Kitchen Basics | Kimchi for president
When your friends text you: “This is Kimchi Crack,” you know that your first batch of kimchi was a success. I have to admit, it was a damn good first try (pat self on the shoulder). My love for kimchi is probably as big as my love for dumplings. If I get the chance, I will eat it with everything from noodle salad, dumplings or just straight out of the jar (like you would eat peanut butter).
You have a hundred kinds of recipes for making kimchi. Every Korean household has one their own and most of the time are made with fish sauce and dried shrimps to add that umami taste to it. However, with a little tweak, it is possible to make it vegan. Although I have to admit that I may have cheated a wee bit when using the ingredients. Sometimes it is just easier when you do not have to reinvent the wheel.
Most of the recipes call for Gochujang. It is a red chile paste made from Korean pepper flakes, fermented soybeans, salt, sweeteners and glutinous rice. It is spicy (sometimes very spicy depending on the brand), very concentrated and pungent in flavor. If you read the ingredients on the back of the packaging, it might remind you of miso paste but only a very spicier and sweeter. Just like miso, a little goes a long way. If you still have some left over after you made kimchi, you can use it to make budae-jjigae or use it as a dipping sauce for all kind of things, like dumplings.
This recipe may take some time but I reassure you, it is worth it! Once you had this, you will never go back to store-bought ones. You can make a huge batch that will last you a few months because of the fermentation. Yes, in case you did not know yet, Kimchi is fermented! The same process that creates beautiful golden sauerkraut. Soaking or rubbing them in with salt will kill the harmful bacteria first and the Lactobacillus bacteria remain behind to convert sugars into lactic acid, which preserves the veggies and gives them a tangy flavor.
For your information; Lactobacillus bacteria are the same bacteria that is found in yogurt but it also naturally occurs in the body, usually in the intestines, mouth, or (yes, no shame saying this) in female genitals.
If you are a very skilled in Korean cuisine, and by any chance, you live in a very warm country with much sunshine, you can make the Gochujang paste yourself. For now, I will leave you with this version (till I figured out how to make the paste) using store-bought Gochujang paste. You can find it at most Asian Supermarket. Just read the back of the package to make sure it does not have fish sauce in it. (It should not tho..)
A few notes before you start:
1. STERILIZE YOUR JARS! I repeat: STERILIZE YOUR JARS! I recommend using a preserving jar. The one with the rubber seals like Fido Glass jars.
2. If you do not want your jar overflowing with juices, don’t fill the jar to the brim. Leave a little space for it to breath.
3. After a day or two, you should see some tiny bubbles in your jar. That means it is already fermenting. You want to open the lid and push down the cabbage into the liquids. Close the jar and let it sit for another week. The longer you leave it to ferment, the stronger the flavors will get.
4. Keep the pot in the fridge, and you can enjoy it for 3 or 4 weeks. From experience, it will not last that long.
Makes small 1 LTR jar.
1 head of napa cabbage
2-3 cups coarse sea salt
Cut the cabbage lengthwise in four quarts. Give them a quick wash under running water. Grab the biggest bowl or pan you can find and rub the salt in between the leaves. Make sure that every nook and cranny is covered with salt. Let in the bowls sit for at least 3 hours. Give them a turn every half an hour. You will see how much water they will release.
4 cloves garlic (finely minced)
3 stalks spring onion (cut into big pieces)
1 medium carrot (cut julienne)
3 – 4 tbsp Gochujang paste
2 tbsp rice vinegar (optional)
2 pieces of nori sheets (cut in strips)
In a small bowl, add all the ingredients and mix thoroughly. I like to add rice vinegar to give the kimchi more tangy-ness and take down the sweetness down a little notch. That is optional.
After 3 hours, rinse the cabbage thoroughly to remove the all the salt. Cut the 4 parts coarsely and rub them with the paste. Make sure that every nook and cranny is covered with this amazing paste. Layer it all in the clean jar and press it down firmly. Add any leftover paste to the jar and close the lid. Place the pot in the corner of your kitchen and leave it there to ferment for two days.
After two days you can open the lid and enjoy it. Alternatively, if you have a little more patience, leave it to ferment for another few days. The flavor will be stronger. When you are happy with the taste, you can divide the kimchi into smaller jars to give it to friends. Alternatively, you keep it in the big pot and eat it all by yourself ;).