No matter how it's spelled, kimchee (or kimchi or gimchee) is the food most people think of when they consider Korean cuisine - even if they don't like it. What is it? Korean pickled vegetables. Some people refer to all the small side dishes served at a Korean meal as kimchee. The more encompassing word would be banchan because it includes kimchee as well as unfermented vegetables (namul). How is it made? The vegetables are heavily salted, which draws out the excess moisture, then they're mixed with other ingredients such as chillies, spring onions, garlic and dried or fermented seafood. The kimchee is then packed into a container and aged for a few days or up to many months. What to look for: if possible, taste samples before you buy. If you're buying it to serve at home, pick a good variety of shapes, colours and flavours. Kimchee made from Napa cabbage is the most familiar but it can also be made from turnips, radishes, sesame leaves, cucumbers and other vegetables. What else? Traditionally, certain types of kimchee were made in huge quantities, packed in large crocks and buried underground, which acted as a refrigerator in the icy Korean winters. This ensured a supply of nutritious vegetables when fresh ones were not available. Although it's believed kimchee can be stored in the refrigerator indefinitely, it can become over-fermented. If you purchased it in a vacuum-sealed bag, transfer it to another container or the gas the kimchee emits will eventually make the bag swell like a balloon. If possible, follow the lead of Korean housewives and have a separate kimchee fridge so its pungent smell doesn't affect your other foods. Otherwise, store the kimchee in a tightly sealed glass jar in the fridge. Kimchee is also made in Japan but it's milder, sweeter and less fermented and pungent than the Korean type. How to use: most people eat it simply as an accompaniment to main dishes. Kimchee can also be stir-fried with meat and/or rice cakes, simmered in stews and soups, or chopped, mixed with other ingredients and made into dumplings. Fried rice is a good way to use up older, more fermented cabbage kimchee. Roughly chop the kimchee and set aside. Marinate thinly sliced beef in a little soy sauce. Heat the wok, pour in some oil then stir-fry spring onions (cut into 4cm lengths), sliced mild red chillies and chopped garlic. Stir in the meat and cook until it loses its pink colour. Add the kimchee and a spoonful of gochujang (Korean chilli paste) mixed with some of the kimchee juice, if desired. Add cold, cooked rice and a sprinkling of salt and combine all the ingredients. Taste for seasoning and serve.