Great Legacies Children

Kimchi: Aged to perfection

South Koreans and tourists make kimchi to donate to needy neighbours during a festival in Seoul.

South Koreans and tourists make kimchi to donate to needy neighbours during a festival in Seoul.   | Photo Credit: AP

In 2014, over 2,000 people got together in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, and made 250 tons of kimchi to give away to the homeless in preparation for winter. The significance here is not just the act but also the dish itself. A cultural icon of South Korea, kimchi is a spicy fermented vegetarian dish made from fresh seasonal vegetables. The process begins in summer to ensure that people will have their nutrients in winter.

The main ingredient is the napa cabbage or other vegetables such as the Korean radish. A wide variety of seasonings including gochugaru, spring onions, garlic, ginger, and jeotgal are used. The dish is fermented and aged in underground pots traditionally. Today they use refrigerators.

In earlier times, entire communities came together to prepare kimchi before winter. This process was known as Kimjang. It is such an intrinsic part of the South Korean culture that it made it to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2013.

Different types of kimchi displayed in Korean Folk Museum.

Different types of kimchi displayed in Korean Folk Museum.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Fun Facts
  • It is estimated that a Korean eats 56 pounds of kimchi annually.
  • Museum Kimchikan (in pic) is a museum dedicated to Kimchi in Seoul.
  • It travelled to outer space with the first Korean astronaut, Yi So-yeon. The country spent millions of dollars to produce this “out-of-this world” kimchi.
  • In South Korea’s stock market, the “Kimchi Index” tracks when the 13 main ingredients of the dish including the Napa cabbage are at their best prices.

Kimchi can be traced back to between 37 BC and 7 AD when fermented food was in vogue. It is served as an accompaniment at every meal and comes in hundreds of varieties.

With recipes passed down from mother to daughter, and from mother-in-law to daughter-in-law, it continues to be a living cultural traditional heritage.

The process

Salt is added to the uniformly cut cabbage to draw out the excess water. Once seasoned, it is buried in enormous earthen pots known as Ornggi. This particular process of burying prevented the kimchi from being frozen during winter and too fermented during summer. Today, they are stored in kimchi refrigerators.

Recipes dating back to the 13th century highlight that kimchi was made only with fresh vegetables, pickles, salt and alcohol. Red pepper was added only in the 17th century.

Today, kimchi is made from Napa cabbage, a type of Chinese cabbage, originating from the Beijing region of China and Korean radish.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2020 2:26:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/south-koreas-kimchi-is-a-living-cultural-traditional-heritage/article32135653.ece

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