Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish and is made of various vegetables mixed with a variety of seasonings. Although it’s mainly used as a side dish, it is often used as an ingredient in other dishes such ash kimchi fried rice and kimchi soup. You can buy kimchi at most Asian stores. Some Costco locations also have them.
If you don’t have any Asian grocery stores in your area, you can buy kimchi online as well.
If you’ve ever eaten at a Korean restaurant, you’ll know they serve many side dishes, kimchi being one of them. Many people eat kimchi with white rice. Although the color is red, it doesn’t mean that it’s spicy although it can be depending on what’s added to the seasoning. Whether you want to eat it with rice or use it to cook a particular Korean dish, the one linked above will be perfect. You will likely be able to get it cheaper though if you buy it from an Asian grocery store but if you don’t have one, buying online is the next best option.
A bit of history behind kimchi.
The origin of kimchi dates back at least to the early period of the Three Kingdoms (37 BC‒7 AD). Fermented foods were widely available, as the Records of the Three Kingdoms, a Chinese historical text published in 289 AD, mentions that “The Goguryeo people [referring to the Korean people] are skilled in making fermented foods such as wine, soybean paste and salted and fermented fish” in the section named Dongyi in the Book of Wei. Samguk Sagi, a historical record of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, also mentions the pickle jar used to ferment vegetables, which indicates that fermented vegetables were commonly eaten during this time.
A poem on Korean radish written by Yi Gyubo, a 13th century literatus, shows that radish kimchi was a commonplace in Goryeo (918–1392).
Pickled radish slices make a good summer side-dish,
Radish preserved in salt is a winter side-dish from start to end.
The roots in the earth grow plumper everyday,
Harvesting after the frost, a slice cut by a knife tastes like a pear.
— Yi Gyubo, Dongguk isanggukjip (translated by Michael J. Pettid, in Korean cuisine: An Illustrated History)
However, early records of kimchi do not mention garlic or chili pepper. Chili peppers, now a standard ingredient in kimchi, had been unknown in Korea until the early seventeenth century. Chili peppers originated in the Americas, introduced to East Asia by Portuguese traders. The first mention of chili pepper is found in Jibong yuseol, an encyclopedia published in 1614. Sallim gyeongje, a 17‒18th century book on farm management, wrote on kimchi with chili peppers. However, it was not until the 19th century that the use of chili peppers in kimchi was widespread. The recipes from early 19th century closely resemble today’s kimchi.
A 1766 book, Jeungbo sallim gyeongje, reports kimchi varieties made with myriad of ingredients, including chonggak-kimchi (kimchi made with chonggak raddish), oi-sobagi (with cucumber), seokbak-ji (with jogi-jeot), and dongchimi. However, napa cabbage was only introduced to Korea at the end of 19th century, and whole-cabbage kimchi similar to its current form is described in Siuijeonseo, a cookbook published around that time.
Kimchi is a national dish of both North and South Korea. During South Korea’s involvement in the Vietnam War its government requested American help to ensure that South Korean troops, reportedly “desperate” for the food, could obtain it in the field; South Korean president Park Chung-hee told U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson that kimchi was “vitally important to the morale of Korean troops”. It was also sent to space on board Soyuz TMA-12 with South-Korean astronaut Yi So-yeon after a multimillion-dollar research effort to kill the bacteria and lessen the odor without affecting taste.