You cannot claim to know Korean food until you learn how to eat Kimchi (also spelt as kimchee). In fact, you never have to order kimchi, it is served to you as a complementary dish, for even the waiters realize that no Korean dining experience can be complete without eating Kimchi. New to Korean food and wondering what kimchee is all about then do read this blog post – it’s all about the what, how, and whys of eating Kimchi.
Kimchi is the quintessential Korean delicacy made from fermented vegetables (somewhat similar to Sauerkraut). In fact, it is supposed to be one of the oldest known recipes from Korea, with written references dating back to 1000 BC. Through the years, more than 100 varieties of Kimchee have been developed; however, the most popular variety seems to be the Baechu Kimchi made from Napa Cabbage (a type of Chinese cabbage from Korea), other varieties include ggakdugi Kimchi (made from radish), pa-Kimchi (made from scallions), oisobagi Kimchee (with cucumbers), Kkaennip Kimchee (a layered kimchee) and more. Though there are several regional variations in the preparation method, the basic recipe involves pickling the main ingredient in brine along with a variety of spices and condiments that help in creating flavors ranging from sweet & sour to hot & spicy.
Kimchee (for some) is an acquired taste, but once you get hooked on to it – you will not find any meal complete without a generous serving of Kimchi. At a traditional Korean dinner, kimchi can be served as a side dish with almost all Korean dishes and also used in preparing first courses and main courses like soups, stew, and fried rice, it is one of the most versatile dishes that you will ever get to eat. Here are the top five ways of eating kimchi that will help you relish this dish better:
The omnipresent side dish:Almost all Korean dishes are served with a side dish of kimchee. In fact, in many Korean restaurants, you will find bowls of kimchee served on the table just like pepper and salt – you don’t have to ever ask for it. Apart from Korean dishes, kimchi serves as a good accompaniment for other oriental dishes like chow mien, fried rice, stir fried veggies, etc.
Kimchi as a side dish
Kimchee fried rice:Kimchi Bokkeumbap is the most popular way of devouring overripe kimchi. Just mix the kimchi with rice, add some spices of your choice, and stir fry the mixture – Lo! A delectable kimchi filled meal is ready to be relished.
Stew it up: Kimchi Cigae or kimchi stew is another traditional recipe prepared using kimchi, beef, pork, tuna, and spices. The ingredients are stir fried, and then simmered in some fresh broth to make a refreshingly spicy stew apt for cold winter days.
Kimchee pancakes:Mix kimchi with flour, eggs, and spices and cook the mixture into spicy hot pancakes. Called as Kimchi Pajun in Korean, these pancakes are not only a welcome change from the usual sweet pancakes, but also healthier than the regular ones.
Kimchi rice cakes:Tteokbukki or spicy Korean rice cakes taste the best when prepared using kimchi along with other sauces. Just prepare Tteobukki according to the recipe and mix a generous serving of Kimchi towards the end – a spicy yet delicious rice cake dish will be ready for you to relish.
These are just some of the traditional ways of eating Kimchi. However, you can always develop your own style of relishing this dish - use it as topping for homemade pizza, to make patties, a side dish for omelets, filling for burgers, etc. The possibilities are endless. Do get a bottle of kimchi, try using it in your own unique style, and share your experiences with me.