Kimchi is a national Korean dish consisting of fermented chili peppers and vegetables, usually based on cabbage. It is suspected that the name kimchi originated from shimchae (salting of vegetable) which went through some phonetic changes: shimchae > dimchae > kimchae > kimchi.
Common ingredients include Chinese cabbage, radish, garlic, red pepper, spring onion, ginger, salt, and sugar. While kimchi is generally identified internationally as Chinese cabbage fermented with a mixture of red pepper, garlic, ginger, and salted fish sauce, several types of kimchi exists, including regional and seasonal variations. There are variants, including kkakdugi, based on radish and containing no cabbage.
Kimchi has been cited by Health Magazine as one of the world's five "healthiest foods", with the claim that it is rich in vitamins, aids digestion, and may even prevent cancer. The health properties of kimchi are due to a variety of factors. It is usually made with cabbage, onions, and garlic, all of which have well-known health benefits. It also has active and beneficial bacterial cultures, like yogurt. Lastly, kimchi contains liberal quantities of red chili peppers (gochugaru) which has been suggested to have health benefits as well.
The best tasting kimchi is stored in room temperature for an average of six months to reach its full flavor. It is a popular side dish but is also often used as an ingredient in cooking other popular Korean dish, including kimchi chigae (kimchi soup) and kimchi bokumbop (kimchi fried rice).
Fun fact: Like the McDonald’s University of Hamburgers in Illinois, US, there is a Kimchi Research Institute located in Pusan National University, South Korea.