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Traditional Napa Cabbage Kimchi

Kimchi is a generic term used for any salted and lactic acid-fermented vegetable dish.[1] Any vegetable that is salted and lactic acid-fermented can be called kimchi, resulting in hundreds of variations of kimchi that can cater to diverse palates. Kimchi is typically served and eaten as banchan (side dish) to accompany the main dish or it can also be used as the main ingredient in various soups. This traditional staple of Korean cuisine is also known around the world for its health benefits due to its fermentation process, giving kimchi a boost in popularity over the years.

Brief History

According to historical records, the history of kimchi dates back to at least 1,500 years ago, possibly even earlier. Contrary to popular beliefs, the Korean red pepper was found to be originated from Korea as it is biologically different from any foreign pepper. Records show that gochu (red pepper flakes) was already being cultivated during the period of The Three Kingdoms, which infers that kimchi was readily being fermented as well.[2] During the winter, greens could not be accessed therefore a method was needed to preserve vegetables. The earliest type of kimchi was initially dipped and stored in a salty brine then stored underground in onggi [3]for further fermentation. The spicy napa cabbage kimchi known today became the staple kimchi of Korean diet as peppers became commercialized. [4]

Production of Kimchi

Napa Cabbage Kimchi inside a silver bowl.

As mentioned earlier, kimchi is a staple dish when it comes to Korean Cuisine. It should be noted that there are various types of kimchi that are available to the public, which often have different or added ingredients. For this portion of the assignment, we will be discussing the ingredients for the most common type of kimchi, Napa Cabbage Kimchi. The ingredients involved with producing kimchi are fairly simple and do not require a lot of complicated procedures.

Napa Cabbage cut into smaller pieces

Ingredients and the proper measurements to produce 1 large jar of Napa Cabbage Kimchi are mentioned below [5].



  • Napa Cabbage (5lbs - or regular cabbage)
  • Radish (1lb)
  • Green Onion/Scallions (3-4 stems)
  • Minced Garlic (3 tablespoons)
  • Minced Ginger (1 teaspoon)


  • Sea Salt (1 cup)
  • Red chili powder (1/2 cup)
  • Salted shrimp (1/4 cup - optional)


  • Fish sauce (3 tablespoons - optional)
  • Korean Chilli powder (Red chilli powder)
    Water (5 cups) or Dried Kelp broth (5 cups - optional)


Step 1:

Cut Cabbage into smaller and appropriate sizes to allow for an even coating of liquids and seasoning.

Step 2:

Soak Cabbage in a mixture of salt water to brine overnight and create a paste by mixing up the seasonings and other liquids.

Step 3:

Cut up Radish and Onions into matchstick sizes and mix them with the paste.

Step 4:

Remove Cabbage from the salt water mixture and rub each Cabbage leaf with the Radish/paste mixture, then place contents into a jar.

Step 5:

Kimchi fermenting in jars

Allow Kimchi to ferment in the jar, while stored in an area with a moderate temperature (20°C) or cool temperature (5°C).


Traditional Korean Clay pots known as "Onggi".

The way kimchi is stored plays an integral part when it comes to the overall preservation and taste of kimchi. It is important to store kimchi in containers to allow for fermentation to occur. The overall process of producing and preserving kimchi is called "Gimjang" in Korean [6]. Storing kimchi in clay pots, known as "Onggi" in Korean, is something that has been utilized in Korean culture since ancient times [7]. However with today's day and age, a majority of Kimchi production is usually accomplished by storing Kimchi in glass or plastic jars. In most cases, air tight jars are the best equipment to use, as it helps prevent Kimchi from "over ripening" and increasing it's acidity profile [8]. When kimchi becomes over ripened or the acid profile becomes too high, the taste and flavour becomes altered, which may not be favourable to most people [9]. Storage temperature is another essential element to consider when it comes to Kimchi. Temperature plays a major role at accelerating or slowing down the fermentation process, which is something that can be overshot [9]. Higher temperatures lead to faster fermenting and can potentially cause the Kimchi to go bad, whereas lower temperatures help decrease the speed of fermentation and preserve Kimchi for a longer period of time [9].


