Kimchi and Chopsticks

Thanks to my mom, I’ve grown up eating (and loving) Korean food. Some of my all time favorite meals are Korean. Galbi (Korean barbecued spare ribs), tteokguk (rice cake soup), chapchae (noodles), egg rolls, Korean style chicken and pork, spinach and soy bean sprouts, sticky rice, gimbap (Korean sushi), Korean pancakes (which is nothing like a breakfast pancake)… just to name a few. And of course I couldn’t forget the most well known Korean food – kimchi. Most people either hate or love it. But what they don’t know is that there are many kinds of kimchi. Nearly any vegetable can be made into kimchi. Kimchi made with napa cabbage is probably the most popular. But I have in my refrigerator right now, turnip kimchi. If you think regular kimchi has a strong odor, you’d probably be blown away by this one. If it didn’t taste so darn good, I probably wouldn’t eat it myself. The poor kids can barely stand the smell, but hopefully they’ll learn to love it like I do.

Tteokguk

Kimchi is usually some form of a fermented vegetable. It’s not much different than one of America’s favorite stinky foods – pickles. (I have to admit that I’m a little sensitive when it comes to kimchi, and would like to point out to that every culture, including us Americans, have “stinky” foods. It’s really just a matter of what you are used to. If we’re judging with our noses, I’ll take kimchi over American cheese any day of the week. They were both a staple in my house growing up. That cheese is some fonky smellin’ sh-tuff!) Kimchi as well as other fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, tofu, some cheeses, even beer and wine, are good for you. Fermented foods (and drinks) boost the immune system and the flora (or good bacteria) is great for digestion, which is important for good health.

Kimchi

As it turns out there are many healthy foods in the Korean diet. Nori (seaweed) is also good for you. One of my favorite lunches is rice mixed with green onions, soy sauce and a little butter, salt and pepper, along with nori and kimchi.

Nori, and other sea vegetables are rich in potassium and iodine and contain other vitamins and minerals not often found in land foods. They have an anti-inflammatory effect and may reduce the risk of breast cancer as well as other types of cancer. They boost the immune system and help maintain normal blood pressure. Sea vegetables also contain lots of B12, which helps fight fatigue, memory loss and nerve damage. Just like fish, some sea vegetables have a stronger flavor than others. I have had seaweed that tastes very “fishy”, which I don’t like, but not all seaweed is fishy. The one pictured above doesn’t have strong flavor at all.

Koreans also tend to eat a lot more vegetables than meat. Unlike a typical American meal in which the main dish is usually the protein, Koreans will likely have several vegetable dishes with little or no meat. Fish is also a big part of their diet. Fish is rich in Omega 3’s which are good for heart and brain health.

Believe it or not, even eating with chopsticks is good for you. No smart ass – not because you hardly get anything in your mouth, but because it forces you to slow down. It does take some practice to master and I’ll admit I’m not that great with them, but it’s because I don’t use them often. That’s going to change. My mom on the other hand could probably build a brick wall with a pair of chopsticks. It’s a lot healthier to eat food slowly and it’s a fun change of pace. They’re more efficient than a fork when you know how to use them. Eating rice with chopsticks is a challenge, but that’s when the nori or lettuce comes in handy.

Korean style porkchops

One more thing about the way we eat. Maybe you’ve noticed, as I have, how much of the American diet, including how meals are prepared and eaten, is based on convenience. Meals should be a social event from preparation to after dinner conversation. Enjoy yourself while you’re cooking and eating. Meals with good company and glass of wine or beer are far healthier than those eaten alone in front of a T.V.,  in your car or at your desk. People tend to eat more when they eat quickly and alone. I also suggest sitting down when eating – even if it’s finger food. Happy eating!

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About Michele
Wife and Mom of three girls doing her best to lead the family into a healthier lifestyle and evolve gracefully.

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