When foreigners are asked what they know about South Korea, most will either answer with Psy or Kimchi. Kimchi leaves a great impression on people who experience it for the first due to its strong smell and bright red color. Without a doubt, most Korean restaurants lay out Kimchi as a must-have side dish; some Korean meals make up of only rice and Kimchi. If you have not heard of it before, it is most known as fermented napa cabbage with hot pepper seasoning.
However, you will be surprised to hear that there are 200 different varieties of Kimchi that can be categorized by spice level or even by seasons. The following three Kimchi are great alternates to those who have had enough of “the Kimchi” they are usually given.
During the summer, Young Radish Water Kimchi (Yeolmu Kimchi) accompanies many dishes. Usually served and paired with cold noodles, Yeolmu Kimchi adds a satisfying crunch that comes from its thick green leaves from young radish. In 2013, it was voted as people’s #1 favorite type of Kimchi with the exception of the whole (nappa) cabbage Kimchi. Not only is it savory but also has many health benefits such as being rich in fiber and vitamin A and C, while also having low calories.
Since it takes a whole day to make Kimchi, usually because of the large amount and process for the main vegetable to absorb the other ingredients, most are often hesitant to try making Kimchi. To make your life a little easier: the easiest Kimchi to make is Green Onion Kimchi (Pa Kimchi). However, be aware that it is not a good idea to consume these, or even any other Kimchi, before an important meeting because it is made up of raw green onions, garlic, ginger, fish sauce and red pepper powder. Although this can be paired with literally anything, it will be a great experience if you have it with Makgeolli, which is a sweat alcoholic beverage made of rice or wheat. Pa Kimchi helps with treating infections, flu and common cold and relieving gas.
Not a fan of spicy? Unsurprisingly, there is an option for you; White Cabbage Kimchi (Baek Kimchi) is made without the red pepper powder that the others do contain. Even in Korea, parents put out Baek Kimchi for the young. The brine that comes with making the Baek Kimchi is definitely a plus; some experiment by adding salt, grated pear or salty shrimp to the brine for the best taste. After a couple of days of fermenting, the white Kimchi will play with your taste buds because of its subtle yet tangy flavor. Due to its crunchy texture, it serves as a good side dish to eat with meat because it can be used as a wrap.
To conclude, do not be quick to push away the idea of trying Kimchi because there are numerous types that are under the world of Kimchi. In hopes that the article has influenced you to want to get a taste of the most Korean side dish anyone can have, visit a Korean market, which usually has their own section of various Kimchi from different regions of Korea. Even at Korean restaurants, especially at KBBQ restaurants, do not be afraid to ask the server of what Kimchi is given. You will be surprised to learn that some may fulfill your expectations.
By Eunice Kim