Fermentation by definition is the process of breaking down substances through the use of bacteria, yeast, or other microorganisms [10] . As a result, you are left with a product that develops unique flavours, becomes preserved, and is enriched with amino acids and vitamins [11]. Traditionally, fermentation was a method that was used in Korean culture to preserve the crispness and freshness of vegetables during seasons where vegetables were not present [9].

Fermentation Process

This process usually occurs once all ingredients have been combined and placed inside of a jar. The length of kimchi fermentation is very dependent on salt content and temperature. This time length usually ranges from 3 to 4 days when stored at warmer temperatures, such as 20°C, or 2 to 3 months when stored at a cooler temperature of 5°C [12]. Microorganisms, such as Lactic acid bacteria (LAB), play a major role and are heavily involved during the fermentation process[13]. Another key ingredient that helps aid with the fermentation process of Kimchi is Red pepper powder [13]. The powder acts as an advocate to increase the number of useful bacteria while helping prevent the growth of harmful bacteria [13]. This is important as it allows for the fermentation process to progress, while keeping the Kimchi safe to eat and avoiding spoilage[13].

How is it preserved (Bacteria and Probiotics)

As mentioned, Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) plays a vital role when it comes to fermentation and preservation of kimchi. These microorganisms do not magically appear and originate from the raw materials that are utilized to produce kimchi (Cabbage, Garlic, Radish, Onions, etc.) [14]. As fermentation progresses, the growth of LAB continues to grow as well.

Examples of LAB in Kimchi fermentation[9]

Predominant species:

  • Leuconostoc mesenteroides (Helps initiate the fermentation process) [15]
  • Lactobacillus plantarum (Helps decrease pH level and lactic acid synthesis)

Other contributing LAB:

  • Leuconostoc citreum (Helps initiate the fermentation process and improves she shelf-life of Kimchi) [16]
  • Leuconostoc gasicomitatum
  • Lactobacillus brevis (Acid-tolerant specie)
  • Lactobacillus curvatus (Acid-tolerant specie)
  • Lactobacillus sake (Acid-tolerant specie)
  • Lactococcus lactis (Helps initiate the fermentation process) [17]
  • Pediococcus pentosaceus
  • Weissella confusa
  • Weissella koreensis

However, it should be noted that not all LAB appear all at once. In fact, particular LAB will appear at specific stages or temperatures of fermentation.

Stage/Temperature [9]

First stage:

  • Leuconostoc mesenteroides
  • Pediococcus pentosaceus

Later stages:

  • Lactobacillus brevis
  • Lactobacillus curvatus
  • Lactobacillus sake

Temperatures 5-7 °C:

  • Lactobacillus maltaromicus
  • Lactobacillus bavaricus

Temperatures 20–30 °C:

  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus brevis

Nutrition and the Health Benefits

Kimchi offers impressive nutritional data, and a number of health benefits.

A half cup serving of Napa cabbage kimchi, which is the most common type, only contains approximately fifteen calories, with one gram of fiber, one gram of protein, only two grams of carbohydrates, one gram of sugar, and zero grams of fat. It also contains a variety of important minerals and vitamins, such as Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Vitamin A, Vitamin B, and Vitamin C.[18]

Because of the fermentation process that the dish goes through, Kimchi is full of healthy bacteria and probiotics, which aid in digestion and strengthening the immune system.[19]

Another benefit, which comes from the period of fermentation kimchi undergoes, is that it is full of antioxidants that are known to slow the aging of the skin.[19]

A 100-gram serving of kimchi offers 18% of the daily required Vitamin A intake. Vitamin A is an antioxidant, which can help the body to fight off cancer, as well as help to preserve strong eyesight.[19]

Kimchi also helps to lower cholesterol levels, and it itself is cholesterol-free. It’s ability to lower cholesterol levels comes from the Allicin and Selenium, which are in garlic – a key ingredient of Kimchi. These substances can also indirectly help to prevent cardiovascular problems, such as strokes, since they stop plaque from building up in the walls of the arteries. Another benefit that comes from ingesting Selenium is that it can help to keep skin and hair healthy.[19]

Also, because kimchi is high-volume and low-calorie, it supports weight-loss really well, and is great to eat when on a diet, as even though it is low in calories, it is still very nutrient dense.[19]

Bio-chemicals isocyanate and sulfide have been found to exist in kimchi’s ingredients of Chinese cabbage and radish. These bio-chemicals are known to be helpful in detoxifying heavy metals found in the kidney, liver and small-intestine, which studies have linked to stomach cancer.[19]

