Kimchi is basically fermented, spicy, coleslaw. An indigeneous Korean dish, it is most commonly a combination of cabbage, garlic, chilis, and a range of other ingrdeients from sardines to radishes. It is used as a condiment, a soup base, an accompaniment to rice, a flavouring for meat and soy dishes.

Over the last fifty years, its popularity has bounded from Korea to China and Japan and has recently been wrestling the Western nations to the ground by their tastebuds.

According to a national nutrition survey in South Korea, an average adult consumes two to four ounces of kimchi a day in the summer and five to seven ounces a day in the winter. That translates to about 12.5% of the average South Korean's daily food intake.

Although it is considered such an important dish, no written record of it is found in Korea until the 7th century. It is believed that kimchi originated from Chinese pickles (ju, pronounced "cho" in Korean) imported during the Shilla and Koryo dynasties, roughly beginning in 57 BC.

Historically, winter kimchi was prepared in late autumn as a way to preserve the harvest until the springtime. The tradition of burying the kimchi in large clay pots in the snow was developed to slow the fermentation process during storage. Kimchi was an important source of nutrition during the frost when fresh vegetables were not available. There is an inscription from the Shilla dynasty: "A family of 10 needs eight jars to make it through the winter."

When most Koreans hear the word kimchi, the image commonly conjured up is that of the traditional type made with nappa cabbage. Although this kind is the best known, kimchi can be made with a variety of vegetables, spices and other ingredients. It is also prepared in different ways and to different degrees of fermentation.

Until the Koryo dynasty (roughly AD 918 to 1392), the main vegetable used was the radish. What we know as kimchi today did not come into existence until the 17th century, when the first chili peppers were imported to Korea from the New World. Also around that time, nappa cabbage and daikon became increasingly popular in making kimchi.

Here are a few kimchi recipes: