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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Korean name
Hangul 김치
Hanja n/a
Revised Romanization gimchi
McCune–Reischauer kimch'i

Kimchi (pronounced /ˈkɪmtʃi/, Korean pronunciation: [kimtɕʰi]), also spelled gimchi, kimchee, or kim chee, is any one of numerous traditional Korean pickled dishes made of vegetables with varied seasonings. A common manifestation is the spicy baechu (cabbage) variety. Kimchi is the most common banchan, or side dish, in South Korea and many South Korean communities and locales. Kimchi is also a common ingredient and combined with other ingredients to make dishes such as kimchi stew (kimchi jjigae) and kimchi fried rice (kimchi bokkeumbap). Kimchi is so ubiquitous that the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) developed space kimchi to accompany the first Korean astronaut to the Russian-manned space ship Soyuz.[1]



Ancient Kimchi

References to kimchi can be found as early as 3001 years ago.[2] The first text-written evidence of its existence can be found in the first Chinese poetry book, Shi Jing (). In this book, kimchi was referred to as jeo (菹). The term ji was used until the pre-modern term chimchae (hanja: 沈菜, lit. soaked vegetables), dimchae, and timchae were adopted in the period of the Three Kingdoms of Korea.[3] The word then was modified into jimchi, and is currently kimchi. Early kimchi was made of cabbage and beef stock only. In the twelfth century other spices, creating flavors such as sweet and sour, and colors such as white and orange were added.[4] In modern times, the main spice and source of heat for most kimchi is a paste of red chili peppers, a New World vegetable not found in Korea before European contact with the Americas. Red chili peppers were not added to kimchi recipes until some time after 1500.


Chili peppers drying for kimchi

Kimchi varieties are determined by the main vegetable ingredients and the mix of seasonings used to flavor the kimchi. The most popular type of kimchi is the baechu (also known as Chinese cabbage) variety but there are many regional and seasonal varieties. Popular variants include ggakdugi which is a kimchi made with cubed radish, pa-kimchi (made with scallions), chonggak-kimchi and oisobagi (hangul: 오이소박이), and gat-kimchi (hangul: 갓김치), boochoo-kimchi (hangul: 부추김치), a cucumber kimchi with hot and spicy seasoning. Kkaennip (hangul: 깻잎) kimchi features layers of perilla and other spices.

The Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul has documented 187 historic and current varieties of kimchi. Although the most common seasonings include brine, scallions and seasonings, ingredients can be replaced or added depending on the type of kimchi being made. Common seasonings also include, ginger, chopped radish, garlic, salted shrimp (hangul: 새우젓), and aekjeot (hangul: 액젓, fish sauce).

Kimchi varieties

Dongchimi, gulgimchi (kimchi with additional oyster) and other banchan

Kimchi can be categorized by main ingredients, regions or seasons. Korea's northern and southern sections have a considerable temperature difference.[5] Northern regions tend to have longer winters compared to the southern regions of Korea.

Kimchi from the northern parts of Korea tend to have less salt as well as less red chilli and usually do not have brined seafood for seasoning. Northern kimchi often has a watery consistency. Kimchi made in the southern parts of Korea, such as Jeolla-do and Gyeongsang-do, uses salt, chili peppers and myeolchijeot (hangul: 멸치젓, brined anchovy allowed to ferment) or saeujeot (hangul: 새우젓, brined shrimp allowed to ferment), myeolchiaekjeot (Hangul: 멸치액젓, "kkanariaekjeot" 까나리액젓, liquid anchovy jeot, similar to fish sauce used in Southeast Asia, but thicker). In the Seoul area saeujeot is preferred.

Saeujeot (hangul: 새우젓) or meyolchijeot is not added to the kimchi spice-seasoning mixture, but is simmered to reduce odors, eliminate tannic flavor and fats, and then is mixed with a thickener made of rice or wheat starch (Hangul: 풀). This technique has been falling into disuse for the past forty years.

Other brined jeot can be used, but are no longer common as modern commercialization has made aekjeot (액젓; either myeolchijeot or saeujeot) more affordable and convenient.

White kimchi (baek kimchi) is baechu seasoned without chili pepper and is neither red in color nor spicy. White radish kimchi (dongchimi) is another example of a popular kimchi that is not spicy. The watery white kimchi varieties are a popular ingredient in a number of dishes such as cold noodles in dongchimi brine (dongchimi guksu) and is eaten widely during the summer months.

