By Mariyah Gonzales
Kimchi is the cornerstone of Korean cuisine. Its history traces further than the assembly of the Three Kingdoms and has been steadily woven into Korean identity and becoming. The sidedish is so vital that it’s been sent to the frontlines with the nation’s troops and even accompanied the first Korean Astronaut to space. It’s loaded with vitamins, incredible for digestion and super delicious.
Traditionally, the vegetables are packed underground in these great terra cotta pots and are left to ferment for up to a year. Huge batches are made at a time, usually in the winters as a means to preserve the harvested goods. There are over 200 ways to make Kimchi but the recipe I’ve included is for Baechu Kimchi made with Napa Cabbage. If you prefer less heat try Baek Kimchi, it’s a fusion of all the other good flavours without the spice from the red pepper powder. Experiment with pickling other vegetables like eggplant or radish. The whole fermentation process is kind of wild. You’re fooling around with lactobacilli and forcing this powerful self-preserving lactic acid to completely overwhelm these vegetables. Then you get to eat them!
When you do make your own batch, consider the tradition in the process you’re participating in. Pickling and fermentation is a huge part of many different food cultures and the passing of this food knowledge is so key in the preservation culture and identity. Kimchi is just one dish that takes time to learn, to prepare and to enjoy. Definitely worth the wait, it is slow food at it’s finest.
Make sure you have some plastic gloves to incorporate all of the ingredients, as it is so much easier to do by hand. Your disregard for this note may lead you to smelling like fish sauce and spicy for days, not the most attractive. Also, note that I’ve omitted the whole cabbage wilting step altogether. I have never made kimchi any other way and find that the result yielded from this recipe is just as delicious and that the cabbage softens regardless of whether you rub them in salt first. But this is just my approach; feel free to take your kimchi where you want to go.
(1) Napa Cabbage, (2) Small Carrots, (3) Green Onions, (2) Chives, (1) Pear
Quickly rinse and dry all ingredients. Peel apart cabbage and cut leaves into long horizontal strips and place in a large bowl. Finely slice the carrots, green onion, chives and pear and toss together in with the cabbage. Set the bowl aside.
Ginger, Garlic, Sugar, Fish Sauce, Red Pepper Powder (Gochugaru)
Grate ginger, crush garlic, add fish sauce and sugar, stir in red pepper powder. In terms of portions, I make enough for the batch to be well-dressed (about a cup and three quarters for the vegetable portions above). Taste the paste before you incorporate with the vegetables and adjust to your preferences. Ideally it should be well balanced, you don’t want it to be too sweet or salty. Keep in mind the flavours will intensify the longer you leave the vegetables to pickle. If you find you need a little more paste, then make more.
Incorporate everything in another large bowl. The smell is stubborn but using your hands is the most efficient way to get the paste rubbed into all of your vegetables. Pace yourself and cover them one small section at a time. Once that’s done, spoon the batch into a few mason jars, leaving about an inch of headspace. Make sure your jars are clean and sealed tight then store in a dark cool place.
Some recipes call for the pickling process to be stretched across weeks, but I like it best after only a few days. Make sure to check on your Kimchi everyday to be certain the vegetables aren’t doing anything strange or the brine hasn’t overflowed. I crack mine open after forty-eight hours to taste and see how the flavours are developing. The longer you leave them out and unrefrigerated, the softer your veggies and the more sour or spicy the taste. Once you’ve found your ideal consistency and flavour, serve and keep the rest refrigerated. Enjoy as a sidedish, stew or in fried rice.
Listen to some Korean Indie while you work. Glen Check is one of my favourite duos. Remember, cooking can be enjoyable. Swaying and smiling while you do it will only enhance your food experience.
Glen Check- 84
Glen Check- Racket
Glen Check- Leather