I kick myself when thinking about Korean food and it’s recent popularity. I was in Korea almost 30 years ago (gulp) and I just couldn’t find my food groove. I don’t remember seeing Bibimbap on the menu, or Bulgogi, and the best “Korean BBQ” I’d had was in Japan ! I remember not really liking anything… other than … KIMCHI 🙂 I have great memories of the stuff and that it made everything else taste better ….
To be fair, I think it was just a language problem and I surely missed out on a lot of great food. But Kimchi remains a solid memory.
Kimchi (or Korean Sauerkraut if you like) is a wonderful spicy traditional lacto-fermented side dish or condiment made using many different vegetables, the most popular being Cabbage.
As with other lacto-fermented products, Kimchi is rich in anti-oxidants and has some great health benefits including aiding digestion, improving your intestinal flora, regulating cholesterol levels… the list goes on and on.
I’ve tried a few different combos of veg in the past, but really like this mix. I used a both Napa Cabbage and Savoy Cabbage (mostly Napa) and instead of the traditional Korean Gochugaru dried pepper flakes, I used a local “Piment d’Espelette” which is not quite so hot but very flavorful. I always use whatever radishes are in season if I can’t find Daikon. I also like adding the umami flavours of fish sauce and/or shrimp paste.
Use filtered water if possible and good quality salt.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands “dirty” ! Use gloves if you use a hot hot pepper powder. Massaging the veg is important, so don’t just stir with a spoon.
MAKE SURE you read the instructions carefully and don’t forget to check your fermenting Kimchi everyday until it goes in the fridge, so it doesn’t. . . explode out of its jar.
Careful, this stuff is ADDICTIVE ! Its great alongside so many dishes, on of my favorites is Korean Pancakes.
- 1 kg approx. napa cabbage (savoy works to but gives off less brine)
- 1 medium carrot, julienned
- 1 daikon radish (or other radish), julienned
- 1/4 cup sea salt
- Water (filtered)
- 1 Tablespoon grated garlic
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons unrefined brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 Tablespoon dried shrimp paste (or more fish sauce)
- 1 to 5 Tablespoons Korean Red Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru) or Espelette Pepper to taste
- 4 spring onions cut into 1 inch pieces
Slice the cabbage, a bit wider than if you were making coleslaw, place in a large bowl and add the salt. Using your hands, massage the salt into the leaves. Cover with water and weigh down the cabbage by placing a plate in the bowl with something heavy like a bottle of water to hold the plate down. Let stand for at least an hour.
Meanwhile, make the paste by combining the garlic, ginger, sugar, fish sauce and shrimp paste (if using) in a small bowl to make a smooth paste. Add the pepper flakes and mix well (the quantity depends on how hot you want your kimchi, I use 3 to 4 Tablespoons).
Rinse the cabbage a few times and drain in a colander for 15 minutes. Rinse and dry the large bowl and set aside.
Squeeze the cabbage, using your hands and put it into your large bowl with the other veg and your spice paste. Mix thoroughly using your hands (gloves not a bad idea) working the paste into the veg until well covered. It should now have a nice fresh kimchi smell.
Pack the kimchi into a clean 1 Liter or Quart jar and press down using your hand or a wooden spoon to release some of the natural juices (instant brine) Leave at least a few cm of head space and seal the jar. If your kimchi is not giving off enough water to cover the veg you can make a brine using 1T of sea salt for 1 cup of water and add a bit of this.
Let the jar stand at room temperature for 1 to 5 days (1 usually leave mine 4 or 5). Open the jar once a day and squish everything down using a wooden spoon. This will also release any built up bubbles created by the fermentation process. Place your jar on a plate or bowl in case it does seep out. Taste your kimchi every day and when it is to your liking, into the fridge it goes where it should keep for months. Its ok to eat right away but will get better with age.
Bon appetit !
*** Adapted from the blog TheKitchn