From ancient times, the Korean ancestors made good use of various vegetables for their dietary life. From the period of Koguryo (277 BC-AD 668), they raised radish and mixed it with salted fishes to prepare preserves. It gave birth to the custom of making kimchi.
Kimchi is a processed vegetable dish prepared through lactic fermentation after mixing bok choy, radish and other vegetables with seasonings and salted fishes. It contains numerous minerals such as Na, K, Ca, Mg and Fe, as well as vitamin C.
A record that there was chimjanggo, a national institution in charge of kimchi-making, in the Koryo dynasty (918-1392) proves the dish was very popular among the people. Entering the feudal Joson dynasty (1392-1905), the raw material of kimchi changed from radish into bok choy, and its recipe was further developed by adding it with some seasonings.
The Korean people prepare different kinds of kimchi, according to seasons: kimchi prepared with young vegetables, watery kimchi made of sliced radish and anise kimchi in spring; cucumber kimchi and pickled onion kimchi in summer: and bok choy kimchi, whole radish kimchi and cubed radish kimchi in autumn and winter.
In late October and early November every year, all the households across the country are busy preparing kimchi for winter. Kimchi is so important in the dietary life of the Korean people as to be called the second staple diet for winter. It is also regarded as a main dish of high nutritive value.
The Korean housewives teach their children the general kimchi-making methods and the special recipes of their own while personally preparing the food in their homes. They also share their experience with neighbours, tasting each other’s kimchi.
The kimchi-making method is also included in the curriculum for practice at schools, and some universities organize trainings at practice grounds. The Korean people exchange their experience and learn new techniques and recipes in the kimchi-making contests and shows held on several occasions such as national anniversaries and folk holidays.
Today, kimchi is mass-produced at factories, but most of families like to prepare it by themselves by cultivating vegetables and collecting wild greens, as they did in the past.
The kimchi-making custom, a special dietary practice of the Korean people, was inscribed on the national intangible cultural heritage list.
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