Kimchi is the pickled cabbage-and-vegetable side dish that you will always be served as a side dish at any Korean restaurant that you visit. The recipes vary widely, and I have tried several recipes, but this one is what I find most closely resembles in looks and taste the Kimchi that Halifax Koreans make.
Before I get to the recipe I will note that you can be rather free with the recipe, depending on your taste. This may be part of the reason for the variety. I like the idea that the pickle can vary so much, but Kimchi purists may disagree. Western kitchens may not have all of the ingredients and in the past I have made substitutions that have yielded reasonable results (ie. Spanish paprika, instead of Korean chilis; a flour roux and/or babies' rice cereal, instead of sweet rice flour; I have skipped the fish sauce altogether). It will benefit you, however, to make the recipe at least once with the real ingredients. If you live in or near Halifax, then I recommend that you stop by the Heiwa Korean and Japanese Grocery on Chebucto Road at the corner of Philip Street (by the old West End Mall). These folks are so personable, and love to spread their own love of Korean (and Japanese) cooking and culture. They're full of hints and recommendations and will even provide an impromptu cooking lesson, if parties agree that it may be required. Another good place is Tien Phat at Bedford Highway and Flamingo Drive.
Okay. There are five main parts:
- the cabbage
- the other veggies
- the chili paste
- the final assembly
Step one: Salt the cabbage.
1 Large Napa Cabbage
10 Cups Water
½ Cup Coarse Sea Salt (For Salt Water)
⅔ Cup Coarse Sea Salt (For Sprinkling)
Stir ½ Cup Coarse Sea Salt into 10 cups of water until dissolved.
With a kitchen knife divide the napa cabbage length-wise, into 4 equal quarters. Remove the hard pith at the bottom of the cabbage and compost this. Then slice the cabbage quarters width-wise in one-to-two-inch pieces. Rinse these very well and spin/dry them. Then submerge them in the salt water in layers, sprinkling the remaining Sea Salt between the layers. (This part is a bit like making sauerkraut, if you have done that before.) You will notice the cabbage will start to "wilt" and begin to lightly leech its own fluids within a few minutes.
Set this aside at room-temperature for two to five hours. Then drain the salt water off, and rinse all of the cabbage completely. Rinse it twice, to ensure all of the salt is gone.
Step two: prepare the chilli sauce.
3 Tbsp Water
3 Tbsp Sweet Rice Flour
2 more Cups Water
1¼ Cup crushed Korean chillis
Whisk together the 3 Tbsp Water with the 3 Tbsp Sweet Rice Flour. After this is completely blended, whisk the roux into the 2 cups of water. Put this on the range top on medium heat and stirring frequently (it likes to stick to the bottom) heat it until the top is almost covered in bubbles. Boiling is not necessary. Remove this from the heat, pour it into a very large mixing bowl and this whisk in all of the chillis. Set aside.
Step three: prepare the veggies:
2 Cups Daikon Radish
5 Green Onions
½ Onion (save the other half for below)
Some Hot Peppers
4 to 5 Tbsp Minced Garlic
½ to 1 Tbsp Minced Ginger
There is the most room for variety here. In the past I have also included or substituted: yams, leeks, and other veggies.
Most of the veggies are essentially julienned. This includes the green onion. Slice the onion to julienne-size to (half or quarter rings). Add the hot peppers according to your taste preference. There are no extra points for displays of testosterone.
Step four: put it all together:
¼ to ½ Sweet Apple (roughly match the onion size, below)
1 Tbsp Sugar
⅓ Cup Fish Sauce
½ Tbsp coarse sea Salt
2 Tbsp Sesame Seeds (optional)
Chop the apple and the onion and then use a blender to purée both together. Add this purée and the sugar, fish sauce, salt, and sesame seeds to the chilli sauce in your mixing bowl. Stir well.
Next, add the julienned veggies and the minced garlic and ginger. Stir well again.
Finally, squeeze any remaining water from the napa cabbage and then stir it into the chilli sauce in batches. Using a large spoon or a wood spoon, make sure the cabbage and sauce is well blended, and the napa cabbage is as covered as possible. It should be easy to have all of the cabbage touching the sauce with only a few turns.
Step five: fermentation.
Technically, you could eat your cabbage mixture at this point, but then again it really wouldn't be kimchi! Kimchi should ferment, the same as a sauerkraut in order to give you the true kimchi experience.
Start by loosely covering your mixture or just putting a plate or saran wrap over top of it. Leave it on the counter-top for 24 hours. Stir it a few times over this time. You will note an increase in the liquid as the kimchi begins to ferment.
Then, spoon the kimchi into clean bottles or Mason jars (this recipe makes about 4 litres of kimchi), and move into the refridgerator. Leave it in the fridge to ferment for a bout a week. It will last this way forever. Literally forever. Not kidding.
And it is so delicious. And good for you, so I am told.
PS: You may have noticed a downward trend in our posting frequency. Kathy is entering the last month of her pregnancy, and sleep and repose are beginning to be increasingly important. I hope that you will forgive us; and accept a large onslaught of posting in January when parental leaves give us some leisure. (Ha ha.)