Kimchee in space

South Korean space scientists have perfected an orbit-safe version of kimchee and many other local delicacies:
After millions of dollars and years of research, South Korean scientists successfully engineered kimchi and nine other Korean recipes fit for space travel. When the Russian space authorities this month approved them for Ko's trip, the South Korean food companies that participated in the research took out full-page newspaper ads...

Ordinary kimchi is teeming with microbes, like lactic acid bacteria, which help fermentation. On Earth they are harmless, but scientists fear they could turn dangerous in space if cosmic rays cause them to mutate. Another problem is that kimchi has a short shelf life, especially when temperatures fluctuate rapidly, as they do in space.

Link (via Neatorama)


  1. “scientists fear they could turn dangerous in space if cosmic rays cause them to mutate.”

    Kimchee Monster

  2. After living in Korea for the past four years, I can honestly say that Koreans are obsessed with kimchi. You can buy air conditioners with kimchi-based filters, for example. Kimchi has been cited as the reason Korea avoided SARS, and a virtual cure-all. A few years ago, some Korean researchers found that the reason Koreans have such a high rate of stomach and intestinal cancer is because of the overconsumption of fermented foods like kimchi. No Korean journal would publish their findings, so they had to publish in China.

    Hanguk saranghaeyo!

  3. #3: one of the things they spent all that research money on was reducing the odour.

    though i’d imagine 2/3-as-smelly kimchi is still pretty smelly :)

  4. What a GREAT idea: fill a small space environment with the scent of old gym socks and pure swap stink! Mmmmm…..

  5. @ #7
    Nope, the ISS is at full pressure. The shuttle is kept somewhat lower than sea-level.

    And all that air is fully re-circulated. They are going to be breathing kimchee air for months.

  6. @#1 – Kimchi is basically sauerkraut made with Chinese cabbage with cayenne pepper flakes added to it. It’s a way of preserving cabbage without having to refrigerate it.

    I have never heard of certain European peoples having a greater incidence of cancer as a result of eating sauerkraut. I think the microbes in the stuff are actually good for you.

  7. It’s only a matter of time before Kimchee takes over the galaxy.

    I, for one, welcome our new kimchee overlords.

  8. You gotta wonder about a country when the national food that they insist on having with every meal, despite the ethnicity of the cuisine, is rotten cabbage with hot peppers to mask the smell/taste.

    That being said…

    I love kimchi.

    As for the stomach cancer business, Japan has a serious problem with it as well. Here they attribute it to too much salt, which I am inclined to believe. I’m worried about my sodium intake because when I first came here I couldn’t stand how salty everything is and now I like it saltier than most.

    Also, it is my understanding that most of these fermenting bacteria (like in yogurt, kimchi, and natto) are very good for the digestive tract. If I were looking for a culprit in Korea, I’d have to wonder about how much capsicum they are eating, because my god the food over there is hot.

    Finally, I get really tired of Korea and Japan’s culinary inferiority complex (Korea’s is worse, I’d say) that leads them to constantly point to their magical food as the reason this bad thing didn’t happen or that bad thing didn’t happen or it wards off colds or it keeps you from getting fat or whatever it is. It’s food. My culture has food, too. It’s different food, but for some reason, it hasn’t led to the collapse of Western civilization or mass immune-system failure.

  9. I love kimchee too, but I have to wonder at the wisdom of consuming a vegetable somewhat famous for generating, um, “methane” in an enclosed environment. Seems like it might be a fire hazard, among other things.

  10. Hawaii thrives on kimchi too, a requisite accompaniment of every plate lunch, with no higher stomach cancer rates.

    The epidemiology showing higher rates of stomach cancer in Korea and Japan (where they don’t eat kimchi) is usually attributed to the light talc coating that most rice was traditionally sold with in those countries. Powdered talc is a known carcinogen which is why you no longer find it in baby powder.

    As regards the worries about space-mutated kimchee, Korean science can be a little odd at the fringes. For example, it is widely believed in Korea, even by many doctors, that sleeping with a fan running in a closed room is deadly, as it can suck all the air away from the sleeper causing asphyxiation. Despite the complete thermodynamic impossibility of this theory, believers come up with elaborate rationales as to how sleeping with a fan “actually” causes hypothermia, hyperthermia, or various other bogus explanations, and many unattended deaths are set down to fan death.

    Google “fan death” if you think I’m making this up.

  11. Some interesting points about the kimchi/cancer link; I didn’t know it was popular in Hawaii. But I must reply, though, that the Japanese do eat kimchi, just not in the same delirious amounts that Koreans do. There, of course, it is called kimuchi.

    Ugh, fan death. I start most of my courses with a unit on why fan death is impossible…

  12. Having lived in Korea for the last 7 years, I must comment that a lot of the side dishes offered by the Koreans are covered in chili sauce. Many of their main dishes are also infused with chili paste or sauce. The high quantity of capsaicin in the local food seems to be the main reason for the occurrence of intestinal cancer here. Also, because many of the local vegetables are preserved in salt, this can also contribute to intestinal cancer. One of the local standard medical tests for health insurance, contains a section for the testing of intestinal cancer.

    In the American Journal of Epidemiology (Vol. 139, No. 3: 263-271) the following reasearch paper was published Chili Pepper Consumption and Gastric Cancer in Mexico: A Case-Control Study – Laboratory studies indicate that capsaicin, the hot-tasting component of chili peppers, may be carcinogenic. A population-based case-control study was conducted in Mexico City during 1989–1990 to evaluate the relation between chili pepper consumption and gastric cancer risk. The study included 220 incident cases and 752 controls randomly selected from the general population. … Chilipepper consumers were at high risk for gastric cancer compared with nonconsumers…

    And in the European Journal for Cancer Prevention (2000 Apr;9[2]:89-97) the next paper was published: Diet and stomach cancer: a case-control study in South India – A prospective case-control study was conducted in Trivandrum, India, to evaluate the dietary risk factors for stomach cancer. … Risk was high for those consuming spicy food, high consumption of chili and consumption of high-temperature food.