By region

Traditional jars used for storing kimchi, gochujang, doenjang, soy sauce and other pickled banchan

This regional classification dates back to 1960s and contains plenty of historical facts but the current kimchi-making trends in Korea are generally different from those mentioned below.[5]

Due to its proximity to the ocean, people in this particular region use fresh fish and oysters to season their kimchi.

The taste of kimchi in Hwanghae-do can be best described as "moderate" — not bland but not overly spicy. Most kimchi from this region has less color since red chili flakes are not used. The typical kimchi for Hwanghae-do is called pumpkin kimchi (bundi).

Kimchi Buchingae
  • Gyeonggi-do (Lower Midwest of Hwanghae-do) Gyeonggi-do kimchi is known for its eye-catching decorations.
  • Chungcheong-do (Between Gyeonggi-do and Jeolla-do)

Instead of using fermented fish, people in the region rely on salt and fermentation to make savory kimchi. Chungcheong-do is known for the greatest varieties of kimchi.

In Gangwon-do, kimchi is stored for longer periods of time. Unlike other coastal regions in Korea, kimchi in this area does not contain much salted fish.

Salted yellow corvine and salted butterfish are used in this region to create different seasonings for kimchi.

This region is famous for salty and spicy flavors in its dishes and their kimchi is no exception. The most common seasoning components includes myeolchijeot (멸치젓) which produce a briny and savory flavor.

By season

Different types of kimchi were traditionally made at different times of year, based on when various vegetable were in season and also to take advantage of hot and cold seasons before the era of refrigeration. Although the advent of modern refrigeration —- including kimchi refrigerators specifically designed with precise controls to keep different varieties of kimchi at optimal temperatures at various stages of fermentation —- has made this seasonality unnecessary, Koreans continue to consume kimchi according to traditional seasonal preferences.[6] (The entire section's reference.[7])

Chonggak kimchi
Dongchimi (동치미) is largely eaten during winter.
  • Spring

Traditionally, after a long period of consuming gimjang kimchi (hangul: 김장김치) during the winter, fresh potherbs and vegetables were popular for making kimchi. These kinds of kimchi were not fermented or even stored for long periods of time but were consumed fresh.

  • Summer

Young summer radishes and cucumbers are popular summer vegetables made into kimchi, yeolmu kimchi (hangul: 열무김치) which is eaten in several bites. Brined fish or shellfish can be added and freshly ground dried chili peppers are often used.

  • Autumn

Baechu kimchi is the most common type of kimchi in the fall. It is prepared by inserting blended stuffing materials, called sok (literally meaning inside), between layers of salted leaves of uncut, whole Napa cabbage (also widely called Chinese cabbage). The ingredients of sok (hangul: 속) can vary, depending on the different regions and weather conditions. Generally, baechoo kimchi used to have a strong salty flavor until the late 1960s when a large amount of myeolchijeot or saeujeot had been used. Since the advent of aekjeot (액젓, Korean fish sauce) in the early 1970s, however, low-sodium kimchi is preferably made both at homes and at factories.

  • Winter

Traditionally, the greatest varieties of kimchi were available during the winter. In preparation for the long winter months, many types of kimjang kimchi (hangul: 김장 김치) were prepared in early winter and stored in the ground in large kimchi pots. Modern kimchi refrigerators offering precise temperature controls are used to store kimjang kimchi. November and December are traditionally when people begin to make kimchi; women often gather together in each others' homes to help with winter kimchi preparations. White kimchi (baek kimchi) is a popular kimchi to make during the wintertime. "Baechu kimchi" is made with salted baechu (a type of Chinese cabbage) filled with thin strips of radish, parsley, pine nuts, pears, chestnuts, shredded red pepper, manna lichen (석이버섯), garlic, and ginger.

Nutrition and health

Kimchi is very spicy and can also be exceptionally sweet. Kimchi is made of various vegetables and contains a high concentration of dietary fiber, while being low in calories. One serving also provides up to 80% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C and carotene.[8] Most types of kimchi contain onions, garlic, and peppers, all of which are salutary. The vegetables being made into kimchi also contribute to the overall nutritional value. Kimchi is rich in vitamin A, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), calcium, and iron,[9][10] and contains a number of lactic acid bacteria, among those the typical species Lactobacillus kimchii.[11][12][13]

The magazine Health named kimchi in its list of top five "World's Healthiest Foods" for being rich in vitamins, aiding digestion, and even possibly reducing cancer growth.[14] However, some research focused on high-sodium dietary dependence has found overconsumption of kimchi and doenjang to be a risk factor in gastric cancer (most likely due to nitrates and salt) while unfermented alliums and unfermented seafood were found to be protective factors.[15] One oncological study found one type of kimchi to be a protective factor against gastric cancer while two other types of such high-sodium kimchi as dongchimi (hangul: 동치미) were risk factors.[16]

Kimchi jjigae. A popular stew made with kimchi, it is commonly cooked with kimchi, fresh vegetables and pork or tuna although countless variants exist.