On the other hand, however, eating kimchi can also have some negative health effects. The fermentation, which creates the probiotics that kill harmful bacteria can lead to temporary bloating, which can be uncomfortable, and sometimes painful. Fermented foods, which are heavy in probiotics, such as kimchi, can also cause headaches and migraines, as often people are sensitive to the histamine and other amines, which grow in kimchi during its fermentation process. Some people who do not produce enough digestive enzymes will also experience a histamine intolerance from eating kimchi, and other fermented foods. Other severe side effects, which are not super common, but can still occur from eating kimchi, include food-borne illnesses, infections from ingesting probiotics, and antibiotic resistance.[20]

Chonggak (Ponytail Radish) Kimchi

The Different Types of Kimchi

Bossam (Wrapped) Kimchi. A mix of ingredients can be seen within.

Different ingredients and methods used in kimchi-making illicit different tastes. There are over 50 different types of kimchi classified by the use of raw ingredients, processing methods and the season and region of preparation.[21] Various regions in Korea have their own representative kimchi where they adjust their seasonings, vegetables and additives accordingly to the climate and availability of ingredients such as seafood and vegetables.[22]

Baek (White) Kimchi. No red pepper flakes are used.

Popular types of Kimchi: [23]

Baechu (Napa Cabbage) Kimchi – referred to as just 'kimchi', the traditional spicy cabbage kimchi

Baek (White) Kimchi – stored in a fruity brine and uses no red pepper flakes, best suited for those who cannot tolerate spice

Kkakdugi (Cubed Radish) Kimchi – uses the same preparation as baechu kimchi, except cubed radish is used instead

Chonggak (Ponytail Radish) Kimchi – utilizes small white radish with a long 'ponytail' of greens

Oi Sobagi (Cucumber) Kimchi – utilizes Kirby cucumbers and stuffed with a red pepper flake mixture, best to eat fresh

Nabak (Water) Kimchi – thinly sliced radish pieces fermented in a mild brine of Korean pear, onion, garlic, ginger and a little bit of red pepper flakes

Bossam (Wrapped) Kimchi – originally from Gaeseong, a mix of ingredients such as oysters, jujubes, chestnuts etc. are wrapped in whole leaves of wilted cabbage

Regions located near the sea like to incorporate seafood in their kimchi such as raw squid and octopus. Regions with warmer climates use more salt, less soup and less seasoning to prevent over fermentation.[22]

Shipping and Processing

The bilingual logo for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Import and export of Kimchi

Kimchi can either be produced in Canada or imported from another country, most notably South Korea or China. Regulations of imported kimchi are handled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Throughout this process, the CFIA ensures that the product is safe and graded according to established standards. The agency also ensures that the food product, in this case, kimchi is labelled and packaged according to Canadian regulations and standards to avoid misleading consumers and facilitate marketing.[24]

An example of a jar and label of kimchi imported from the USA.

Standards and Grades

The standards that imported kimchi must meet are set out under Canadian Standards of Identity: Volume 4 – Processed Fruit or Vegetable Products. Under this volume, the requirements from sections 12 to 46 apply to processed vegetable products that are in a hermetically sealed package (airtight). According to these sections, kimchi may contain water, salt, seasoning and spices, natural flavouring ingredients, firming agents, pH adjusting agents, and lactic acid.[25]

The grades that imported kimchi must meet are set out under Canadian Grade Compendium: Volume 3 – Processed Fruit or Vegetable Products. The grading standards are separated by different processed fruits and vegetables. As kimchi contains a variety of different vegetables and fruits, the grade requirements are based on the respective produce; those grades are Canada Fancy, Canada Choice and Canada Standard.[26] The grade names for imported foods change slightly from their Canadian counterparts. For example, imported kimchi in a hermetically sealed package would be graded as Fancy Grade, Choice Grade or Standard Grade.[27]


Imported kimchi must also follow labelling and packing requirements set out by the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). This includes the common name, net quantity, ingredients list, nutrition label, sweeteners, food additives, name and principal place of business, country of origin, grade name, lot code.[28] According to section A.01.016 of the Food and Drugs Regulations

Canadian organic label for foods certified organic by a CFIA accredited Certification Body.

