Hippocrates once said ‘all illness begins in the gut’. You will hear this repeated (or should hear this repeated) often when you visit any health care practitioner. So how can I best pamper my gut?

We know that probiotic foods such as yoghurts, sauerkraut and miso soups are delicious and rich with beneficial bacteria for gut health, but kimchi may have even more benefits for a healthy gut and healthy body.

Kimchi is the national dish of Korea and has been known for its nutritional and health benefits for centuries. So delightfully good for your health, it was demanded by people during times of war, during the SARS outbreak and even taken into space. It’s not only full of probiotic goodness, but also a great source of Vitamin C, carotene, Vitamin A, B vitamins, calcium, iron and fibre depending on the ingredients used when you make it. As most Kimchi is also mildly spiced with chilli, it also helps keep your metabolism moving along.

Now before you head to the kitchen to master chef a batch of Kimchi, be warned, it is pungent and will alarm some people, but some of the best foods are a little odd to the nostrils when first whiffed. Think blue cheese, Vegemite and boiled eggs – a little funky smelling, but yummy. Kimchi is also usually eaten sparingly, as a side to a main meal or in a small cup-sized bowl.

The three flavours associated with Kimchi are salty, sour and spicy, which each play important roles in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

The kidneys in TCM are supplemented through salty flavoured foods and the kidneys store our original essence. When the kidney essence is weak, we can see fertility issues, lack of energy and lower back pain, all associated with the kidney’s role in the body.

Sour is associated with the liver in TCM, which has the most effect on our emotions. In particular, sour tasting foods can be used to help with anger, irritation and if you are easily affected emotionally. The sour taste can also help regulate the liver from causing headaches and insomnia.

Finally, spicy flavour is linked to the lung. The lung is our first internal organ exposed to the outside world and when deficient means that we can more easily catch a foreign pathogen, such as a cold or flu. Hence it is recommended to add spice to your food to protect your lungs and help your immune system.

Now let’s talk about how to best prepare a home brew of Kimchi. It won’t be ready to eat tonight, as it is best to be left fermenting for 3 or more days.

To begin, you will need the following ingredients: 
1 Korean/Chinese cabbage sliced into 4cm cubes
3cm piece of ginger grated
Half a finely diced onion
A finely diced apple, (better than using sugar, also consider pear)
3 tablespoons of fish sauce
1-5 tablespoons of Korean chilli flakes
1/4 cup of sea salt.
4 spring onions sliced.
5 garlic cloves finely diced.
1 carrot cut into thin sticks.

Prep time:

  • Place your cabbage gently in a bowl and sprinkle the sea salt over the top. Then vigorously massage the salt into each individual cabbage cube. It should soften the leaves, and then add some water to the bowl and weigh the leaves down with a jar or smaller bowl keeping them submerged for 2-3 hours.
  • While your cabbage is getting salty, get mixing. Add the ginger, onion, apple, garlic, fish sauce and as many Korean chilli flakes as you desire. This should be a rather mushy mix. The apple and onion should be so fine that they are quite soft and dissolving.
    *Alternatively you could do this step in a blender.
  • Take your cabbage and give it a shower, thoroughly removing excess salt. Then combine all ingredients in a larger bowl, adding the spring onions last of all. Toss, turn, massage and mix everything together with passion and the special ingredient…. Love.
  • Once you are confident that everything has combined, grab a trendy jar or tupperware container and pack everything in tightly. There should be enough liquid to keep everything covered. Add the lid to your chosen vessel and allow it to sit outside of refrigeration (at room temp) for 2-4 days. It may bubble and dribble out of the vessel at this time, but that’s a good sign, just be alert for it, not alarmed.
  • After 2 days, have a taste test. As soon as it meets your taste buds requirements, transport to the fridge – it may still need another day or 2. If the flavours still taste quite tart and individual, it needs more time. It will be just right when the flavours taste like they are complimenting each other.

Eat as an accompaniment to food or in small portions. For extra health benefits add some wakame seaweed flakes as the cherry on top.

I hope you enjoy the taste and benefits of having Kimchi in your diet. It’s great for your health so make some as a gift for friends and family as well.

I look forward to hearing how your experience with Kimchi went and if you are looking for more recipes and ideas to boost your health, come in for an appointment – we have plenty more to share.

– Caleb


*Featured image sourced here.