What do cabbages, chilies, cancer-fighting antioxidants and deliciousness all have in common? These are the remarkable properties of kimchi: a spicy, healthy wonder of a dish dating back to 7th century Korea.
Fortunately for New Yorkers, kimchi is readily accessible in its many tasty transmutations. It can be found on menus across the island on burgers and pizza and remoulades (oh my!). You can hop on over to Koreatown—located between 31st and 36th Street, Fifth and Sixth Avenue—to experience the spicy stuff in its traditional preparation. Muk Eun Ji on West 32nd Street is a popular haunt for kimchi-crazy Koreans and New Yorkers alike. You can also check out the foodie-favorite Kimchi Taco Truck. This nomadic food stand uses kimchi as a common ground to unite all of its international taco treats, including the popular tofu-edamame falafel taco topped with a spicy kimchi yogurt sauce.
Kimchi in its original form is a brilliant amalgam of cabbage and seasonal vegetables, infused with chili, garlic and chotkal (fish paste) for fermentation and buried in huge earthenware jars deep beneath the ground for consumption during the harsher winter months. Thanks to the marvels of modern refrigeration and transportation, kimchi now makes its appearance all year 'round in almost every country.
On average, Koreans reportedly consume nearly forty pounds of the stuff per year. It accompanies just about every meal either as a flavor-enhancing condiment or a side dish all its own. It is so popular, in fact, that instead of saying “cheese” whilst having their photo snapped, Koreans say “kimchi.” So go out and get yours. Yes, health and deliciousness can, in fact, go hand in hand.
If this doesn't have you convinced, kimchi also happens to be super healthy. It is high in fiber, low in calories, jam-packed with vitamins A through C and contains lactobacilli (the good bacteria found in yogurt) created through the fermentation process. It is even said that both cancer and avian bird flu hate the stuff, making it one of the healthiest foods around, according to the Seoul Times and Health magazine.
You can buy pre-prepared kimchi for your own culinary creations, usually in (smaller, glass) jars online, in specialty markets and in certain popular supermarkets. If you're feeling particularly adventuresome—rest assured you do not need to risk eviction and bury it in the alley beside your apartment building—you can even make your own. Peruse the many available recipes online or check out Bobby Flay's simpler, more accessible version on the Food Network website.