What is the difference between Chinese pickles and Korean kimchi?

Have you ever tasted pickles? The tasty side-dish with the food is the best accompaniment anyone has ever eaten!

Universally, pickles are the most important part of every cuisine. Especially in Asia, vegetables are preserved and fermented to be eaten with the wholesome meal. In the earlier days when there was no refrigeration, pickling and preserving food was a common activity to keep the food fresh and long lasting. Not only vegetables, sometimes fruits were also preserved and pickled.

In western countries, pickling stands for vegetables pickled and soured with vinegar. However, for Asian and Chinese countries, pickling is a joyful affair. They take the effort to combine the ingredients in pickle making. The prolific assortment of salt, sweetness, spice, and sourness makes pickle a classic combination.

Some Asian pickles take a month’s time to get ready and some are prepared within few hours. Pickles that need fermenting take a longer period of time. The pickling process is usually the old techniques that revised, revived, and rediscovered.

In Asia, most of the pickling methods originate from China. When the procedure spread to the neighboring countries, it was adapted according to the local tastes and ingredients.

Chinese Pickles

In China, Pickles have been a part of the cuisine since thousand years. The Chinese pickles are usually prepared with a variety of vegetables available in the region. The usual ones include carrot, cabbage, cucumber, bitter melon, lettuce, shallot, and eggs. The vegetables are mixed with salt, vinegar, and sugar to enhance the taste of the local ingredient.

The Chinese pickles are a balance of flavors of sweet, pungent, salt, sour, bitter, and savory. Not only for the sweet ones, Chinese pickles are prominently known for the extensive use of Szechuan peppers as well. Most of the Chinese pickles contain the spiciness of Szechuan pepper that intricate special flavor.

The simple bowl of rice and vegetables are spiced up with the Chinese pickle. There is an unusual combination of pickling eggs with salt, earth, and hay that are kept to mature for a month. These egg pickles are usually eaten with sticky rice dumplings.

Apart from the traditional vegetables, Chinese bamboos are also fermented to be eaten as a pickle. The bamboo shoots are treated with salt, oil, and spices and kept in closed jars to soften. The golden bamboo shoots spiced with chilies have a slightly bitter taste that counteracts with salty flavor.

China has no barrier to the pickling method. While some use oil and brine for pickling, many use grape juice as a medium. From nuts to fruits, vegetables and meat; anything edible is pickled in China.

Korean Pickles

Have you heard about the war between South Korea and China over Kimchi!

Koreans take pride in their Kimchi, so much that they have announced it the national food of the country! Kimchi has taken over the country’s politics as well! The Korean Government has recently announced Kimchi to be known by its name and not by “pickled vegetable.” Moreover, Korea has a festival named after Kimchi. Gimjang is a winter tradition of making Kimchi and sharing with the near and dear ones. It has also been added to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List.

Korean pickles are popularly known as Korean Kimchi. Kimchi is made by fermenting cabbage or radish in spices. It may also include seafood, soybean, vegetables, and many another ingredient. However, the authentic Korean Kimchi consists of seasoned cabbage only.

Kimchi is basically a synonym in reference to the various pickled ingredient in Korea. The fermented cabbage is treated with a mix of garlic, vinegar, salt, Chile pepper, and several other spices to make it tasty. The pickle is served with a bowl of hot rice or noodles. The Koreans usually eat Kimchi for almost every meal. The pickle is popularly used as a topping for pizzas and soups as well.

There are basically two types of Kimchi made in Korea; one with spicy chilies and the other with mild taste pickled using water.

Kimchi is loaded with Vitamins and is extremely beneficial in producing healthy bacteria. The bacteria helps in digestion and prevents fungal infection in the body.

Is there a difference between Chinese pickle and Korean Kimchi?

Well, definitely yes! Although the Korean Kimchi was originated from China, it has acquainted the local taste of Korea. Korean has accepted the Kimchi as their national food and is widely served as the main course as well.

  • While Chinese pickles are usually taken as an accompaniment to the meal, Korean Kimchi can be eaten as the main meal. They are served with every staple meal of the day!
  • Chinese Pickles are usually treated with brine, oil, vinegar or grape juice. However, Korean Kimchi is not actually a pickle. It is preserved with vinegar only.
  • Chinese can make pickles out of anything that is eaten in China. Koreans know only how to ferment radish or cabbage with basic vegetables only.
  • The flavors of Chinese pickles are largely a collaboration of sweetness, salty, bitter, sour, pungent, and spicy. The pickles have a lot of flavors including Szechuan peppers, soy sauce, chili oil, hot sauce etc. Korean Pickles are either spicy or mild. They are either fermented using chili oil or water only.
  • The Chinese love their pickles but not as much as the Koreans do. Koreans celebrate their pickle by the name of Gimjang festival. The festival has been recognized by UNESCO as well.
  • According to WHO, Chinese pickles can have some health hazards with the risk of Oesophageal cancer. However, Korean Kimchi is popular for its high vitamin content and healthy bacteria that cure intestinal diseases.

Spice Up your Taste Buds

Despite the vast difference in culture, taste, and choice of food, we can’t deny the fact that pickles are the heart and soul of every cuisine. If we keep aside the health hazards, pickles have been recognized for thousands of years. Pickling is a traditional method of preserving food that enhances the taste of any food on your table.

On a Final Note, whenever you eat your meal next time, try some pickles along to spice up your taste buds and drool with the flavors! Happy Pickling!