Make Kimchi to Balance Gut Bacteria in a Vegan Lifestyle

Edited by Jasmin, Maria, Eng

Kimchi is a fermented traditional Korean delicacy, made mostly from cabbage and various spices. It's a low-fat, low calorie, high fiber food that's great on its own and in a variety of dishes. The tangy, spicy, unique taste of kimchi will invigorate your taste buds and your overall health. This magical little food has far reaching effects on wellness; weight loss, lowering cholesterol, anti-aging, and circulation enhancement are just a few. Most importantly though, since kimchi is a fermented food, it produces healthy bacteria known as lactobacillus (also found in foods like yogurt) that does wonders for digestive and immune system function.

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How Does Kimchi Promote Good Health?

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Healthy bacteria, which you likely know better as probiotics, line your intestines and support a wide variety of tasks that promote optimal digestive health. They can increase the body's ability to absorb nutrients, reduce gas and bloating, prevent diarrhea, and even decrease the frequency of yeast infections, among many other things. Also, because a large majority of our immune system is found inside of the gut, keeping our digestive tracts in peak condition will also lead to better immunity responses. Seasonal allergies and skin conditions, in particular, may be reduced thanks to the immune boosting power of healthy bacteria.

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Probiotics are found naturally in your gut but they can also be obtained through food. It's becoming increasingly more important to consume probiotics because so many other things in our diets and lifestyles can attribute to their loss. Alcohol, caffeine, overuse of antibiotics, processed foods, poor sleep habits, and excess stress, are just some of the things that cause for an imbalance of gut bacteria. While probiotic supplements and foods containing good bacteria are fairly widely available, many of them are not conducive to a vegan lifestyle. While it's not impossible to find plant-based sources of probiotics, some people may find it's much easier to just create your own. Kimchi, in particular, is a great place to get started, because it's a relatively easy process and its main ingredient is so nutritionally beneficial.

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Cabbage contains a high amount of prebiotics, which helps support the growth of probiotics, making it the perfect vegetable to be the base of a fermented dish. Though every batch of kimchi will differ in its nutritional profile, you can always expect a sizeable amount of beneficial bacteria to be present. You can also count of some levels of vitamins B1, B2, and C, as well as beta-carotene (as long as you include carrots.) Both the cabbage and garlic provide liver detoxifying properties, and the fiber from any vegetables you choose to use will help produce regular bowel movements and reduce instances of constipation.

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What About Vegan Kimchi?

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Many people living a vegan lifestyle will likely already know that pre-made vegan kimchi is both hard to find and not very cost-effective. The best way to take advantage of this food's health benefits is to make it at home. The substitutions for ingredients commonly found in kimchi, like fish brine and shrimp, will require nothing more than a trip to your local health food store. If you do a lot of cooking at home, you may even have the ingredients on hand already.

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Fermenting your own kimchi isn't just a great way to save money; it's also the only way to truly customize the flavor and nutritional profile of your batch. Need more beta-carotene? Load up on the carrots! Looking to improve your circulation? Add more spices! It may seem a daunting task at first glance, but after you've been through the process once I'm sure you'll agree the hardest part is just waiting for it to be ready.

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Materials Needed

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  1. 1
    The Basics
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    • Large bowl(s)
    • Sharp knife.
    • Cutting board
    • Small pot
    • Large colander
    • Tongs/A Fork
    • Spatula
    • Scissors
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  2. 2
    Specialty Items
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    • Food processor
    • Funnel
    • 4-6 1L Mason jars and the outer rings of their lids (have some 500ml jars on backup just in case.)
    • Cheesecloth
    • Patience; though making the batch itself will only take between 30 minutes to and hour, you will have to wait up to 2 weeks before fully enjoying the kimchi.
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Ingredients

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  1. 1
    Cabbage soak
    .
    • 1 head Napa Cabbage; outer leaves removed, cored, and separated into individual leaves
    • 1 cup salt
    • 7 cups water
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  2. 2
    Kimchi Paste
    .
    • 1/2 cup Korean red chili powder; commonly found at most Asian supermarkets. If you're having a tough time finding it, you can try substituting it for standard red chili/pepper flakes, though it will change the Kimchi taste slightly. Of course, you can always add more or less spice depending on your tolerance.
    • 1/2 cup Tamari; similar to soy sauce but with less salt and wheat.
    • 25 grams (about a 2-inch knob) fresh ginger; peeled
    • 55 grams (about 10 cloves) fresh garlic; peeled
    • 2 strips wakame seaweed.
    • 2 cups water.
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  3. 3
    Vegetables and fruit
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    • 2 bunches green onions; roughly chopped, with white parts removed and discarded
    • 3 carrots; grated into strips
    • 1 small-medium daikon radish; thinly sliced into matchsticks
    • 1 medium apple; thinly sliced into matchsticks
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Recipe Step-by-Step

