Friday, October 28, 2005

Health food alert: Kimchi

I'll admit it. I like kimchi . It's a wonderful stinky combination of garlic, salt and hot pepper. Most people are familiar with the fermented cabbage, sort of a Korean sauerkraut, that you find in the regular grocery store, but my favorite kinds are made from radish or cucumber*. The main drawback is the inevitable stinky breath, meaning that it's best eaten in the privacy of your own home (unless you happen to have a toothbrush in your purse).

Anyway, a couple of nights ago, our local TV news had a segment on the potential of using kimchi to fight the avian flu. I am always attentive when I'm told to eat more of the foods I like, so I tried to find more information about this new discovery. What I turned up was interesting, but demonstrates the problem with relying on the local news for health information; they report sensational tidbits without regard to the signficance or timliness of the story.

Back in March, the BBC reported that Korean researchers had shown that feeding kimchi extract to chickens appeared to cure the bird flu. They had only tested the extract on 13 birds, though, so the results were far from conclusive. The only recent reports I could find note that lactobacillus from kimchi was now being added to animal feed as a preventative measure. Where did the TV news story come from? There was a recent press release from a sauerkraut maker that mentions the BBC report, but incorrectly states that it was published in October, rather than March. It sounds like someone at the station read the press release, then decided to use the story as filler.

In any case, I'm willing to eat kimchi just on the offhand chance it will boost my health.

Related link: Recipes that use kimchi.

Cucumber Kimchi Recipe
I had a big crop of lemon cucumbers and hot peppers, so decided to make kimchi to use up some of the crop. It's based on a recipe from my sister-in-law, Mia.

Cut about 2 pounds cukes into 1 inch strips (filling one large bowl).

Mix in 1 tbsp salt and let sit 30 minutes.

Rinse off the salt, then mix in:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ginger, minced
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 habenero, minced (traditional kimchi uses dried red pepper)
1/2 tsp fish sauce
4 green onions, minced

Mix well, using your hands (in gloves) if necessary. The mixture should taste slightly salty. If it doesn't, add more salt.

Let stand on the counter a day or so until it tastes slightly sour, then refrigerate.

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