Korean Kimchi Chemistryby: Brian Murfin

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Connecting science with different cultures is one way to interest students in science, to relate science to their lives, and at the same time to broaden their horizons in a variety of ways. In the lesson described here, students make kimchi, a delicious and popular Korean dish that can be used to explore many important chemistry concepts, including fermentation, chemical reactions, and acidity and alkalinity. During this activity, students use scientific techniques and methods to explore the nature of kimchi, they learn to measure the pH of a food using a variety of techniques, and they come to understand the ways that food can be preserved.

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Reviews (3)
  • on Tue Jan 15, 2013 10:18 PM

Korean Kimchi Chemistry could easily spring into an indepth inquiry regarding chemical reactions. Students can go through the process of making the Kimchi and then brainstorm ideas of how to investigate the food chemistry behind making Korean Kimchi further.

Susan German  (Hallsville, MO)
Susan German (Hallsville, MO)

  • on Sat Dec 10, 2011 10:32 AM

I love to teach science through food, and this is one of the best. Although this activity will take some time - the kimchi needs to ferment for several days - there are so many hooks into chemistry that it is worth it! I think it would also be a great activity for science in an alternative setting, especially for project-based curricula.

Jennifer Rahn  (Delafield, WI)
Jennifer Rahn (Delafield, WI)

  • on Thu Dec 08, 2011 3:16 PM

Fermentation is a basic chemistry concept that is often taught through the use of yeast. This article shows how to teach anaerobic respiration using other substances including cabbage. Since a Korean recipe for sauerkraut is highlighted, you can connect science with different cultures, as well. Korean kim chi is created from lactic acid that is produced by bacteria breaking down cabbage. This gives kim chi its sour taste. The article includes a student worksheet that sets the activity up as an exploratory investigation. Also, extension activities are suggested. Some cautions I would like to share since I have made sauerkraut in class before: be sure to have a well-ventilated place to allow it to ferment and don’t leave it for an extended period of time (like over a vacation break). You will come back to a very strong smell! Also, for food safety’s sake, I prepared some under very sterile conditions to share with the class; they were not allowed to eat anything prepared in the science lab.

Carolyn M  (Buffalo Grove, IL)
Carolyn M (Buffalo Grove, IL)

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