Ask anyone for the first word that comes to mind when you say kimchi, and the odds are they will answer Korea. Or vice versa. And why wouldn't it be? Kimchi's Korean origins dates back 4,000 years, according to an article in the Journal of Ethnic Foods . And it is, after all, widely recognised as the national dish of South Korea. View this post on Instagram A post shared by KIMCHI AND RADISH (@kimchiradish) on Oct 7, 2019 at 2:08am PDT While it’s a tedious task to pinpoint exactly when kimchi was developed, researchers have traced the earliest historical mentions. In a record from the pre-Koryo Dynasty history (857-918), called Samkuksaki by Kim, a cruel description of how to kill people was stated as, “I want to tear a person limb from limb like the way we tear kimchi”. Fermentation 101 View this post on Instagram A post shared by Korea Breizh (@koreabreizh) on Mar 23, 2020 at 9:01am PDT For thousands of years, Koreans got through winter by burying kimchi in traditional ceramic jars called onggi . But it was not an overnight discovery. First, Koreans learned how to protect their food from animals, especially birds, by creating underground tunnels and then putting food inside jars, or building storage houses. 7 best vegan restaurants in Metro Manila But aside from animals they had another problem, food preservation; they had to store vegetables in a way that they would be edible even if preserved for a long period. They discovered that some vegetables can remain edible when mixed with certain seasonings like red pepper, garlic or beans. Scientifically, the presence of red pepper not only controls microorganisms, like salt does, but it also boosts the growth of useful ones, such as lactic acid bacteria. Hence, fermentation was born. Traditional kimchi View this post on Instagram A post shared by Flavours from Inda's Kitchen (@pandan_gula_melaka) on Oct 9, 2019 at 1:51am PDT Before kimchi ever made waves into international cuisine, there were already 200 variations that existed in Korea alone. The most popular way of making it includes Napa cabbage, radishes, spring onions, garlic and ginger, along with a specific red pepper and fish sauce (anchovies, nori or any kind of seafood-based sauce). View this post on Instagram A post shared by KIMCHI AND RADISH (@kimchiradish) on Mar 29, 2020 at 5:16am PDT Kimchi is similar to yogurt and kombucha – the fermentation allows it to nurture good bacteria, the same kinds of healthy bacteria found in the human gut. Which is why this dish has become so popular all over the world. Aside from giving you a healthy digestive system, it is high in dietary fibre while being low in calories. A single serving also provides more than half of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C and carotene. Vegan kimchi View this post on Instagram A post shared by KIMCHI AND RADISH (@kimchiradish) on Mar 27, 2020 at 2:25pm PDT The presence of a seafood-based sauce makes kimchi unfriendly to vegans and vegetarians, but there are plant-based alternatives readily available. 5 top vegan-friendly luxury wellness resorts in Asia Kimchi and Radish, an online store that sells vegan kimchi in the UK, shares its recipe: “We make our vegan kimchi with Chinese cabbage, radish, Korean chilli powder (gochugaru), fresh garlic, ginger, and Cornish sea salt. It tastes more refreshing than the original and less salty.” View this post on Instagram A post shared by bananasfoodshop (@bananasfoodshop) on Mar 18, 2020 at 9:47am PDT Bananas Asia Food Shop in the Netherlands also sells vegan kimchi. “If vegan kimchi is made well, it can be as tasty, complex, and interesting as traditional kimchi. You will need to think about using ingredients to achieve a well-rounded, full-bodied flavour and it's not OK to just leave out the fish sauce or shrimp paste and not replace it with other ingredients.” Traditional vs vegan View this post on Instagram A post shared by bananasfoodshop (@bananasfoodshop) on Dec 20, 2017 at 6:17am PST The health benefits of traditional and vegan kimchi are … the same. Yes, there is almost no difference. A study conducted at Brown University showed that because of the fermentation process, both vegan and traditional kimchi probiotics were similar in the end, although both started differently. Lactobacillus and leuconostoc were both seen in the fermented cabbage and dominated the end product. 8 essential vegan dishes to try in George Town, Malaysia Nutritionist Joanne Crovini from Wales says that vegan or not, kimchi will give the same benefits. “As long as it is traditionally fermented it will still have the beneficial bacteria,” she adds, “which is the health benefit you're looking for when you eat kimchi.” Even Taiwanese vegan chef Adrian Wu loves and recommends kimchi, “I haven’t made it myself but I love the nutritional facts and taste of it.” Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter . Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.