I was trying to think of a clever name for this post, but there's nothing really. My creative juices have dried up.
Thankfully, my love for food hasn't.
It's been a while since I've done a cooking post, although by the end of the post, you'll see that this is more fermenting than cooking.
This dish isn't actually from Hong Kong (where I'm from), but Korea - so I don't vouch for the authenticity, but as someone who can eat a whole tub of this in a sitting, I promise you it's delicious.
For those of you who have never tried this A) You're completely missing out, B) You'll never look at cabbage the same way again.
But what exactly is Kimchi?
According to trusty Wikipedia, it is a traditional fermented side dish made from vegetables and a variety of seasonings, with tons of different combinations. It is generally eaten with many meals and can also be incorporated in more complex dishes like stews and fried rice. In fact, it's such a large part of the meal, some families even have a designated kimchi fridge just for storing this deliciousness. It's also a very tedious process, which is why families will generally make this in large batches. Because I don't have time to make a whole football field's worth of kimchi, we're doing a mini version with just one head!
I could go on forever, but I think you should read the wikipedia page instead so we can go ahead and actually make this!
The main star of today's recipe is napa cabbage, which can be purchased at most stores.
We carefully clean and trim the leaves, then halve the vegetables so it's easier to handle and season.
Because kimchi is a fermented and preserved dish, it's meant to keep for a long long time. Or rather, because we want to keep it for a long long time, we ferment it. Actually, scratch that. I'm not sure. That's confusing.
Either way, we begin by salting the cabbage to draw water out of the leaves. I used one medium head of cabbage for this recipe and a quarter cup of salt.
We make sure that the entire vegetable is submerged in the salt water and then leave it to sit for a few hours!
Once you're done with your coffee run, cleaning the house, or 3 episodes of Madame Secretary (which is my current favorite!), the cabbage is ready to be rinsed.
At this point, the leaves should be wilted and look something like this.
Before we start pulling this dish together, there are a few extra steps!
I find that the sauce has difficulty adhering to the leaves, so I like to add a little something extra. Namely, shredded carrots and apples, just to give the kimchi a bit of sweetness.
Some recipes will call for radish, green onions, or chives, but I don't have any of that lying around.
(mind you, this isn't the most authentic version)
Once the vegetables are prepped, it's time to bring out the sauce!
Are you ready for the fun part?
This red paste is made of a smorgasbord of different umami ingredients; red pepper flakes, shrimp paste, anchovies, garlic, ginger, onion.
More on that later.
Before I season my leaves, I'll mix the paste with the carrots and apples first.
Then slowly, layer by layer, the mixture is generously applied delicately to each leaf.
A few moments later, you are left with something bright red, healthy and absolutely delicious.
The last (and perhaps most important part) is the fermentation where the sugars in the vegetables will (in the absence of oxygen) turn into acid. This is a process that will impart a tangy sweetness to the kimchi and is done by placing the kimchi in an airtight jar, traditionally an Onggi, which is a clay jar. I only have a glass one so that will have to do.
This is the part that requires the most patience as it is the most time consuming. Taking the prepared kimchi and sealing it in an airtight jar, you'll then let it sit out at room temperature until it reaches the desired fermented taste and then throw it in the fridge to store for a longer period of time.
Each person will make kimchi in a slightly different way that changes the taste ever so slightly, but I encourage you to experiment and figure out what works best for you! More detailed instructions and the science behind perfect kimchi is detailed here.
All these colorful vegetables are getting me super pumped for Spring, excited for the warmer weather ahead and more delicious recipes to come!
Luxomme's Kimchi Recipe
1 Medium head of Napa Cabbage
1/4 Cup Kosher Salt
2.5 Cups Shredded Carrot
4 Shredded Autumn Glory Apples
Red Pepper Sauce
3 Tbs Sweet Rice Flour
1.5 Cups Red Pepper Flakes
1/3 Cup Anchovy Sauce
1/3 Cup Shrimp Sauce
2 Tbs Sugar
1 Tbs Garlic
1 Tbs Ginger