There are many different types of Kimchi dishes, and the most famous meal in this category is the cabbage Kimchi. For many families, this pungent and often spicy meal is a source of pride and recalls the taste of a good home. Cabbages (napa cabbages, bomdong, headed cabbages) and radishes (Korean radishes, ponytail radishes, gegeol radishes, yeolmu radishes) are the most commonly used kimchi vegetables. Other kimchi vegetables include: aster, balloon flower roots, burdock roots, celery, chamnamul, cilantro, cress, crown daisy greens, cucumber, eggplant, garlic chives, garlic scapes, ginger, Korean angelica-tree shoots, Korean parsley, Korean wild chive, lotus roots, mustard greens, onions, perilla leaves, bamboo shoot, momordica charantia, pumpkins, radish greens, rapeseed leaves, scallions, soybean sprouts, spinach, sugar beets, sweet potato vines, and tomatoes.
Brining salt (with a larger grain size compared to kitchen salt) is used mainly for initial salting of kimchi vegetables. Being minimally processed, it serves to help develop flavours in fermented foods.
Commonly used seasonings include gochugaru (chili powder), scallions, garlic, ginger, and jeotgal (salted seafood) Jeotgal can be replaced with raw seafood in colder Northern parts of the Korean peninsula. If used, milder saeu-jeot (salted shrimp) or jogi-jeot (salted croaker) is preferred and the amount of jeotgal is also reduced in Northern and Central regions. In Southern Korea, on the other hand, generous amount of stronger myeolchi-jeot (salted anchovies) and galchi-jeot (salted hairtail) is commonly used. Raw seafood or daegu-agami-jeot (salted cod gills) are used in the East coast areas.
Salt, scallions, garlic, fish sauce, and sugar are commonly added to flavour the kimchi.
Microorganisms present in kimchi
The microorganisms present in kimchi include Bacillus mycoides, B. pseudomycoides, B. subtilis, Lactobacillus brevis, Lb. curvatus, Lb. kimchii, Lb. parabrevis, Lb. pentosus, Lb. plantarum, Lb. sakei, Lb. spicheri, Lactococcus carnosum, Lc. gelidum, Lc. lactis, Leuconostoc carnosum, Ln. citreum, Ln. gasicomitatum, Ln. gelidum, Ln. holzapfelii, Ln. inhae, Ln. kimchii, Ln. lactis, Ln. mesenteroides, Serratia marcescens, Weissella cibaria, W. confusa, W. kandleri, W. kimchii. W. koreensis, and W. soli.
These microorganisms are present due to the natural microflora provided by utilizing unsterilized food materials in the production of kimchi. The step of salting the raw materials inhibits the pathogenic and putrefactive bacteria present in the microflora, allowing the lactic acid bacteria (LAB) to flourish and become the dominant microorganism. These anaerobic microorganisms steadily increase in number during the middle stages of fermentation, and prefer to be kept at low temperatures of about 10℃, pH of 4.2-4, and remain in the presence of NaCl. Since the raw cruciferous vegetables themselves are the source of LAB required for fermentation, no starter culture is required for the production of kimchi; rather, “spontaneous fermentation” occurs. The total population of microorganisms present at the beginning of processing determine the outcome of fermentation, causing the final product to be highly variable in terms of quality and flavour. Currently, there are no recommended approaches to control the microbial community during fermentation to predict the final outcome.