What Does Kimchi Taste Like?
by Susan Grey on May 31, 2019
Kimchi, gimchi or kimchee is a sour yet spicy dish made from fermented vegetables like cabbage, radish, salt, pepper, and ginger.
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In this article, we uncover this unique and delicious fermented vegetable delicacy, the different types of kimchi, their individual tastes, and the ingredients that form this.
Warning: Kimchi seasoned with pepper can be very spicy, which can affect people with ulcers and other digestive problems. If you have a digestive condition, kindly consult a doctor before enjoying the delicacy.
What is Kimchi?
Kimchi is a fermented side dish consisting of pickled vegetables such as cabbage and radishes. The dish is prepared by slicing and soaking the dish over brine. It takes days and weeks to prepare with lactic acid which gives it its characteristic sour flavor. There are many varieties of kimchi - each with unique ingredients and flavor.
Main Ingredients and Their Effect on Flavor
Red Pepper Flakes - The flakes give kimchi its vibrant, red appearance. Depending on how much is used can drastically alter the heat level from moderate to very spicy.
Fish Sauce, Fermented Fish Paste - Any fish product, including anchovies, will give kimchi an umami (or savory) taste.
Soy Sauce - The addition gives kimchi a light and meatier flavor.
Cucumber and Radish - Using cucumber or radish will give kimchi a lighter taste opposed to cabbage.
Cabbage - Cabbage is used as the main ingredient in most kimchi recipes. It gives kimchi a strong flavor compared to using radish or cucumber.
Garlic - Garlic is incredibly flavorsome and intensifies further during the fermentation process. It gives the kimchi a delicious, deep flavor.
Lactic Acid - Lactic acid is produced by fermenting bacteria. This gives kimchi its characteristic sour taste.
Salt - Salt is vital in most kimchi recipes. The salt is combined with water to make the brine which the vegetables are submerged in for fermentation. The salt hardens pectins which means the vegetables keep their crunch as well as discouraging bacteria growth.
Sugar - The amount of sugar can vary between recipes. The more added, the sweeter the kimchi.
5 Types of Kimchi
Kimchi can be made in a number of ways, resulting in different flavors and tastes, depending on preference (link) (link).
The five kimchi varieties that we will be looking at include traditional Baechu, Baek, Oi sobagi, Nabak and Gat Kimchis (link).
1. Traditional Baechu Kimchi (link)
Baechu kimchi is the earliest form of the dish. Although the recipe has evolved over the centuries, the key ingredients used to make many types of kimchi are similar. Baechu kimchi is fermented cabbage with added seasoning that gives it its distinctive spicy taste.
What Does Traditional Baechu Kimchi Taste Like?
Baechu kimchi has a sour taste that is characteristic of the traditional kimchi meal.
2. Baek (white) Kimchi
Baek Kimchi has a distinct white color that sets it apart from other types of kimchi. It is among the original forms of kimchi having existed before the introduction of red pepper in the Korean peninsula. Preparation is similar to making traditional kimchi.
What Does Baek Kimchi Taste Like?
Baek kimchi has a soft texture and is highly rich in flavor. Baek kimchi is a mild alternative to other spicy forms like traditional kimchi, due to the absence of red pepper that is characteristic of most kimchi varieties. Ingredients like Korean peach and other juicy fruits give it a different taste and flavor.
3. Oi Sobagi (cucumber) Kimchi
Oi Sobagi kimchi is another famous type of kimchi. It has a similar preparation method to other types of kimchi. Like cabbage, the cucumbers are prepared raw. Oi sobagi kimchi is normally consumed as a side dish or as a complimentary meal.
What Does Oi Sobagi Kimchi Taste Like?
Cucumber replaces cabbage and radish, which gives it its unique texture, flavor, and color. Carrots and onions add a thick flavor to the dish and give it its soft, crunchy texture.
4. Nabak (mul) Kimchi
Known as the red water kimchi, this type of kimchi has an attractive look and taste. It looks more of a punch than a dish with minimal spicing. It is prepared using cabbage though carrots and radish may be added to give it additional taste. Mul kimchi is watery and has very thin slices of all ingredients used.
What Does Nabak Kimchi Taste Like?
Mul kimchi is sour with slightly spicy feel because of red pepper seasoning. Apple or Korean pear gives it a crispy texture and an appetizing flavor.
5. Gat (mustard leaf) Kimchi
This type of kimchi has a slight variation in the kimchi making process. The color of gat kimchi is green because of the ingredients used.
What Does Gat Kimchi Taste Like?
Gat kimchi has a strong, sharp taste caused by the mustard leaves. The leaves carry a distinct flavor and once fermented the kimchi is tasty with a unique flavor. In addition, the sour characteristic taste of kimchi and rich flavor of fermented cabbage is exhibited within this particular dish. The dish also carries the flavor of added herbs.
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