Korea's staple food, kimchi, is widely known around the world for its health benefits. The key to make kimchi, other than using base ingredients such as garlic, cabbage and red pepper, is fermentation.
Now, local researchers have discovered that the source of kimchi's taste does not rely solely on the abundant probiotic lactic acid bacteria thriving during fermentation, but also on the timing of fermentation.
"Some bacteria in kimchi probiotics have certain genes that determine the distinctive flavor and smell of kimchi. We found out more of these genes are highly expressed in the ending phase of the fermentation."
In other words, the probiotics are genetically programmed to create the characteristic taste and smell of kimchi at a specific time during the fermentation process.
And with this discovery, researchers hope to find a way to standardize kimchi's unique qualities while maintaining its health benefits to cater to global palates.
"We are looking for a technology that can design a standard taste and smell for kimchi regardless of when it was made. We took a big first step towards reaching that goal."
The research team is conducting further studies to control the bacterial genes, hoping to find a method that can be applied on other fermented dishes as well.
Cho Sung-min, Arirang News.