There are many foods that most people in the west have either never heard of or have never tried before.
For a long period of time, the diets of people around the globe was just the food that was already made where they were, with some exceptions when other foods were introduced to areas.
However, in the modern day that has changed, with globalization allowing us to eat foods as we want and as we will.
One of the foods that has been introduced to our palate from far away is that of Kimchi.
This beloved vegetable dish in East Asia has grown increasingly in popularity over the years, and with good reason.
Yet, from our limited knowledge of the food, do we know whether it can go bad or not?
In this article, we seek to find out whether Kimchi can go bad or whether it is truly an immortal food. So, can Kimchi actually go bad?
What Is Kimchi?
Kimchi is a traditional dish from the Korean Peninsula that is made by salting and fermenting different kinds of vegetables, with the most common being Napa Cabbage and Korean Radish.
A huge range of seasonings are used to make the dish, including spring onions, garlic, ginger, gochugaru – Korean Chili powder – and jeotgal – Salted Seafood.
While the chili element is a recent addition to the dish, Kimchi itself is old, possibly one of the oldest dishes in the world today.
Within the Samguk Sagi or the Historical Records of the Three Kingdoms of Korea published around 1100 AD, it notes how fermented vegetables pickled in a jar were commonly eaten during this period.
Considering the work is a compilation of written records from between 50 and 600 AD, this means that Kimchi has at least been eaten in some form or another for almost 2000 years.
The modern version with chilis being added was not invented until the 1600s, when chilis were brought over from the Americas.
The production and consumption of Kimchi has continued to increase at a steady pace, with the food being introduced to the wider world through trade and in particular the American and Korean cooperation during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
These wars saw Kimchi used as a ration by the Korean soldiers and when the request for food in the field from the South Korean government took place to America, it piqued the interest of their troops.
Once this occurred, the food and talk of the food was spread around the world, which only increased with the Korean Diaspora, thus giving us the universal access to Kimchi we have today.
While there have been disputes about Kimchi, especially with Japan and China, it has continued to persist as a food in both North and South Korea, with it being one of the things that can be seen as wholly and totally Korean in nature.
Can Kimchi Go Bad?
Unfortunately, like most foods, Kimchi can go bad.
Most people believe that because the food is fermented that it will never go bad or that it will take so long to go bad that it doesn’t matter anyway.
This is not the case. While the food can last months or even years past the label’s date, eventually it will succumb, as do all foods.
However, there are some instances where people think Kimchi has gone off, but it actually hasn’t, which we have put below:
- Kimchi that is bubbling – Kimchi has living bacteria in it which will go through breathing processes, so some bubbling from the Kimchi is normal.
- Kimchi spits when you open the jar – As with before, the bacteria in Kimchi release gas that can build up, so when you open a jar, it can spit this gas at you.
- A bulging lid cap – for the same reasons as before, this can be caused by a buildup of gas.
- Kimchi becomes very sour, after being left at room temperature – It is still okay to eat, but it might be best to add it to something instead of eating it raw.
- Cabbage has become soft – This just means you’ve had the Kimchi for a long time, but it doesn’t mean it is off.
Now that we’ve gone through the false clues about Kimchi being off, we can talk about the things that actually show that Kimchi is off or spoiled:
- Mold or white film on top of Kimchi – This is the most telling sign that your Kimchi is no longer good to eat. When a mold has formed, you can either try and eat from the good, liquidy parts or you can throw the entire thing away. Personally, we would throw it away.
- Funny taste – If the Kimchi is more sour than usual, that is still okay as that is still part of the fermentation process, but should the Kimchi taste off, then that is a cause for concern. Trust your sense of taste, it will tell you when something isn’t right.
Generally, it takes a lot for Kimchi to go off or become uneatable, but when it does, you will notice, so make sure to trust your eyes and your tongue before continuing to tuck into the food.
How Long Will Kimchi Last?
The problem with this question is that Kimchi is fermented, and fermented foods are harder to gauge the lifespan of due to their penchant for lasting an incredibly long time.
The ongoing fermentation of these foods basically stops them from spoiling, but how long that fermentation lasts depends on the health of the bacteria that powers it and the food supply they have.
The best way to judge how long Kimchi will last is by looking at the label and using that as a fixed point.
Normally, these labels will indicate how long the Kimchi should last before it turns overly sour.
Once it reaches the label date, the Kimchi will gradually turn sour over time, but you can keep eating it. Still, you should use this date to decide how long to keep eating.
If it goes too far from the label date, then it may be time to chuck the Kimchi away. This also changes with the seasons.
In summer, Kimchi will turn sour faster and as such will be more susceptible to spoiling faster, due to the increase in temperatures.
However, in winter – when it is colder and bacteria is less active – it may take more time for kimchi to go sour and as such it may take more time for it to spoil.
Since this is not a concrete idea, the general rule of thumb is that once the Kimchi is opened and the Kimchi has had contact with the open air, you should be able to keep eating from it for between 6 and 12 months, with the provision that the Kimchi stays refrigerated the entire time and that the Kimchi did not taste too sour when you first opened it.
Beyond these timeframes, it is anyone’s guess how long the Kimchi will last, and honestly it might not be worth the risk to your health to find out.
If you are worried about your Kimchi, then you should store it out of direct sunlight in a cupboard or the fridge.
Once you have opened it, leave it at room temperature until it reaches your desired taste – as the bacteria will become more active in open air and at room temperature. Leaving it longer will make the dish more sour.
Kimchi will eventually go bad from exposure and just from the natural breaking down of molecules, but it will take a long time for this to happen.
As such, you should always check the label and plan appropriately for when you should chuck out your Kimchi.
While it feels okay to eat after a very long time, it isn’t worth the risk to your health.