Kimchi is a popular fermented vegetable dish that's served alongside most main meals in Korean cuisine. It can also be used as an ingredient in a wide variety of dishes, such as savoury pancakes and fried rice. It has a base of cabbage and typically includes a mix of other vegetables, such as cucumber, carrot or radish, and spices. Kimchi is said to aid digestion by boosting the levels of good bacteria in your gut.
The most common type of kimchi is baechu kimchi, which is made with napa cabbage, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and fish sauce. It's spicy with subtly sweet undertones, which makes it hard to resist going back for more. This is the variety of kimchi you can find in a supermarket and any Korean restaurant, but if you enjoy going out for Korean food, it would be a shame to miss out on the other varieties of kimchi that restaurants serving Korean food have on offer. Here's an overview of three other types of kimchi that are worth looking out for:
Baek kimchi is a good choice for those who aren't so fond of spicy dishes, as it's made without red pepper flakes. The cabbage base is combined with chestnuts and Korean pear, so the brine is slightly sweet. Baek kimchi is delicious as an accompaniment to Korean BBQ meats, as its fruitiness offsets the smokiness of the meat.
Bossam kimchi is a unique dish that was originally reserved for royalty. A mixture of fish, seafood, chestnuts, mustard leaf, mushrooms and pear are used to stuff cabbage leaves that are then left to ferment until the leaves begin to wilt and the kimchi has a slightly sour flavour. Bossam kimchi is a hearty accompaniment to hotpots and broths, but it can also be enjoyed with salads.
Nabak kimchi looks like vegetable, as it's made with small cubes of radish, carrots and cabbage that are fermented in brine with a red tinge due to the use of chilli powder. It's a mild type of kimchi that's seasoned with ginger and spring onion, and it pairs well with fried foods and red meats.
There are just a few examples of the different varieties of kimchi that can be enjoyed when visiting an authentic Korean restaurant. If you're unsure of which type you should order, ask your server to recommend a kimchi that will complement your main dish.