Kimchi has played a vital role in not only Korean cuisine, but also Korean tradition and culture. It has been around for centuries, with its origins dating back to ancient times. Koreans initially made kimchi to preserve vegetables during the freezing winter months to help maintain the lifespan of the vegetables. Nowadays, kimchi is enjoyed all year round, with numerous varieties. The Koreans take pride in their kimchi, so when South Korea launched its first astronaut to space in 2008, they sent them!
Deeply rooted in the traditions and history of Korea, Kimchi has evolved into hundreds of variations with a wide range of depth, flavors, and ways to prepare it. Similar to bread and butter in the western world, kimchi and rice are the universal parts of the traditional Korean meal. Kimchi is so vital to Korea that there is a museum dedicated to Kimchi, located at the COEX Mall in Gangnam, Seoul.
Kimjang – the festival of kimchi
Kimchang s a traditional Korean festival that celebrates the making of kimchi. The festival always takes place in the fall, when cabbage is harvested. However, it is a yearly cycle with many preparations beginning as early as spring. In spring, seafood such as shrimps and anchovies is salted and fermented. Summer is the time to purchase salt for the brine, dry up chili peppers, and grind them into powder for the kimchi mixture. Finally, in fall, families get together to make large batches of kimchi that will last them through the winter months.
During the festival, everyone works together to clean and chop the vegetables, mix them with spices, and pack them into jars. The finished product is then buried in the ground to ferment. The kimjang festival is a time for families and community members to bond and share their culture. It is also an opportunity to teach the younger generation about the importance of kimchi.
Yes! Koreans typically lay out many side dishes for every meal, with kimchi being one of them. Kimchi is necessary to balance out the tastes of all kinds of dishes. It is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed by itself or combined with other dishes. So many foods are made with kimchi, from soups, stews, and stir-fries to fried rice, noodle, pancake, and dumpling. There is almost no way to avoid kimchi if you are living in Korea. Ask any local what complete their meals; the most common answer is kimchi.
According to Seoul Cultural Heritage Administration, kimchi is consumed at least once to twice daily. Around 95% of Koreans consume kimchi daily, and 60% consume it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Additionally, according to separate research conducted by the World Institute of Kimchi, around 57 pounds of kimchi are consumed each year.
Despite its distinct and exotic taste, kimchi has become a worldwide hit, earning the reputation as a superfood and symbol of Korean heritage. Before being launched into space in 2008, kimchi was first introduced to the international community at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Officials back then were conflicted over how the public reactions would be. Would the foreigner, specifically those from the West, like kimchi? Would they find kimchi too spicy and too pungent? Fortunately, the South Korean Olympic committee reached an agreement to make kimchi the official food of the games. However, Koreans had to brush their teeth after every meal before working with foreign visitors.
The visitors turned out to have a positive response to kimchi! Since then, kimchi has crossed international borders, becoming popular in trendy restaurants and supermarkets across Europe and America. Its role as South Korea’s ambassador has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations.