Food for Thought: Unveiling stories of Kimchi

Kimchi has evolved into a culture of sharing precious time among family and friends during Kimjang season

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close-up of Kimchi served in a bowl
PHOTO: sasazawa / Adobe Stock

By: Sangwoong Choi, SFU Student

There are various types of kimchi with diverse flavours and forms, such as kkakdugi (cubed radish) and oi sobagi (cucumber), many typically refer to kimchi as a fermented red cabbage with chili peppers, garlic, and fermented fish sauce. As a probiotic, it contains live bacteria that’s beneficial for gut health.

Over time, kimchi has become an indispensable part of the Korean dining table, symbolizing the idea of Korean communities as eaters of spicy food — though it was not originally a spicy dish. Its long history and deep-rooted traditions have led to a cultural phenomenon known as Kimjang season, which happens in late autumn. During this time, people gather to make kimchi with their family or close friends. Kimchi is made by thoroughly seasoning slated cabbage with red pepper powder until the cabbage turns red. While some Koreans head to supermarkets annually to purchase pickled cabbage, this season is most significant to the culture when kimchi is made in the company of friends and family. 

“Taste does not define everything about food — it also contains unique stories of the people of that country.”

Kimjang has evolved beyond simply pickling kimchi for Koreans; it has become a culture of sharing time and affection among family members. Unlike monetary exchanges, the act of collectively preparing and sharing food during Kimjang involves heartfelt effort and fosters deep bonds among everyone involved. Gathering together, we would share stories we previously didn’t have time for and enjoyed the taste of kimchi. It was our family tradition to eat boiled meat after making kimchi. My family used to have a fun time betting on who could season each leaf more evenly. If someone did not do it well, they would have to wash the dishes as a “punishment.” These moments left a lasting impression on me, reminding me of the warmth of family. It is a beautiful testament to the power of food in nurturing relationships and creating lasting memories.

Kimchi can also be found here in Canada. While each person has their own unique culture, we also live in a globally connected world where these cultures are shared — Tako Vancouver blends Mexican and Korean cuisine, for example. As a result, we can happily enjoy delicious foods from various countries wherever we are. However, taste does not define everything about food — it also contains unique stories of the people of that country. By trying such food and hearing the stories behind it, we can understand the people who love that food. I hope people who read this story can try any food and find a piece of its culture within it. 

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