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Kimchi (which can also be spelt kimchee) is a traditional fermented food from Korea. Usually made from vegetables including cabbage, radish or cucumber and a range of spices and seasonings like chili, garlic, ginger and salt. The name comes from the Korean word for ‘salting of vegetables’ – which is a very accurate description of the dish itself! Kimchi was originally vegetables salted to preserve them. Over time spices and flavourings have been added to create the kimchi we know today.
Normally served as a side dish kimchi makes a perfect accompaniment to any rice or noodle dish or or can be added to the side of salads, or vegetables for an extra probiotic punch and dash of spice!
Nutritional Benefits of Kimchi
Kimchi is one of my top fermented foods because it’s packed with beneficial probiotic bacteria. These bacteria develop as part of the fermentation process and populates our gut to aid digestion. They also support immune function and help fight infections.
But it’s not just the probiotics which offer health benefits in kimchi. The allium found in the garlic can help lower cholesterol to support heart health and the capsicum in the chilli boosts your metabolism. It is also rich in Vitamins A and C and has a powerful level of antioxidants which all combine to slow the ageing process and provide further immune support.
How to buy kimchi
There are many varieties of kimchi available in Asian supermarkets and in some larger high street supermarkets. Look for a traditional Korean kimchi and check the ingredient list for added preservatives and sugar. The ingredients should simply be: vegetables, spices and salt. Nothing more is needed to make the most nutritional kimchi!
When to be cautious with Kimchi
Digestive health: The high levels of probiotics and fibre in kimchi mean it can actually increase gas, bloating and wind in some individuals. I advise you to start slowly with small amounts to avoid overwhelming your digestive system.
Gastric ulcer or sensitive digestion: The chilli in kimchi can irritate ulcers and cause reflex and pain in individuals with a sensitive digestion. Avoid kimchi and pick other fermented foods like Sauerkraut, Kombucha or Kefir as your source of beneficial bacteria instead.
High blood pressure, cardiovascular or renal disease: be cautious with kimchi as its high in sodium. While it’s fine to include it as part of a healthy diet don’t go overboard. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Limit intake to 3 tablespoons a week as part of a balanced diet or discuss intake with a medical practitioner.
Super Stir-fry with Miso Soup and Kimchi
This Asian-inspired dish is super-delicious and the most traditional way to serve kimchi.
140g (5oz) rice noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4cm (1½ inches) fresh root ginger, cut into matchsticks
1 head of broccoli, chopped
2 bok choi or pak choi, chopped
2 handfuls of thinly sliced mushrooms
juice of 1 lime
4 tablespoons Tamari soy sauce
1 handful of chopped fresh coriander
4 spring onions, sliced
50–70g (1¾–2½oz) mixed nuts and seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, cashew and almonds), lightly toasted
2 tablespoons of kimchi (to serve)
Your choice of protein:
1 lean chicken breast, diced
1 salmon fillet, diced
or ½ block of tempeh, diced
1 teaspoon miso paste
200ml (7fl oz) boiling water
Soak the rice noodles in a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes until softened.
While the noodles are soaking, heat the olive oil in a wok until hot and add the garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for 30 seconds.
Add the broccoli and bok choy and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and your choice of protein to the pan and continue to stir-fry until cooked through.
Add the lime juice and tamari, then drain the noodles and add them to the wok with the chopped coriander.
Toss well together and sprinkle with the spring onions and toasted nuts and seeds.
Make the miso soup by dissolving the paste in the measured boiling water and serve in a mug or bowl. Add the kimchi to a side dish and serve both alongside your stir fry for a truly fabulous dining experience.