3 Korean Superfoods – For Health & Wellbeing
It would be very remiss of me to not begin on this top with the King of Korean fermented foods, kimchi.
What is in kimchi? It primarily consists of cabbage and salt but you can also include Korean radish/mu, scallions, sesame seeds, onions, garlic, ginger, Korean pepper flakes, fish sauce, baby brine shrimp, raw seafood, Asian pears/apples, and so much more depending on the kind of kimchi you want to prepare as different regions also prepare it differently.
What does it taste like? It is bright, briny, soured, and spicy. Not exactly, but kind of like a spicy sauerkraut. There are hundreds of different kinds and each one has its own special characteristics.
How do you serve it? Kimchi is a side dish that is present for every single Korean meal. Some people enjoy it like a salad while others enjoy it in a recipe. You can use well fermented kimchi as a topping for hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza or tacos to more traditional applications like kimchi stew or even a curried kimchi pancake.
What are some of its health benefits? It is high in fiber, probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins a, b, c, and calcium and iron while being low in calories and fat. A well-fermented kimchi has anywhere from 100 million to 1 billion bacteria of genus Lactobacillus.
How long does it last? My grandmother would have kimchi buried in the ground and some of it would be 2 years old or more. Film yeast was never a deterrent for her. My mother has a kimchi refrigerator that is specially climate controlled for preserving kimchi and hers tastes just right for up to 6 months or more. There are tons of debate on the matter but use your own discretion. It’s a good practice to regularly turn over the leaves of prepared kimchi and spoon over the juice to re-saturate leaves. It is after all, a controlled pickling environment. Over fermented kimchi is definitely an acquired taste and Koreans have a name for each stage the kimchi enters. Please use your discretion, sight, and smell.
Misugari is a roasted multi-grain and seed superfood that’s been ground into a fine powder to be mixed into shakes, lattes, smoothies and more. It can be thought of as the original, old school Korean protein powder. It has a mildly sweet and malty taste and can vary in blends but when I was growing up, it included brown rice, barley, a variety of beans and whatever else was available or in season. It would often be given to us as a quick, on-the-go breakfast when we were children or sprinkled on patbingsu if we were good. It is a good source of protein, calcium and other vitamins and minerals and with it being naturally caffeine free, filling and nutritious, it’s a popular item to detox with by K-pop stars in Korea. The classic way to enjoy this is by blending a scoop or two of it with a nut milk and honey. Serve it over ice and enjoy. My mother has also been known to spoon a bit of it into her face mask.
There’s nothing quite like the golden, soothing nature of barley tea or boricha. We drank so much of it growing up, I developed a distaste for it. As an adult, I grew to love it. It is nutty and mellow in flavor with a wonderfully comforting aroma. It is taken unsweetened, hot or cold. It is a natural source of antioxidants and is often drunk with each meal for its digestive properties.