(FDR) and section 208 of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), the information on the label must be “clearly and prominently shown, and readily discernible and legible to the purchaser or consumer under the customary conditions of purchase and use”.[29]

Organic Products

If the imported kimchi is organic, it may be certified to the Canadian Organic Standard by a CFIA accredited Certification Body. Otherwise, it must be certified through an equivalent arrangement between Canada and the exporting country. An equivalent arrangement is through a certification body accredited by that country and recognized by Canada. Importers who import organic kimchi must ensure that it is certified through one of these options and must also keep all documents confirming that the product is organic.[30]

Regulations (imports/exports of certain vegetables and fruits)

Canadian guideline for importing commercial goods:[31]

Importing Commercial Goods into Canada Video by the CBSA [32]

1. Prepare for import[33]

For approval to import products into Canada, the manufacturer must provide a descriptive literature about the goods, product composition, and, if possible, product samples.

Similar to the approval of food additives in Lesson 4 in FNH 200, we must ensure the food we consume and purchase is safe and within preset limits of quality by the government’s standards, regulations, and grades by providing the physical, quantitative, acceptability, statistical, and biochemical description of the product.[34]

2. Classify the goods[35]

Step after approval for import. Important to determine the rate of duty.

3. Determine duties and taxes[36]

A 5% GST tax is payable for most goods at the time of importation. In this case, kimchi is considered a basic grocery and is non-taxable.

4. Shipper and reporting goods[37]

The physical movement of the product from its original country to Canada.

5. Releasing the goods[38]

Release goods with documents identified by the CBSA.

6. After the release of the goods [39]

Check for records for at least 6 years.

Importing processed fruits or vegetable (PFV) products to Canada

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulates PFV products imported into Canada. The CFIA makes sure the food is safe and graded to Canadian standards as well as labelled and packaged to our requirements. [40]

Similar to the food labelling requirements in Lesson 4 in FNH 200, the product must be bilingually labelled of the common name of the food, country of origin, storage instructions, date marking, identity of the business, list of ingredients, nutritional facts, net quantity, and additives applied to the food. [41][42]

PFVs must be shelf stable or frozen. They can also be refrigerated products, such as kimchi, that are processed to extend their shelf life for more than 90 days.

PFVs must be manufactured in an approved facility by the CFIA.

There currently is no standard of identity for kimchi in Canada.

Required packaging

Processed vegetable products like kimchi must be hermetically sealed. This means the food must be airtight.[43]

Potential final exam question

Kimchi making

Why are salt and temperature important factors to the process of kimchi-making?

  1. Temperature control ensures the sequential development of lactic acid-producing bacteria (correct)
  2. Salt inhibits the growth of lactic acid bacteria
  3. Salt draws out moisture and water-soluble nutrients for fermentative bacteria (correct)
  4. Warmer temperatures allow the kimchi to ferment faster while lower temperatures slow down fermentation (correct)
  5. All of the above

Our question should be on the final exam because, throughout the course of FNH 200, we have studied the process of fermentation and how it occurs, and we have also spent time learning about lactic acid and how it develops in different food items.

This question incorporates both of these topics in a way that our classmates should be challenged by, but they should also be prepared for, as it correlates to our lecture materials throughout the semester.

Team Reflection

Group collaboration.jpg

Group projects are notorious for being difficult to organize, especially when individuals are not cooperative or attentive. However, it was the complete opposite while working with Team 12.

This was a very organized, hardworking and accountable team. Throughout FNH 200, we have worked seamlessly together on our Kimchi team project. In the beginning, things were a little awkward due to the fact that we had not introduced ourselves to one another. However, throughout the various breakout sessions, we as a team began to build mutual respect and trust for one another, which is one of the reasons for the success in this group. In order for this team to function properly, a group chat was created on Facebook and weekly meetings were held. The meetings have made our team work more efficiently, allowing us to accomplish everything we wanted to do at the beginning. The group chat allowed us to brainstorm and collaborate with each other, which helped us agree on a topic that we liked as a group.

When planning to split the tasks for the project, we collectively came up with the subtopics to discuss, concerning the commercial food product, kimchi. Furthermore, we set periodic deadlines for our individual work and had meetings often to make sure everyone was on track. Each member of the group contributed equally to the project and we made sure that we edited and revised each other’s work. This helped us all learn more about our chosen topic as a whole and helped unify our individual parts. Considering the fast-pace of summer classes, other responsibilities and the unpredictability of the current global situation, there is nothing we would have done differently.