One study conducted by Seoul National University claimed that chickens infected with the H5N1 virus, also called avian flu, recovered after eating food containing the same bacteria found in kimchi. However, the veracity of these results has been questioned due to the very small sample size of only a handful of chickens and the fact that no subsequent research supported the claims. During the 2003 SARS outbreak in Asia, many people even believed that kimchi could protect against infection, although there was no scientific evidence to support this belief.[17][18] However, in May 2009, the Korea Food Research Institute, Korea’s state food research organization, said they had conducted a larger study on 200 chickens, which supported the theory that it boosts chickens' immunity to the virus.[19]

Nutritional composition of typical kimchi[20]
Nutrients per 100 g * Nutrients per 100 g
Food energy 32 kcal Moisture 88.4 g
Crude protein 2.0 g Crude Lipid 0.6 g
Total sugar 1.3 g Crude fiber 1.2 g
Crude ash 0.5 g Calcium 45 mg
Phosphorus 28 mg Vitamin A 492 IU
Vitamin B1 0.03 mg Vitamin B2 0.06 mg
Niacin 2.1 mg Vitamin C 21 mg

* Per 100 g of edible portion.

There have also been many scientific reports, published outside of Korea, that show evidence that Kimchi is a risk factor for gastric cancer. This is due to N-nitroso, a possibly carcinogenic compound, that can be found in kimchi.[21] South Korea currently has the world's highest rate of gastric cancer.

1996 Kimchi dispute

In 1996, Japan manufacturers proposed making kimchi the official Atlanta Olympics food,[citation needed] and decided to export Japanese made kimuchi (キムチ), Japanese pronunciation of kimchi to other countries. Korea questioned that there was no international appropriate standard to inspect and evaluate the quality of imported kimchi, as a traditional Korean food. To this day, Japanese kimchi export exceeds that of Korean kimchi export. Korean manufacturers urged for an international kimchi standard to "protect consumers' health and to ensure fair practices in the food trade" (KFRI).[22]

Japan served kimuchi to the United States president Bill Clinton in 1993, gaining international attention.[citation needed] After the dispute between Korea and Japan, the Codex Alimentarius Commission ordered Japan to correct the term 'kimuchi' to 'kimchi',[citation needed] on all products including ones for export as well. After that Japan again challenged the origin of kimchi arguing that asazuke (淺漬け), a form of Japanese kimuchi without a spicy taste, should be classified as kimchi.[citation needed] Korea's response to this assertion is that asazuke, which does not undergo a fermentation process with jeotgal, (Korean salted seafood) can not be classified as kimchi. The Korean government submitted a standard bill to Codex clearly stating, "Kimchi is a fermented food that uses salted napa cabbages as its main ingredient mixed with seasonings, and goes through a lactic acid production process at a low temperature." This bill was accepted by Codex in July of 2001.[22][23]

In popular culture

  • When taking photographs, South Koreans often will use the word "kimchi" in the same way as English speakers tend to use the word "cheese!"[24]
  • Gwangju Kimchi Festival is an annual event held in Gwangju city in southern Korea and is open to locals and tourists.[25]
  • In 20th century U.S. slang, "kimchi" was occasionally used in the phrase "in deep kimchi" (particularly by veterans of the Korean War), a euphemism for "in deep trouble" and was used in a number of awkward situations.[26][27]
  • Kimchi is a big part of the Korean cooking drama Sikgaek, where they include kimchi in many of their dishes.
  • Kimchi is the name of an animated character on the American TV series Chowder. The creature is presumably the pet of the lead character, Chowder, as he resides in a bird cage next to his bed. Kimchi is a cloud of speechless gas with two eyes, he communicates via flatulent noises. Because having no assemblance with the actual Kimchi, it is called 지지 (Jiji) in the Korean subtitles on Cartoon Network Southeast Asia.


