Sweet, spicy and savory-- there is something quite incredible about kimchi. And we’re not just talking about how it tastes; but also how it is made, where it is used, and how it brings people together.
With the rising popularity of everything Korean in the country, kimchi needs no introduction. This fermented vegetable dish has been around for centuries and has been a staple in Korean cuisine. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that, just like the stars of beloved K-Pop music videos and of favorite K-dramas, kimchi has been embraced by many of us here in the Philippines.
From music and movies to shows and food, the Korean culture has definitely taken us by storm. SMART recognizes and supports the passion brought out by Hallyu. This is why, in partnership with the Korean Cultural Center, they want to explore what makes K-life so appealing.
Take kimchi, for instance. How does a dish that is more of an acquired taste become so appealing to the Filipino palate? Why do we find ourselves craving kimchi from our favorite samgyupsal place? What kind of powers does kimchi—and everything else about the Korean culture—have that made us fall for it, hook, line and sinker? Here’s what we think:
Kimchi is everywhere.
And we’re not just talking about in the kitchen. It’s almost impossible not to see kimchi in the K-dramas that we watch! More than being a mainstay on any dining table, kimchi is usually also gifted as a pabaon from somebody’s eomoni.
Many fans adore the scene where we’d always find our favorite K-drama characters huddled around a pan, spoon in hand, eating a well-known kimchi-laden staple: kimchi fried rice. Aside from craving for a mouthful of that magical rice, don’t we find ourselves yearning for a simple salu-salo with our favorite friends and family as well?
Thinking of relieving those heartwarming kimchi fried rice moments with your family a la Reply 1988 or with your boo a la Fight For My Way? Try this Radish Kimchi Bokkeumbap recipe.
Kimchi Fried Rice
Kimchi is healthy.
The main and arguably the most iconic banchan remains on top of the list of food necessities in a Korean household. And it’s not just because of its flavor, but because of how healthy it is, too! There are many types of vegetables used in making kimchi, such as Chinese cabbage, carrots, radish, bamboo shoots, and more.
Korea is known for being one of the healthiest kitchens in the world, and kimchi definitely contributes to that. A good example of this is how adding kimchi to otherwise unhealthy dishes, such as Budaejjigae, balances it out. Daebak!
Also known as Army Base Stew, Budaejjigae contains a lot of processed meat, like spam and sausages. And then gochujang and kimchi are added to the soup. This does not only give it a more robust flavor profile but also incorporates vegetables and other healthier ingredients into the meal. Take a look at how Budaejjigae is prepared here.
Kimchi is a representation of K-life…
What’s a typical Korean meal without kimchi? We’ve pointed out over and over how kimchi is such an essential in Korean culture. It is known to be the “embodiment of the identity of the nation,” a flavorful reason why Korean cuisine is, well, Korean.
And we never see kimchi served on its own. Just like how it is part of many other facets that make Korean culture unique, kimchi is also integrated in many other Korean dishes. That’s how versatile kimchi is: it is not just a course on its own, but also a vital ingredient in many other dishes, may they be snacks, appetizers, or entrees.
This is the case with the Kimchi Jeon, a savory pancake unique to Korea. Given the circumstances that we can’t visit Korea at the moment, this snack or appetizer can be an incredibly fun and simple reminder of why we fell in love with the country that has brought us BTS, Bae Suzy, Kim Soo Hyun and everything (and everyone) else it has to offer. Try making your own version of the kimchi pancakes here.
...and it’s a bridge that connects our cultures, too.
Perhaps the reason why kimchi is something we Filipinos did not hesitate to embrace is because of its relatability. It may taste different from our cuisine, but we can draw parallels between the importance of food in both our cultures.
We understand flavor, the importance of umami in the dishes we prepare, and how some food tastes better after time has passed. We understand how mealtimes are more than just eating food; eating together with your loved ones is an act of care, nourishing not just the body, but relationships as well. And we understand that a nation can be united by one dish executed in 200 different ways!
In ‘Chikahansik: Kimchi Edition,’ a series by the Korean Cultural Center PH in partnership with SMART, we discover the beauty of K-life in the eyes of both Koreans and Filipinos. It also gives us the opportunity to see how Korean culture meshes well with our own. Have you ever thought of how a Filipino dish would taste like with kimchi? Chef Reggie Aspiras can show you through his Sinigang sa Pakwan with Kimchi. Find out more about it here.
Inspired by K-life to challenge your palates with delicious recipes made with kimchi? Watch the full how-to on KCC's YouTube channel here.