As a team, we would not have done anything differently as we are satisfied with our team dynamic in completing the final project. Overall as a team, we put in our best work and communicated effectively to produce our team project.


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  2. "History of Korean gochu, gochujang, and kimchi".
  3. "Onggi, traditional earthenware vessel in Korea".
  4. "Kimchi, Korea's Historical and Conventional Icon".
  5. Ro, Hyosun (November 9, 2019). "Traditional Kimchi (Napa Cabbage Kimchi)".
  6. "Gimjang". Retrieved August 8, 2020.
  7. "Onggi". Wikipedia. August 8, 2020.
  8. "2012W Team11 Kimchi".
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  12. Lee, Lee, C.H, GI (January 13, 2014). "Safety of Food Beverages: Safety of Regional Specialities - Korean Fermented Foods". Science Direct.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Chung, Jang, Kim, Kwon, and Yang (September 14, 2015). "Discussion on the origin of Kimchi, representative of Korean unique fermented vegetables". Science Direct.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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  15. "Effects of Leuconostoc mesenteroides starter cultures on microbial communities and metabolites during kimchi fermentation". Science Direct.
  16. "Improvements in the quality and shelf life of kimchi by fermentation with the induced bacteriocin-producing strain, Leuconostoc citreum GJ7 as a starter".
  17. "Extending the shelf life of kimchi with Lactococcus lactis strain as a starter culture". Research Gate.
  18. "Korean kimchi: promoting healthy meals through cultural tradition".
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 "Amazing Health Benefits of Kimchi".
  20. "Kombucha, kimchi and yogurt: how fermented foods could be harmful to your health".
  21. "Safety of Food and Beverages: Safety of Regional Specialities – Korean Fermented Foods".
  22. 22.0 22.1 DiscoverKorea. "Different Types of Kimchi (Representative Kimchi of each region within Korea)".
  23. Murray, Lorraine. "Beyond the Cabbage: 10 Types of Kimchi | Britannica".
  24. "Overview: importing processed fruit or vegetable products". Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
  25. "Canadian Standards of Identity: Volume 4 – Processed Fruit or Vegetable Products". Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
  26. "Canadian Grade Compendium: Volume 3 – Processed Fruit or Vegetable Products". Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
  27. "Grade Designations for Imported Food". Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
  28. "Labelling requirements for processed fruit or vegetable products". Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
  29. "Legibility requirements". Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
  30. "Overview: importing processed fruit or vegetable products". Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
  31. Canadian Border Services Agency. "Checklist for Importing Commercial Goods into Canada".
  32. Canadian Border Services Agency. "Importing Commercial Goods".
  33. Canada Border Services Agency. "Importing commercial goods into Canada: 1. Preparing to import". Canada Border Services Agency.
  34. Chan, Judy. "Food Additives".
  35. Canada Border Services Agency. "Importing commercial goods into Canada - 2. Classifying your goods".
  36. Canada Border Services Agency. "Importing commercial goods into Canada - 3. Determining duties and taxes".
  37. Canada Border Services Agency. [( "Importing commercial goods into Canada - 4. Shipping and reporting your goods"] Check |url= value (help).
  38. Canada Border Services Agency. "Importing commercial goods into Canada - 5. Getting your goods released".
  39. Canada Border Services Agency. "Importing commercial goods into Canada - 6. After your goods are released".
  40. InspectionsCanada. "Overview: importing processed fruit or vegetable products".
  41. InspectionsCanada. "Shipping Containers: Labelling Requirements".
  42. Chan, Judy. "Food Labelling Requirements".
  43. InspectionsCanada. "Canadian Standards of Identity: Volume 4 – Processed Fruit or Vegetable Products".

External links for more research and overview

  1. How is Kimchi Made? - a video that gives a thorough explanation on the importance of each step of kimchi-making to the final product.
  2. Instructions on how to produce Napa Cabbage Kimchi
  3. Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) - shows the import requirements for Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulated commodities
  4. A step-by-step guide to import food into Canada - describes the recommended steps to meet the requirements to import food into Canada and to maintain a food import licence
  5. Kimchi: Salt and Spice and Everything Nice – or Not? - talks about health controversies surrounding kimchi