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Kimchi Chemistry: The Science Behind Korea's Spicy Superfood

2012/12/22 | 1791 views |  | Permalink | Source

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Kimchi may be better known for it's spicy flavor than for the spice it adds to your life, but research has confirmed kimchi's health and anti-ageing benefits time and again.

Now, my grandmother knew that kimchi was healthy without a scientist having to tell her. But recent research confirms that one of the main contributors to kimchi's fountain of youth effect (and it's unique taste) was born out of necessity: fermentation, a process that converts sugar into ethanol.

The main ingredients in kimchi are cabbage, radish, green onions and red chili peppers. All of these fresh, highly nutritious vegetables have relatively short shelf lives and can only be grown in warm weather. As I sit writing this blog post from Seoul, it's a frosty -10 degrees Celsius outside.

Before international shipping and greenhouses, the only way Koreans could get vitamin-rich vegetables during the winter was to preserve them somehow. Fermentation was the answer.

If you've made kimchi before, or simply seen it on TV, you know that the first step is soaking the cabbage in salt water for a few hours. Salt acts as a catalyst for the fermentation process. When you mix in the right amount of salt, lactic acid and probiotic bacteria begin to form, kicking off the natural fermentation process and giving Kimchi its signature sour taste. The ideal salt concentration is about 3%, but fail to use enough and your cabbage will rot instead.

After making kimchi, it needs to be stored for at least a few days to complete the fermentation and allow it to achieve its lip-puckering, throat searing taste. The ideal temperature to store kimchi is a not-especially cold 10 degrees Celsius. Now most Korean homes include a special kimchi fridge for this purpose, but not so long ago, people kept kimchi at the right temperature by burying it in the ground in large earthen pots.

Kimchi gave people a source of vital nutrition during the winter, keeping the Korean peninsula thriving.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...About the author by Anna Sohn

I'm a New Jersey girl with a lifelong fascination with Korea, my motherland. In 2011, I moved to Seoul and I've enjoyed living in this wired and fast-paced city ever since. I'm excited to share the latest tech and design developments I encounter in Korea and hope you enjoy the AT&D blog as much I enjoy writing for it!

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