When South Korea was preparing to send their first citizen to space, a group of scientists were dedicated to one important task. Create a bacteria free version of kimchi for that citizen to bring with him. It took a couple years, but when it was done the Korean computer scientist that was going to the International Space Station, Ko San, said, “This will greatly help my mission. Since I am taking kimchi with me, this will help with cultural exchanges in space.”
Kimchi is an obsession in South Korea that I don’t think we can match here in the US. During the Vietnam War, South Korean President Park Chung-hee told President Johnson that kimchi was “vitally important to the morale of the troops”. Only regional dishes like BBQ can even come close to this level of commitment in the USA. The South Korean government even has a policy to spread the good news about kimchi. Ambassadors and marketers roam the world selling the benefits of this wonderful fermented food.
I’ve extolled the benefits of fermented foods before, they are incredible providers of probiotics. And kimchi is no exception, in fact it may be the ultimate fermented food. There are reports of bottles of kimchi that are a thousand years old, and still edible. Kimchi is high in probiotics and several other nutrients like vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Researchers also found that kimchi actually boosts immunity to SARS.
But, what does kimchi taste like? Well, it’s an acquired taste, you’ll have to decide for yourself if you like the flavor. It can be made with any number of vegetables, but most available outside South Korea will contain Napa cabbage and red chilis. It is salty and sometimes more than a little funky in flavor and odor, but in a good way. Most have garlic and fish sauce in the mixture. Some kimchis are spicy some are mild. There are too many varieties list here, the Kimchi Museum in Seoul lists 187 varieties.
I recommend, if you are interested in this amazing, health boosting food, that you find a Korean restaurant, head to your local Asian market and pick up a packet, check out the products available from Amazon below, or try a recipe, like this one, on your own.