There are some foods that will always be controversial despite their health-giving properties. Some people will never be able to brave the bitterness of kale. Others can't put an olive back without wincing uncontrollably. Sardines will simply never, ever, ever be a staple of the American diet.
Kimchi is one of those foods.
Korea's national dish has a very mixed reputation. Being dubbed a superfood, the spicy pickled cabbage is an enormous source of national pride and is referenced by some experts as the healthiest food in the world. Along with wonderfully sticky white rice, Kimchi is the cornerstone of a Korean diet and is typically consumed with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
While the thought of waking up to a mouthful of dank fermented cabbage sounds significantly less appealing than a bowl of Cheerios, the world of food and nutrition unanimously agree that this culinary phenomenon should be in our diet regularly.
So while it's difficult to illustrate the strength of the cult of Kimchi, but here's a rundown of reasons you should man up and brave the intensity of the spicy pickled side dish!
It Gets Less Intense
I lived in Korea for four years, and as a Scottish person accustomed to bland food, I found the stuff absolutely unbearable at first. There was way too much flavor. It was molesting my tongue, and I wasn't alone—a lot of first timers feel this way. But you know what? Eating it every single day quickly changed that.
There are Over 300 Types
The square piece of hostile red cabbage you see at Korean BBQ is the most common type of kimchi. Try kkakdugi (a wonderful cubed radish kimchi) or baek kimchi (a white pickled cabbage dish) if you don't dig on the spicy stuff too much.
Kimchi bokkeumbap (kimchi and rice), kimchijeon (kimchi pancake), and the magnificent kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew) are a few exceptional uses of the dish. You can also fry it in the residual oil from your BBQ if you want to be a straight baller.
…Or Simply Add Rice
Granted this is probably what is consumed in Korean prisons, but damn it's tasty. Just fry the kimchi in a skillet for a couple of minutes, and then mix it up with some white rice and you're jamming. That is 'something to eat.'
It's Exceptionally Healthy
Health.com listed kimchi as one of the top five healthiest foods in the world, and it's regularly listed as a superfood (high in antioxidants and cancer-fighting agents). During the bird flu breakout, the media in Korea reported that the bacteria in kimchi had effectively cured chickens that were infected with the virus. But the Korean media says a lot of things…
The Production Process is Awesome
Every September families gather to make their kimchi for the year, and when you consider the average Korean eats about 40lbs of kimchi every year (!), this is an operation. It involves covering the whole house in cabbage and rubbing it down with red pepper, fish sauce, salt, garlic, ginger, and spring onion. Then, it is placed in a special refrigerator.
Historically it was packed into large pots and buried underground to refrigerate and ferment during the winter months. Korea has a long, harsh winter, and their land is pretty arid. So kimchi became a vital means of getting nutrients during the season.
We could go on and on about the cultural and economic importance of this dish, but let's just say it's arguably one of the most culturally significant foods in the world.
It's a Straight-Up Icon
It's very difficult to express the adoration for this dish. Kimchi carried the Korean people through some very tough times. Some have cited it as the driving force behind the nation's 30-year rise from war-broken poverty to global economic dominance. When the price of napa cabbage rose in 2010, the Korean press declared it a 'national crisis.'
For a dish so extreme and assertive, its fame is unparalleled. Pizza can't hold a candle to this stuff.
It Has it's Own Museum
Koreans love kimchi so much that there is a museum dedicated to it in the COEX Mall in Gangnam, Seoul.
It Can Be DIY'd
If you want to be legit about this you could go all out and buy an urn and bury it underground. For those of you who pickle on the casual, maybe you should have a go at this homemade, Mother-in-Law's Kimchi Kit!
Now get in there and embrace what is arguably the greatest food in the world!