Kimchi is a kind of spicy fermented pickle and accompanies every Korean meal. It is made from cabbage, turnip, cucumber or seasonable vegetables, seasoned with red pepper, garlic, onion, ginger, salt, oysters and soused salted fish juice, and fermented in an earthenware crock. Kimchi is made in large quantities in late autumn for use during the winter months. Autumn Kimchi making is called "kimjang" which is one of Korea's most important household events. Kimchi contains good amounts of vitamin C and stimulates the appetite. Somehow, kimchi and rice make an excellent flavor and texture combination.
The basic diet includes at each meal steamed rice, hot soup, kimchis and a number of meat and/ or vegetable side dishes with fruit as an after-meal refresher. In-season fresh vegetables are used at the peak of their season and dried preserved for out-of-season use later on.
Korean table settings are classified into the 3-chop, the 5-chop, the 7-chop, the 9-chop and the 12-chop according to the number of side dishes served. The average family takes three or four side dishes along with rice, soup and kimchi for an everyday Korean meal.
When a family entertains guest for a special occasion, such as a wedding celebration or 60th birthday party, a dozen or more delightful dishes of different kinds are served according to the season. In addition, there is a characteristic way of setting the table for each occasion: New Year's Day Table, Moon-Festival Day Table, Baby's First Birthday Table, Ancestor-Memorial Day Table, Bride's Gift Table or Drinking Table.
Korean food is usually shared by diners. Each person has his own bowl of rice and soup, but other dishes are set on the table for all to reach. The main dishes and the side dishes are distinguished by the quantities served. At meal time, the smaller quantity of the food served will be one of the side dishes. Larger quantity dishes will be the main dish and nothing more will be needed except rice and kimchi.