Kimchi Served

Kimchi Culture: The Cult of the Cabbage

Sara Bergthold Asia Leave a Comment

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Kimchi goes beyond the belly in Korea. It is a culinary marker of the Korean concept of the universe. Yin-yang, that symbol you see on the Korean flag, is the emblem of universal harmony. It represents the balance of all things: light and dark, male and female, hot and cold, etc. When things are in their proper balance, harmony reigns. This philosophy extends to all aspects of life, even to the table. Whereas a western meal with its succession of courses is like a narrative, with a beginning, a middle and an end, a Korean meal is like a constellation. It doesn’t move from A to B, but presents itself in its balanced entirety. All dishes are served at the same time with their colors, textures, tastes and smells in balance and harmony. The white blandness of rice, the fattiness of meats, the soft delicacy of fresh vegetables, all are brought into balance by the vividness and vibrance, the tang and tartness and crunch of kimchi. It is the kimchi that allows the thoughtful and reflective Korean diner to dine not only on food for the body, but on the elemental harmony of the universe. Mat-itkae duseo! (Bon appetite!)

Kimchi MuseumCan’t get enough of a good thing? Then why not pay a visit to the Kimchi Museum in Seoul’s World Trade Center? The kimchi making process and its gustatory history are there for the viewing. Earthenware storage vessels, stoneware mortars, and life-like food facsimiles are also part of the exhibition. Upon entering you’ll see on the wall a 12th-century poem by Yi Kyu-bo: “Put the leaves into soy sauce and eat them in summer, and pickle them for winter.” Brochures available in English.


B2, COEX MALL 159 Samsung, dong Kangnam, Seoul.

Or you can take the subway to Samsung station (COEX station) on the Green Line.


Adults: 3000 won

Children:1000 won

Telephone: 02-6002-6456

Fax: 02-6002-6457

Home Page:


Tuesday-Saturday 10a.m.-5p.m.; Sunday 1p.m.-5p.m.




1 head of white cabbage.

1/2 gallon fresh water

1 cup salt

1 pint vinegar

1 quart water

1 cup salt

6 cloves of garlic (optional)

1 tablespoon red pepper


Dissolve the salt in the water. Cut the cabbage into chunks about the size of an egg, and soak them overnight in the salted water. Drain the cabbage and squeeze it dry. Combine water, vinegar and salt and bring the mixture to a boil, then let cool to room temperature. Combine the cabbage, garlic and pepper in a glass container, pour the vinegar mixture in and cover. Store the jar in a cool, dark place for 1 week. Drain off the liquid and bring it to a boil. Place the cabbage in a clean container, pour the hot liquid over it, let it cool, then cover it. It will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

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