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Kimchi: What Is It, Taste, and How To Eat?

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Published on:

Food is a massive part of Korean culture, and their food is known for being healthy and delicious. One of the most popular foods in South Korea is kimchi. 

But what exactly is it?

Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made up of fermented vegetables. Although ingredients change based on the recipe, the typical combination is vegetables, garlic, chili peppers, ginger, salt, and fish sauce. 

It is an extremely popular food and is used in hundreds of recipes.

The rest of this article will cover what kimchi is in more detail, and also how to eat it.

What Kimchi Is

Kimchi (김치) is a fermented vegetable used in a plentiful amount of Korean foods. 

Not only is it used as a side dish (in Korean, side dishes are called 반찬 or Banchan), but it’s also used in many soups and stews. It is one of the most popular Korean foods.

Cabbage is the most common vegetable you’ll see used to make kimchi. 

Along with that, scallions, carrots, radish, and cucumbers are used. 

It can easily be made into a vegan dish by utilizing plant-based ingredients only. 

In Korea, kimchi is served with almost every single meal. 

Yes, even breakfast includes kimchi in some fashion. 

This is because it adds flavor whether it’s mixed in with another food or eaten on its own.

Kimchi is used for a variety of foods including: noodles, sandwiches, and pizza.

The flavor kimchi has and its accessibility makes it a very common choice for both Koreans and others around the world.

What It Tastes Like

There are a few main flavors residing in kimchi: sour, spicy, and umami. 

The flavor is determined by which ingredients you use, but it can change based on how much or little salt and sugar you use. In general, its most prominent flavor is sour.

Since kimchi is made up of vegetables like cabbage, it’s also very crunchy. Keep in mind that because kimchi is hot and spicy, it is considered an acquired taste. 

If you don’t like the ingredients in kimchi, or you don’t like pickled things, it’s best not to waste your money trying it.

Where To Buy Kimchi

With kimchi’s popularity increasing, you can purchase good kimchi even if you don’t live in Korea. At your local grocery store, you can buy kimchi. 

You can find it at a Walmart, Wegmans, or another local food mart. Asian marts and sushi bars have kimchi as well.

If you look really hard, you can find restaurants that sell kimchi. 

The reason why is because it’s gaining popularity, and homemade kimchi that restaurants make from scratch is in high demand all over the world. 

Korean and other Asian restaurants are very likely to have kimchi.

When you’re inside your local grocery store, go to the refrigerator section. 

Kimchi needs to be refrigerated, therefore the kimchi will most likely be in the refrigerated produce, or the refrigerated pickles and other vegetables section.

After you’ve purchased your kimchi, now you need to store it. At room temperature, when it’s opened, it will only last a week. 

However, if you keep it refrigerated, it will last between 3-6 months. The temperature you should keep it at is 39 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

Higher temperatures will spoil it quicker, hence why at room temperature it spoils so quickly. 

Another thing to keep in mind is the longer you have it in the fridge, the more the flavor will change. It will stay safe to eat, but the vegetables will lose their crispness. 

How To Eat Kimchi

To eat kimchi, first, you have to choose how you want to have it. As a side dish, an entree, or on its own entirely. There are countless ways to prepare kimchi, both hot and cold. 

Here are a couple of ways you can have kimchi: add it to rice, eat it as is, and make a stew out of it.

Add Kimchi To Rice

Adding kimchi to rice enhances its flavor and gives it more of a crunchy texture. 

Of course, this flavor will vary based on what kimchi you make/buy and what rice you’re putting the kimchi into. 

You can put kimchi into any kind of rice you’d like.

The most common form of rice kimchi is mixed with white rice. White rice brings out the flavor of kimchi the best, and it’s also good for salt lovers. 

Salt goes well with both kimchi and white rice, so adding more salt to it brings out the flavor even more.

However, there are different types of cooked rice you can add it to. You can add it to steamed or fried rice. For steamed rice, stir chopped kimchi into it. 

For fried rice, stir it for a minute before the rice is fully fried for the best results.

Eat Kimchi As It Is

You can’t go wrong with eating kimchi as it is. Fresh out of the container, it’ll be cold, and the coldness will contrast the spicy kick it has. 

However, if you prefer warm kimchi, heat it up and then eat it raw. This works for a nice snack, but it won’t be very filling.

If you want to enhance the flavor of the kimchi, you can heat it up – but not only in a microwave. The best way to heat it up is to get vegetable oil and put it in a pan.

From there, heat it until it’s at the temperature you want. The vegetable oil gives it more flavor, and the heat makes it tangy.

Kimchi is a versatile food that can be used with almost every dish. It even works in mac and cheese, and as previously mentioned, pizza.

That’s why you should eat kimchi on its own before putting it inside another dish; you get more used to the flavor and how it’s handled.

Make A Stew Out Of It

Stews are very popular in Korea due to the climate being on the colder side. 

With that being said, it’s no surprise that kimchi stew, called kimchi-jjigae (김치찌개), is a common stew Koreans love to make. 

With the right ingredients, you can make it too!

Not only is the stew good for your health, but it’s also packed full of flavor. 

The main ingredient is of course kimchi, but there’s others as well: pork or seafood, scallions, onions, and diced dubu. Using this combination, you can make your own kimchi stew.

Conclusion

Kimchi is a popular food originating from Korea. It’s a traditional Korean food that’s served with each meal of the day, which includes breakfast

Kimchi is served on its own, as a side dish, or mixed into the main entree. There are hundreds of Korean recipes that include kimchi.

The flavor and accessibility of kimchi make it a popular choice not just in Korea, but worldwide as well. It has a sour, spicy, and umami taste as well as a crunchy texture because of the vegetables (cabbage) typically used. 

It can also be made vegan by using plant-based items.

Lastly, you can eat kimchi in many different ways. As a side dish, main course, and more. Cold or warm, steamed or fried, kimchi has a rich flavor and texture. 

You can eat it mixed in with rice, by itself, and in a stew. It’s an acquired taste, but it goes well with almost everything. 

About The Author

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Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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