See also



  1. ^ Kimchi goes to space, along with first Korean astronaut Austin Kim, International Herald Tribune, 22 February 2008
  2. ^ (Korean) The origin of the etymology on Kimchi from Kimchi Expo 2003 website
  3. ^ (Korean) 김치의 이름(명칭) from Hankyoreh21
  4. ^ Kimchi Museum Official Website
  5. ^ a b "Kimchi." Yahoo Korean Encyclopedia
  6. ^ "High-tech kimchi refrigerators keep Korea's favorite food crisp". Hong Kong Trade Development Council. 2002-03-14. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  7. ^ (Korean) "Kimchi in Korea: By Season." Korea Agro-Fisheries Trade Corp.
  8. ^ Bae, Christina. "Kimchi?Korean Fermented Food." University of Bristol.
  9. ^ "Food in Korea". Retrieved 2007-01-30. 
  10. ^ "Kimchi". Retrieved 2007-01-30. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Jung-Sook Leea, Gun-Young Heoa, Jun Won Leea, Yun-Jung Oha, Jeong A Parka, Yong-Ha Parka, Yu-Ryang Pyunb and Jong Seog Ahn; Analysis of kimchi microflora using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. International Journal of Food Microbiology Volume 102, Issue 2, 15 July 2005, Pages 143-150
  13. ^ Myungjin Kim and Jongsik Chun; Bacterial community structure in kimchi, a Korean fermented vegetable food, as revealed by 16S rRNA gene analysis. International Journal of Food Microbiology, Volume 103, Issue 1, 15 August 2005, Pages 91-96
  14. ^ Raymond, Joan "World's Healthiest Foods: Kimchi (Korea)" Health Magazine. <,23414,1149143,00.html>
  15. ^ Nan et al., Kimchi and soybean pastes are risk factors of gastric cancer <>
  16. ^ Kim et al., Dietary factors and gastric cancer in Korea: A case-control study. International Journal of Cancer 2001; Volume 97, Issue 4, Pages 531-535<>
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ from Korea Food Research Institute
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b (May 2001) Misuzu Nakamura TED Case Studies Japan Korea Kimchi Dispute American University
  23. ^ CODEX STANDARD FOR KIMCHI The Codex Alimentarius Commission
  24. ^ Food in Korea (Basic Sauces, Kim Chi, Ceremonial Food, Table Manners and Table Settings, Traditional Korean Meal, Traditional Ceremonial Meal)
  25. ^ Han Aran (2007-10-17). "Mouth-watering kimchi festival underway". The Korean Overseas Cuture and Information Service (KOIS). 
  26. ^
  27. ^ "War Slang: American Fighting Words and Phrases Since the Civil War" By Paul Dickson ISBN 1574887106 pages 240 and 247

Further reading

External links

Simple English

Cabbage Kimchi

Kimchi (김치) is a traditional Korean food made from vegetables, widely with Chili pepper. It often contains things like Chinese cabbage, radish, garlic, red pepper, spring onion, shrimp, ginger, salt, and sugar.

Kimchi is usually very strong for non-Koreans. There are many different types and Koreans typically eat kimchi in every meal. It is a staple of Korean food. Kimchi can be stored for a long time and it does not go bad easily. However, when it is exposed to hot weather for certain time, kimchi turns sour. So, it should not be put out unless it is going to be eaten soon. In Korea kimchi pots are a common sight. They are large terra cotta pots where the kimchi is stored until it can be eaten or until it ferments. A typical batch of kimchi takes about 2 weeks to ferment but some varieties can be eaten right away. Some must be stored for over a year to be finished.

The fermentation gives the kimchi a pickle-like quality and generally soggy or limp kimchi is not good.


The most common variety of kimchi is made from cabbage, radish, garlic, red pepper, salt and sugar. The cabbage is soaked in salt water for a few hours. Coarse rock salt is then rubbed in between the leaves of the cabbage. Red peppers are also rubbed in and most kimchi has a lot of pepper in it.

The radish is usually cut into long thin strips and added to the mix. A little sugar is added to help the fermentation process along much in the same way beer is made.

The amounts of each ingredient vary between the type of kimchi you are making and the personal taste of the maker. Most kimchi has a special taste with shrimp or fish.

The kimchi is allowed to ferment for a period of time, usually outdoors in a large kimchi pot. It is also quite common for these pots to be buried under ground. Kimchi can be kept for a long time and does not go bad. Koreans make kimchi with their families in December.

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