The German and Korean versions of fermented cabbage are made differently and possess distinctive qualities. Sauerkraut, German for sour cabbage, is made from shredded cabbage heads. Its cousin from the east, kimchi, is derived from the intact stems and leaves of Chinese cabbage, combined with additional ingredients such as hot peppers, garlic, vegetables, fruits, and fish sauce. Kimchi is fermented with more salt and at a significantly lower temperature than sauerkraut. It was originally produced in pots partly buried in the cold earth in late autumn and winter. The fermentation time for sauerkraut is longer, lasting for up to 6 weeks, compared to kimchi’s 3 weeks.
When ready, kimchi tastes like a crunchy pungent pickle that is less acidic but saltier than sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is more tart, with an almost flowery aroma due to some yeast growth. The two play supporting roles on the plate: sauerkraut as a refreshing side dish for rich meats and kimchi jazzing up bland rice.
Preserved cabbage is believed to have been introduced to Europe in its present form in the 13th century by Ghengis Khan after invading China. Since then, kimchi and sauerkraut have secured spots on various ‘world’s healthiest foods’ lists for their amazing health benefits, such as being low in calories and high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C and B. Additionally, sauerkraut offers an extra helping of vitamin K while kimchi provides generous doses of vitamin A. According to a study from King’s College London, sauerkraut’s large amounts tyramine, a neurotransmitter, makes it one of the most powerful aphrodisiacs, as effective as Viagra.