    The Medicina (Kaunas) journal (2006;42[2]:164-70) published the paper: Salt-preserved foods and risk of gastric cancer – Gastric cancer is one of the main health issues in Lithuania. The risk factors of the disease are related to nutrition and environment. … After adjustments for other dietary habits and smoking, alcohol consumption, family history on cancer, education level, and residence, higher risk of gastric cancer was found for those using salt additionally to prepared meal or those who liked salty food. … In conclusion, higher risk of gastric cancer is found for people that like salty food, salt-preserved meat as well as fish.

    As to the beneficial effects of sauerkraut/kimchi, notes the following:
    1. Sauerkraut as immune booster – …Packed with vitamins andminerals, sauerkraut has been used as a lay immune booster for centuries. Sauerkraut contains phytochemicals which are created during the fermentation process. These naturally occurring, beneficial by products of sauerkraut help boost the immune system which leads to a decrease in a number of health problems. The common cold, skin problems, weight gain and tainted blood are all fixed by a healthy functioning immune system.

    2. Sauerkraut as cancer fighter – …The results of a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry concluded that sauerkraut is a cancer inhibitor. The study discovered that the fermentation of cabbage produced a substance called isothiocynates, which prevents cancer growth, particularly in the breast, colon, lung and liver. Although raw cabbage is normally rich in a compound called glucosinolate, the researchers found that during the fermentation process enzymes are released that completely decompose the compound into several breakdown products. The majority of these products are cancer-fighting isothiocyanates. The University of New Mexico published a study linking sauerkraut consumption by adolescent females to a reduced risk for breast cancer earlier studies indicate sauerkraut may reduce the risk for other forms of cancer including lung, colon, prostate, and liver We are finding that fermented cabbage could be healthier than raw or cooked cabbage, especially for fighting cancer, says Eeva-Liisa Ryhanen, Ph.D., research manager of MTT Agrifood Research Finland, located in Jokioinen, Finland. A recent study by the American Center for Cancer Research has found that sauerkraut has a profound effect in preventing and healing breast cancer. Based on reports that breast cancer rates amongst polish women in the United States were much higher than those in Poland researchers set out to find out why. Their answer; the women who still lived in Poland ate significantly larger amounts of sauerkraut especially important while they were in adolescence. The research found that the women who immigrated Americanized’ their diets and stopped eating as much of the super food that is sauerkraut thus increasing their rates of breast cancer.

    3. Digestive Aid – Eating sauerkraut is a great way to protect the balance of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. Sauerkraut is one of the few foods that contain the bacterium Lactobacilli plantarum. L. planatarum is a very dominant strain of healthful bacteria which helps your digestive system in the following ways: boost the immune system by increasing antibodies that fight infectious disease help inhibit pathogenic organisms including E.coli, salmonella and unhealthy overgrowth of candida (yeast) create antioxidants (glutathione and superoxide dismustase) that scavenge free radicals which are a cancer precursor transforms hard-to-digest lactose from milk to the more easily digested lactic acid. It neutralizes the antinutrients found in many foods including the phytic acid found in all grains and the trypsin-inhibitors in soy generates new nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, digestive aids and the trace mineral GTF chromium. These various properties are the best scientific reasons given for what has been known by loyal users for millennia, sauerkraut cures an upset stomach and is the best natural physic there is. Many sources say raw fermented foods are beneficial to the digestive system by increasing the healthy flora in the intestinal tract or creating the type of environment for them to flourish. Sauerkraut and its juice are traditional folk remedies for constipation. Fermentation actually increases nutrient values in the cabbage, especially vitamin C. Fermented foods are also said to facilitate the breakdown and assimilation of proteins. They have a soothing effect on the nervous system. The benefits of sauerkraut and sauerkraut juice have been recognized for generations. In some families of southern Germany, the children are fed raw sauerkraut twice weekly to support their intestines. Today it is thought that these benefits may relate to a high proportion of lactic acid in sauerkraut and sauerkraut juice that naturally supports the digestive processes, maintain intestinal flora, and increase the feeling of well-being.

    4. Flu Fighter – With the spread of Avian Flu spreading across the globe, one enterprising Korean scientist, Kang Sa-Ouk of Seoul National University, took 13 chickens infected with avian flu virus and a couple of other diseases, fed them Kim chi extract and found that 11 of the birds recovered. Experts think the vital bacteria are created during the fermenting process and this gives the dish its health-boosting qualities.

    In conclusion, we make our own kimchi regularly, as it acts as an appetizer and aids in the digestion of the food that we eat. I must emphasize, that I make my kimchi without adding any chili pepper.

  13. Areas that are highly concentrated in stomach cancers are in Japan, Korea and South America. Many of their cuisines are fermented/pickled food contains SODIUM NITRITE. There are many countries rely on chili peppers including Thailand, India, Spain and Mexico. But none of these countries have ascending gastric cancer rates. For example, Japanese diet is not spicy and they do not contain many of chili peppers/powder but yet they have the world’s highest stomach cancer rate. It’s the sodium nitrite and they’re commonly used in preserved foods in these countries.

  14. It might not be the cabbage that prevents the bird flu in Koreans but the hot paste. Chilli peppers seems to provide extra protection to the lungs.

    Scientists believe that is why the Mexicans who live in the polluted areas of LA have far less lung diseases than their gringo cohabitants. Ditto for Mexico.

Comments are closed.