Make Kimchi to Balance Gut Bacteria in a Vegan Lifestyle
Edited by Jasmin, Maria Quinney, 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.
How Does Kimchi Promote Good Health?
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.
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.
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.
What About Vegan Kimchi?
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.
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.
- 1The Basics
- Large bowl(s)
- Sharp knife.
- Cutting board
- Small pot
- Large colander
- Tongs/A Fork
- 2Specialty Items
- Food processor
- 4-6 1L Mason jars and the outer rings of their lids (have some 500ml jars on backup just in case.)
- 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.
- 1Cabbage soak.
- 1 head Napa Cabbage; outer leaves removed, cored, and separated into individual leaves
- 1 cup salt
- 7 cups water
- 2Kimchi 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.
- 3Vegetables and fruit.
- 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
- 1You want to make sure no bad bacteria comes into contact with the kimchi, as it will greatly impact the fermentation process.Clean surfaces, hands, and kitchen tools are essential.
- 2In a very large bowl, dissolve one cup of salt into 5 cups water.
- 4Let soak for 6-8 hours.
- 5About 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.
- 7When the wakame has reduced, remove and discard the strips from the wakame-infused water.
- 10Once 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.
- 11Rip the leaves into smaller pieces and squeeze bunches of them in your hands to release excess water.
- 14Use tongs or a fork to scoop the mixture into the jar.Place a funnel on top of a clean mason jar.
- 16Place a doubled layer of cheesecloth over the mouth of the mason jar and secure with the lid's outer ring.
- 19Leave 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.When you notice the kimchi has taken on a tangy yet pleasant smell, it's ready for the fridge.
- 20Eat 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.Enjoy your hard-earned kimchi!
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.
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.