It is a special and easy thing to make Kimchi – soaking the vegetables in brine, then mixing them with chilli, garlic, ginger and onion, adding a sweetener to feed the fermentation and add complexity to the flavour.
The final result is a tart, salty, hot pickle with a hint of sweetness that can be eaten on its own, mixed in to dishes such as rice or soup, or cooked into a recipe. I mostly eat it as an accompaniment to a meal, although I have been known to stand at the fridge with a pair of chopsticks and have a mid night or mid afternoon snack.
The original recipe comes from Dr Ben. I have used it for several different vegetables over the years. It is good to experiment. I love cucumber kimchi, for example, and kimchi made with young bok choy. Fennel and daikon radish are also very good.
Vegetarian Kimchi, my style
1/2 a Napa cabbage (Chinese Cabbage also called Wombok) – about 600g – 750g
1/8 cup Sea salt (1.2 Tblspns)
2 Tblspn Korean crushed red chilli flakes (gochugaru – available from an Asian or Korean store. It does make a difference to get these, but if you can’t, use red chillies or any red chilli flakes)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 red chilli, sliced very finely or minced with the garlic or ginger
3-4 spring onions (aka green onions or scallions), sliced – use all of the green parts as well
0.25 white onion
0.25 ripe apple
0.25 ripe pear
you will need
1 jar of 1l capacity, or several jars whose combined volume is at least 1 litre
Separate the cabbage leaves and chop into bite-size pieces.
Dissolve the sea salt in a bowl of warm water, then pour the brine over cabbage leaves. Give the cabbage a gentle toss to distribute salt water. Allow it to sit for at least four hours, or overnight.
Make sure that your jars are clean and sterile – run them through the dishwasher on the hot cycle is a good way of doing this.
Drain the cabbage and rinse it well to remove excess salt, and then transfer it to a large bowl.
Prepare the chilli paste. Combine the red chilli flakes with a little warm water, stirring gently to create a red chilli paste, then transfer the paste to the drained and rinsed cabbage leaves.
Add the minced garlic, minced ginger, the red chilli (sliced or minced) and the green onions to the cabbage.
Now, blend the white onion, apple, and pear with one cup of water, then add this natural sweetener to the cabbage.
You now want to evenly distribute all ingredients, especially the red chilli paste. You can mix with a wooden spoon, but it is good to get your hands into it. Because of the chilli paste, one suggestion is to put on a clean or new pair of plastic gloves and give everything a thorough toss and rubdown.
Transfer seasoned cabbage leaves into a clean large glass jar. Be sure to push the cabbage leaves down firmly as they stack up inside the bottle. Include any liquid from your mixing bowl as well – this liquid will become kimchi brine. Be sure to leave about 2 inches of room at the top of the bottle before capping it tightly with a lid.
Allow the jar of kimchi to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
Your kimchi is now ready to eat. Keep it in the fridge, and take out portions as needed. The refrigerated kimchi will continue to ferment slowly in the refrigerator over time. As long as you use clean utensils to take out small portions, it will keep for up to a month in your refrigerator.
Fresh Kimchi Salad
Hetty McKinnon, in her book To Asia with Love, introduces the idea of Fresh Kimchi – kimchi paste is used to coat vegetables which are eaten immediately. This is a wonderful way of using a kimchi paste. Use it with any suitable vegetable, and this salad is a game changer.
Using the ingredient amounts from the kimchi recipe, blend the gochugaru, garlic, ginger, red chilli, white onion, apple and pear with one cup of water. This is a kimchi paste and you can keep it in the fridge, ready to make kimchi at any time.
For the salad, take salad leaves, optionally any green salad vegetables (avocado, beans, peas, snow peas, young broad beans, and/or edamame for example), some sunflower seeds, currants, spring onion and coriander leaves. I love to add sliced, rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms to add a lovely texture.
Mix enough kimchi paste to suit your preferred level of heat with olive oil, some toasted sesame oil and the juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon. Pour it over the salad and mix well to distribute evenly. Use your hands if it helps. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top of the salad.