Kimchee; NOT just another pickle !
It is impossible to exaggerate the role of Kimchee in Korea. It is not just a BahnChahn, a side dish. It is THE bahn chahn. Everybody in Korea eat kimchee with every meal, and in every household, there is at least two kinds of kimchee, often more. There is probably not another single food category that is consumed so consistently and constantly any where else in the world. For Koreans, life without Kimchee would be simply unthinkable.
At last count, there were over 300 kinds of kimchees made from all kinds of vegetables, but the main, basic kimchee is made from Chinese cabbage. Actual making of Kimchee is as labour intensive as it is time consuming. Cabbage is halved, salted for few hours, washed, drained, then stuffed with fillings that include julienned radish, fresh and dried chilli, garlic and ginger. Everything from water content of cabbage, to quality of all the ingridients, proper salting and washing and draining, as well as right 'mix' of fillings, and final timing to allow fermentation, 2-3 days in warm weather, longer in cold, all contribute to how 'well' your kimchee will turn out!
Recently, with rise in popular demand for commercial ready-made kimchees, wider range of kimchee have become available. One noteworthy specialty is ‘aged’ kimchees, which are left to mature in the cold for over one year.
Kimchee's central role in Korean kitchen is also due to its versatility; it is used as a central ingredient in all kinds of recipes from soups, to braised dishes, to pan-fried and stir-frieds as well as in rice and gruel dishes; often using kimchee that is past its prime. Next time you are in a Korean restaurant, ask for a different kimchee, or try a kimchee rice or hot pot.
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