Kimchi, aka kim chee, gimchi, and others, is a traditional Korean dish made from fermented vegetables seasoned with spices. It’s a very ancient invention, being over 1400 years old. Originally it was made from fermented cabbage and beef stock only, but modern variants can be made from radishes, scallions, and cucumbers as the base ingredient. In the late 16th century the Japanese introduced New World red chili peppers to Korea, and this has been the main source of kimchi’s spice ever since.
Kimchi Field Museum in lists 187 varieties of kimchi (and I, certainly, am willing to take their word for it). Different types are made seasonally, and in various parts of the countries. South Korean kimchi is characterized as being saltier, more solid, and spicier than the Northern variants. Seoul
But enough of the dry history—what did I think of it? I first had it in the mid-nineties, at an office potluck lunch. Everyone was supposed to bring in traditional dishes from their country(s) of origin. Since my place of employment was fairly diverse, we had a lot of different choices, many new to me. (Given my lack of cooking skills, I basically cheated and brought in store-bought German raspberry strudel.) Anyway, one guy, John, brought in kimchi. I was put off at first, not being a big fan of cabbage in general, but I still gave it a try. And I was impressed—the spice more than made up for cabbage’s normal blandness. Since that time, I’ve revisited it several more times, both from the grocery store and from restaurants. A couple of times it was too hot, but usually it was spicy enough to add pleasant zest, but not so much so that you could only taste fire, and not the flavor of the food. Therefore, if you can tolerate moderate to very spicy food, I would heartily recommend it.
Furthermore, it’s very nutritious. It’s low in calories, high in fiber, and packed with vitamins and nutrients—C, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, and iron. Health Magazine rated it in the Top 5 of the World’s Healthiest Foods.