Newly prepared “kimjang kimchi” at the Kimchi Love Festival, which was held at the Hanok village, Junggu, Seoul last Saturday
By Shim Hyun-chul
Kimchi is the representative fermented dish of Korea. Those who have not tried kimchi may be startled by the tangy smell, but if you don't try kimchi during your stay in Korea, you cannot say you have spent quality time here.
There is a Korean song with the lyrics ``If we didn't have kimchi, how could have we have our meals?'' Considering these words, Koreans' love toward the dish has endured for a long time.
Normally, kimchi is made with cabbages preserved in salt combined with a special spicy sauce made with red pepper, garlic, green onions, ginger and salted fish.
In late fall, many Koreans make a large amount of kimchi to eat during the cold winter, and this is called ``kimjang kimchi.''
Kimchi is known to have originated in China 3,000 years ago under the name ``jeo,'' and was spread here during the Three Kingdoms period (57 B.C.-A.D. 668). Recipes, and also names, differ depending on the era. It was first called ``chimchae,'' which literally means ``to preserve vegetables in salt,'' and changed to ``timchae'' and ``dimchae,'' until it finally became the name we know now: kimchi.
Before the Three Kingdoms era when red pepper was unknown here, the cabbage was simply preserved in salt. During the mid-Joseon Kingdom era (1392-1910), it started to look like the dish people see today.
The shapes and types of kimchi also differed depending on the region. The northern region, where it is cold, preserved the vegetables less in terms of time than other areas, making it more fresh and crunchy. Meanwhile, the southern regions added a lot more pepper, salt and fermented fish to make the kimchi more spicy and salty.
However, as the regions tend to exchange cultures, these differences have disappeared compared to the past, and now it is hard to find such drastic differences in the dishes.