Citizens, Koreans have an abiding love for both pickling and cabbage, as best exemplified by the Korean national dish, kimchee – a spicy, garlicky pickled cabbage dish that is a favorite of TFD.
If you ever visit Korea, you will really get to appreciate how integral kimchi is to the culture of the country. EVERY meal – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are served with kimchi.
In November, when the country begins its nation-wide preparations for the bitter Korean winter, everyone is at market buying cabbage to put up for Winter kimchee. Even the newspapers are full of tips on how to best prepare it, store it, etc. It’s much like our national obsession with turkey for Thanksgiving – except it’s year-round!
In ancient times, Kimchee was called ji, which eventually evolved into timchae in the period of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. The word then was modified into jimchi, and is currently kimchi.
Red chili pepper flakes (introduced by European traders) are now used as the main ingredient for spice and source of heat for many varieties of kimchi.
Kimchi is truly Korea’s national dish. During South Korea’s involvement in the Vietnam War, its government requested American help to ensure that South Korean troops, reportedly “desperate” for the food, could obtain it in the field.
South Korean president Park Chung-hee told U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson that kimchi was “vitally important to the morale of Korean troops”.
It was even sent into space on board Soyuz TMA-12 with Korean astronaut Yi So-yeon, after a multimillion-dollar research effort was successfully undertaken to kill the bacteria and lessen the odor without affecting taste.
My version of this classic dish is closely based on the finest complete recipe for Kimchee I’ve ever found – “Growing up in a Korean Kitchen – a Cookbook”, by Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall. You can buy kochugaru on Amazon here, and it is possible to buy sweet rice flour on Amazon here.
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