Behind the trend: Kimchi

This month, we chart the rise of classic Korean side dish, fermented kimchi.

In the beginning…

This Korean dish of fermented vegetables started life as a way to preserve food and minimise waste in times of austerity. Traditionally, it was prepared using Chinese cabbage in the early winter and stored underground. It’s thought kimchi, which is eaten with almost every meal in Korea, has existed since the 7th century.

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Then…

Thanks to the health benefits (the fermentation process releases vitamins and minerals, and promotes gut health), its popularity spread worldwide, helped by a wave of Korean immigration. Boosted by fans like chef Gizzi Erskine, Korean food began to take off in the UK around 2013 – particularly kimchi.

Kimchi in bowl

Now…

Restaurants and market stalls dedicated to kimchi – like Kimchi Cult! in Glasgow and Kimchinary in London – have given the humble dish star-billing. 

Try it yourself…

Kimchi and kimchi kits are widely available in health food shops and online. Linda Choi from London-based Seoul Kimchi says that while that while every household in Korea is thought to have a slightly different recipe for kimchi, there are some fundamentals to get right:

“The basic ingredients are Chinese cabbage, spring onion, garlic, ginger, red chilli flakes, sugar and kosher salt, but there are hundreds of varieties – you can add things like salted shrimp, soy sauce, radish or cucumber. As well as serving it on the side, you can add it to soup, stew or rice.”

Make a cheat’s version with our quick kimchi recipe.

Visit our Behind the Trends hub for month by month reports on the hottest food and drink

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From January 2017