Kimchi is Korea’s national dish and it will be eaten with (almost) every meal in one form or another. Kimchi is made by fermenting vegetables, most commonly napa cabbage or radish. It’s packed full of flavour, low in calories, helps boost metabolism, and contains immune- and digestion-boosting probiotics.
Kimchi can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as a side dish (banchan), or as an ingredient for cooking like in kimchi fried rice, kimchi stew or kimchi pancake.
If you like spicy, strong and pungent flavours, you might like Kimchi, but be warned, it is very smelly!
I do like Kimchi and eat it regularly, but I don’t pack it very often in my lunch box because of the smell. I work in a small office, in an old building with bad ventilation, and we don’t have a separate room to eat our lunch. So although my colleagues are often quite interested in the contents of my lunch box, I don’t want to have them (and me) working in a room invaded by Kimchi smells!
It’s is not that difficult to make kimchi at home, every family will have it’s own recipe (allegedly there are over 180 different kimchi varieties) and Maangchi has some great recipes and also a video which answers a lot of Kimchi questions (here). But as said, be prepared for the smell…
It’s so strong that it’s no surprise there are special Kimchi fridges. Based on my limited and recent knowledge gained while watching K-drama (which is of course not the most realistic representation of Korean life…) possession of a kimchi fridge is the ultimate dream of a “proper” Korean housewife… (But I am happy to be corrected on this by someone with proper knowledge of Korean life). Apparently these special fridges offer not only the special storing conditions to properly ferment the kimchi, but they also keep the smell separate from your other food!
So instead of bringing Kimchi to the office, the above plate shows my lunch at home. The cucumber kimchi is shop bought and so is the Musaengchae (radish banchan). Lots of cherry tomatoes and plain cucumber to counteract the kimchi (actually cucumber kimchi is pretty mild because of the high water content of cucumber – compared to cabbage kimchi – but it’s still very smelly), plus some carrot bits and cress. There are also the end bits of a Korean omelet which I prepared for lunches later (I freeze part of it in portions)
Obviously, the single rose can’t mask the smell at all, but I had just bought some roses and was sad to discover one stem had broken. Luckily the stem was still long enough to pop into a small vase, which looks cute next to my plate.