What is Kimchi

by Jinal Gangar last updated -

Kimchi or Kimchee is a traditional fermented Korean delicacy, which is made from vegetables like napa cabbage and radishes, and a range of spices and seasonings. These seasonings include pepper, chili powder, garlic, ginger, and scallions. The taste of kimchi is salty and spicy like pickled vegetables and it is used as a side dish in many countries.

It is the national dish of Korea and has been their staple food for ages. There are many varieties of kimchee prepared using different vegetables. There are about 200 variations and the taste of kimchi is customized depending on the season and region you are in.

Origin of Kimchi

The name has been derived from a Korean word ‘shimchae’ which means ‘salting of vegetables’. Later, after going through many phonetic changes the term ‘kimchi ‘came into the picture and has remained to date. [1]

It traces its origin in Korea around the 7th century. Initially, it was nothing more than just salted vegetables. Gradually, several spices and flavors were added to kimchi, and finally, around 18th-century it was modernized with the introduction of the red hot pepper as a major ingredient. The history of kimchee is rooted in the agrarian culture, which started earlier than the period of the three kingdoms of the Korean peninsula.

A bowl of kimchi on a white background

A bowl of tangy kimchi Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Cabbage, kimchi
Serving Size :
Water [g]94.3
Energy 15
Energy [kJ]65
Protein [g]1.1
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.5
Ash [g]1.7
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]2.4
Fiber, total dietary [g]1.6
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]1.06
Calcium, Ca [mg]33
Iron, Fe [mg]2.5
Magnesium, Mg [mg]14
Phosphorus, P [mg]24
Potassium, K [mg]151
Sodium, Na [mg]498
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.22
Copper, Cu [mg]0.02
Selenium, Se [µg]0.5
Thiamin [mg]0.01
Riboflavin [mg]0.21
Niacin [mg]1.1
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.21
Folate, total [µg]52
Folate, food [µg]52
Folate, DFE [µg]52
Choline, total [mg]15.5
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]5
Carotene, beta [µg]55
Carotene, alpha [µg]1
Vitamin A, IU [IU]93
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]49
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.11
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]43.6
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.07
12:0 [g]0
14:0 [g]0
16:0 [g]0.06
18:0 [g]0
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.04
18:1 [g]0.04
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.24
18:2 [g]0.1
18:3 [g]0.14
Sources include : USDA [2]

Attributing to the extremely cold weather which made the cultivation practically impossible, Koreans had to come with a storage method called ‘pickling’ to secure food.

Kimchee was also taken to space by astronauts on the spaceship. The multi-million dollar research conducted on it took several years and was aimed at achieving a version of kimchi which would remain harmless and bacteria-free even after exposure to cosmic radiations and remain safe for consumption. [3]

Even after so many alterations and additions were done in its ingredients over the centuries, this Korean appetizer is still prepared using the same cooking method and has still retained the same qualities and benefits as it used to be when first introduced. [4]

Types of Kimchi

The most commonly relished varieties are:

  • Baechu kimchi – Made from Napa cabbage
  • Baek kimchi – White kimchi without a chili pepper
  • Kkakdugi kimchi – Made with Korean radish containing fermented shrimp
  • Chonggak kimchi – Prepared with ponytail radish
  • Oi sobagi – Cucumber kimchi enjoyed during summer and spring

With so many types available, it deserves to be on the list of ‘World’s Healthiest Foods’. And it comes as no surprise that the natives of Korea love it, so much that they say ‘kimchee’ instead of ‘cheese’ while getting clicked.

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About the Author
 Jinal, an ex-banker who has completed her MBA in finance from Mumbai University, is passionate about health and wellness. She is a social media enthusiast. She has completed an online program on “Introduction to Food and Health” from Stanford University, US. On weekends you can find her in cafes or movie theaters. Positivity drives her and she finds peace in cooking, reading, and coffee!
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