredient in other dishes. Kimchi Jigae is a popular spicy stew made with large strips of kimchi, pork, and a host of vegetables and seasoning. Kimchi fried rice is also quite popular. Many people use kimchi to add spice to virtually everything on their plate. It is added to bland soups to give it a bit of a kick, mixed in with a main dish of meat and rice, or added to other milder vegetable dishes.
Kimchi is as essential to the table as turkey at Thanksgiving. The dish has a somewhat revered place in Korean culture. There are those who swear by eating kimchi as a sort of cure-all for what ails you. I’ve heard certain fans of the dish swear that it can prevent cancer or increase one’s longevity. There is even a kimchi museum in Seoul, Korea’s capital.
If you’re traveling in the area, this is perhaps the most authentically Korean dish to try.
(image credit: lovethatkimchi.com)