  1. 1
    Clean surfaces, hands, and kitchen tools are essential
    .
    You want to make sure no bad bacteria comes into contact with the kimchi, as it will greatly impact the fermentation process.
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  2. 2
    In a very large bowl, dissolve one cup of salt into 5 cups water.
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  3. 3
    Place the cabbage leaves in the salt water to soak
    .
    Ensure the tougher white ends of the leaves are fully submerged. You may need to add a bit of water once all the leaves are in the bowl. Make sure there's enough to just cover the leaves.
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  4. 4
    Let soak for 6-8 hours
    .
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  5. 5
    About an hour before the cabbage is finished soaking, take 2 cups of water and 2 strips of wakame, and boil on medium-high until the wakame reduces by half.
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  6. 6
    While the wakame boils, get your fruit and veggies cut and prepped
    .
    Gather in a bowl and set aside.
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  7. 7
    When the wakame has reduced, remove and discard the strips from the wakame-infused water
    .
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  8. 8
    Add ginger, garlic, red chili powder, tamari, and the wakame water to a food processor
    .
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  9. 9
    Process until all ingredients are well puréed and you're left with a thick paste
    .
    If you don't have a food processor you could try using a high-powered blender. Otherwise, you'll simply need to chop the ginger and garlic quite finely and mix the paste by hand.
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  10. 10
    Once the soaking time has ended (the cabbage will have reduced by at least a third of its initial size) strain and rinse your cabbage leaves
    .
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  11. 11
    Rip the leaves into smaller pieces and squeeze bunches of them in your hands to release excess water
    .
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  12. 12
    Combine the fruit and veggie mixture with the cabbage leaves
    .
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  13. 13
    Mix spice and wakame water paste into the cabbage, fruit, and veggie mixture and stir thoroughly
    .
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  14. 14
    Place a funnel on top of a clean mason jar
    .
    Use tongs or a fork to scoop the mixture into the jar.
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  15. 15
    Pack the mixture down but do not fill to the top; you'll need to room to stir as the kimchi ferments
    .
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  16. 16
    Place a doubled layer of cheesecloth over the mouth of the mason jar and secure with the lid's outer ring
    .
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  17. 17
    Leave the jars in a cool, dark place to begin the fermenting process
    .
    How long you leave it to ferment is up to you (you'll learn to judge it based on smell) but I recommend at least 6 days. If you live in a warmer climate, less time may be needed.
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  18. 18
    Once a day during fermentation you'll need to pack the kimchi down with a clean spoon or spatula, to ensure it's completely immersed
    .
    If you see little bubbles as you pack the kimchi this is a great sign the fermentation is going well.
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  19. 19
    When you notice the kimchi has taken on a tangy yet pleasant smell, it's ready for the fridge
    .
    Leave it here for another 6 days to keep fermenting. After a night in the fridge feel free to give it a small taste each day to measure the progress.
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  20. 20
    Enjoy your hard-earned kimchi
    !
    Eat a small portion of it before meals to kick-start digestion, or add it to burgers, rice bowls, salads, or a stir-fry. Just don't cook with it, as heat destroys probiotics and this will counteract all the fermentation it's gone through.
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As you get more comfortable with the process of making kimchi, you may want to play around with its flavor profile. Changing the amounts of garlic, ginger, and chili powder is a great place to start. But try substituting pears for apples, using more root vegetables like parsnips, or pack the kimchi with an even more nutritional punch by adding kale and other leafy greens.

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Kimchi will keep in the fridge for at least one month if not longer. Believe me, you'll know when it's gone bad as the smell will change and you'll notice molding. As with most foods, you'll want to eat kimchi in moderation. It's safe to eat on a daily basis but probably not with every meal, even though it is quite difficult to resist. Kimchi won't solve all your digestive issues it's just a great addition to your diet. If you're experiencing a lot of digestive distress you may need a more potent and concentrated dose, so speak with your doctor about what's right for you.

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If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please post in the comments section below.

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Article Info

Categories : Cooking | Green Living

Recent edits by: Maria, Jasmin

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