[FOUNTAIN]Fights cancer and tastes greatThere is not much in German cuisine to boast of. After one ticks off pork, potatoes and sausages, there is not much left to recommend. Germans boast that their food is better than that of the British, but that’s not saying much.
German food is usually accompanied by sauerkraut, a pickled cabbage. Meaning “sour cabbage,” this side dish is similar to Korean staple side dish of kimchi in many ways. Its sour taste and the finishing touch it gives after a greasy meal is much like kimchi. Korean students here used to nurse their homesickness by eating sauerkraut back in the days when it was difficult to buy kimchi.
A Finnish research team said last year that sauerkraut has substances that will prevent breast, colon, lung and liver cancers. The study found that the cancer-fighting substance was formed when the cabbage was fermented.
It is established in the food and drug world that fermented food are good for you. The West’s lactic ferments, Korean soybean paste, and Japan’s miso soybean paste are known as healthy foods. Kimchi, which mixes fermented garlic, Chinese cabbage, pepper and ginger would no doubt be all the better nutritionally. The Finnish team might have gotten even better results had they studied kimchi.
We know from experience that kimchi and garlic are good for the body, but there has been no systematic analysis to validate that folklore. During the Japanese colonial period, many Japanese living in Korea died of dysentery while Koreans survived, albeit after a bout of diarrhea. My mother attributed the reason for the Koreans’ survival to pepper. Also, when a bizarre bacteria named O157 killed many Japanese, not one ethnic Korean living in Japan fell victim to it. The Japanese media at that time reported that the reason may have had to do with the Korean staple, kimchi.
With South Korea the only safe haven in the region from severe respiratory acute syndrome, the foreign press has reported a possible link between that seeming immunity and kimchi and garlic. According to reports, garlic consumption is on the rise in China and television has discussed Korean kimchi. I don’t think a lack of scientific proof will invalidate rule-of-thumb evidence.
This is a great opportunity to export kimchi as an international food. The kimchi boom that is sweeping Japan may spread to China; who knows? And I bow my head in respect for the wisdom of our ancestors.
by Yoo Jae-sik
The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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