What Does Kimchi Mean? Koreans eat it with almost every meal. When the country’s first astronauts went into space, portions of this food went with them. Each year, South Koreans consume more than two million tons of it. The food is called kimchi, or gimchi, kimchee, or kim chee. It is a fermented, spicy cabbage dish and the most common banchan, or side dish in traditional Korean cuisine. There are hundreds of ways to prepare the dish, but many use Napa cabbage, which is currently in short supply. The price of a head of the cabbage is now more than $10. The cabbage used to make kimchi was not named after Napa, California’s famous wine region. In fact, the name comes from colloquial Japanese. The leaves of the plant, especially when they are used for food, are called nappa. The vegetable is known elsewhere in the world as Chinese cabbage and celery cabbage. Koreans have been eating a version of kimchi for thousands of years. They claim that the high-fiber, vitamin-packed food helps ward off disease and aging.