How Many Different Types of Kimchi Are Out There?

Kimchi’s popularity has skyrocketed worldwide in recent years. We’ve seen it in many Korean dramas, ordered it from a Korean restaurant, bought it at the supermarket, and made it ourselves at home. Hundreds of kimchi variations are made with different vegetables, fruits, and seasonings.

What is the most popular type of kimchi?

Baechu Kimchi (napa cabbage kimchi)

Baechu kimchi is perhaps the OG of kimchi! It is so famous that when you talk about kimchi in general, people will assume you’re referring to this kimchi. It is made with napa (Chinese) cabbages that are salted and then rinsed in cold water. Once the kimchi is mixed with gochugaru, glutinous rice flour, garlic, and ginger, it is then fermented for a few days to a few weeks.

This kimchi has a tangy, sweet, salty, spicy taste and crunchy texture. It is often used as a side dish, but can also be used in other dishes such as kimchi fried rice or kimchi stew.

Kkakdugi Kimchi (radish kimchi)

Radish was the first vegetable used by Koreans for fermentation thousands of years ago, as it was a local product. However, it wasn’t until the Joseon dynasty that kimchi was made with cabbage, as it was introduced to Korea during a trade with other Kingdoms.

Kkakdugi kimchi is made with radish cut into small chunks and then soaked in a brine solution. After a few hours, the radish is rinsed and mixed with the kimchi paste typically made from garlic, ginger, green onion, gochugaru, and sometimes, fish sauce. This kimchi has a sour and sweet taste, with a texture slightly crunchier than napa cabbage that makes it particularly well with soup dishes, such as Korean noodle soup and Korean vegetable soup.

Oi Sobagi Kimchi (cucumber kimchi)

Oi sobagi kimchi is the most popular kimchi to be consumed during spring and summer time! It is made of cucumbers mixed with kimchi paste from garlic, ginger, gochugaru, and spring onion. It has a crunchy texture with a slightly sweet, spicy, and sour taste.

However, unlike other types of kimchi, oi sobagi is not meant to be stored for long periods. Instead, it needs to be consumed within a few days, even better when it’s fresh!

Chonggak Kimchi (ponytail radish kimchi)

This kimchi is made from a peculiar vegetable called chonggak, a variation of white radish with a green stem that looks like a topknot – hence, the ponytail as its name. It shares a lot of similarities with how kkakdugi is made. However, unlike kkakdugi kimchi, which is chopped into squares, chonggak kimchi is typically served uncut.

The ponytail radish is soaked in the brine for a few hours, then rinsed and mixed with the kimchi paste. It requires at least one week of fermentation.

Pa Kimchi (green onion kimchi)

Pa kimchi is usually consumed in spring, when the jjokpa (green onion) is in season. The Korean green onion tends to be thinner than other green onions. It has slightly darker leaves with a small white bulb at the end. It is made with the same kimchi paste as other kimchi. However, dried seafood, such as shrimps, squids, or anchovies, is sometimes added to create an umami flavor and a chewy texture.

Though it’s best to wait a couple of weeks for it to ferment and have a deeper, richer flavor, you can also eat this kimchi right away.

Non-spicy kimchi types

Commonly known as a spicy dish, as it has red chili peppers listed as ingredients, not spicy kimchi exists too! Some kimchi might have a hint of spiciness, but it is very mild that it does not trigger our tastebuds.

Baek Kimchi (white kimchi)

Baek kimchi is a very much loved kimchi dish, especially among kids and those who can’t handle spicy. It is made with the same ingredients and goes through a similar process as other kimchi, using only mild ingredients, which means no red pepper flakes! 

This kimchi has a clean, flavorful, and refreshing taste. often stuffed with some fancy ingredients, such as chestnuts, dried jujubes, pine nuts, etc., that add a subtle luxurious flavor.

Dongchimi Kimchi (radish water kimchi)

Dongchimi is a famous water kimchi made of radish that is typically made in the late fall and then consumed during cold winter days. It is a sweet, salty, tangy, and refreshing kimchi soup, with a hint of a slightly bitter taste from the radish. The water content makes it less spicy than other kimchi.

Dongchimi kimchi can be served as a main meal, appetizer, or drink! It can also be used as a base to make guksu (Korean cold noodles).

Nabak Kimchi (red water kimchi)

Nabak kimchi is another popular not-so-spicy water kimchi made of vegetables and fruits. It is sour, sweet, and savory with a bit of heat and is usually vegan. This kimchi is commonly consumed during spring and traditional holidays. 

However, unlike other kimchi, nabak kimchi can quickly turn soggy as it contains fruit and sometimes cucumber. So, it is better to consume within a week after it ferments.

The most unusual kimchi

Koreans love kimchi so much that they started making kimchi with everything! Those who love kimchi, in general, wouldn’t consider any kimchi unusual. However, some kimchi types may be regarded as weird or unusual for those new to this whole kimchi world.

Bossam Kimchi (wrapped kimchi)

Bossam kimchi incorporates various ingredients such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, or raw fish. These ingredients are wrapped in wilted cabbage leaves, rolled up into a ball, and left to ferment for four days. It can be a hit or miss. You either love or hate the flavor combination.

Tongbaechu Kimchi (whole napa cabbage kimchi)

Tongbaechu kimchi is no different from the napa cabbage kimchi. But, instead of cutting the cabbages into smaller pieces, we’re using them as a whole! While it might be typical for Koreans, it can be seen as unusual and intimidating for non-Koreans! This kimchi requires more work and time, as you must spread the paste leaf by leaf.

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