Kimchi is Korea’s national dish: fermented Chinese cabbage preserved in a spicy chili mixture. It tastes zingy, spicy and fresh at the same time and goes really well with all kinds of dishes, also with fried rice. In Korea, they have it with about every meal and the Koreans believe strongly in its healthy properties. They even took it along on their first space flight as astronaut food.
I made it myself the other day, and it really is not hard. YouTube videos, for example Maangchi‘s one, make huge amounts with massive cabbages. The cabbages one buys here in the supermarket are about twice as small, and I recommend just one plain Chinese cabbage for starters, to get a feel of the whole kimchi making process and to see if you like it!
For this recipe, you will need :
1 Chinese cabbage
1 cup of Korean chili flakes (red pepper powder, 90 grams)
1 cup of rice flour, sugar
1 yellow onion, 6 cloves of garlic, piece of ginger
3 spring onions, some sprigs of Chinese chives (12 or so)
4 centimeters piece of daikon radish (or 15 small European red radishes)
Cut the cabbage in half lengthways. Then make a cut on the stem side, but don’t cut through, only halve the stem – the cabbage is still attached at the leaf side. Immerse the two cabbage pieces in cold water for 20 minutes, drain.
Sprinkle the cabbage with salt all over: lift up the leaves and put in salt between all nooks and crannies of the cabbage. Now leave to sit for two hours.
Turn the cabbage after two hours (some liquid will have come out of the cabbage) and leave again for two hours. You can make the kimchi mixture in this time (read further down).
After these four hours rinse the cabbage in plenty of water, getting rid of all the salt. Don’t forget this step (I did once, and the kimchi tasted foul later on!). Then wring out all water from the cabbage. It will be very limp. Try to make it as dry as you can.
Make the kimchi mixture sometime in these four hours of waiting:
Add one cup of rice flour and 1.5 cups of water to a pan. Slowly heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until it thickens to a kind of paste. Add 4 tablespoons of sugar when it starts to bubble and cook for 1 minute more. Take off the heat and let cool.
Cut up 3 spring onions into slices, a couple of sprigs of Chinese chives into chunks. Whizz a piece of daikon radish, 6 cloves of garlic, a piece of ginger and a smallish yellow onion in a food processor until all cut up (you can do it with your Chinese cleaver too). When the rice flour mixture has cooled, add your Korean chili flakes, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce and the daikon-garlic mixture and stir to combine. [some recipes call for raw chopped up oysters at this stage, but we leave those out for now]. Add the spring onions and chives. It will become a deep red spicy sticky mixture, like a paste. Put aside until your cabbage is ready.
Making the kimchi:
Use your hands or kitchen gloves to rub the spice paste all over your cabbage. Lift up the leaves to rub the paste everywhere, covering the cabbage all over with the red chili mixture. Fold the cabbage pieces neatly in their original shape and fit them snugly in a plastic container. Cover with lid and put away at room temperature for two (!) days.
During this time, the cabbage will start to ferment and the kimchi will get its unique flavor. After two days, there will be small bubbles in the liquid surrounding the kimchi and the smell will be fresh and sour, reminding perhaps of sauerkraut. Remember the kimchi smells clean and zingy, never foul or off-putting! Move the container to your refrigerator, it will keep for months.
Just today I had it the fusion sauerkraut way (a la zuurkoolstamppot): I mixed some shredded kimchi into potato mash, turning the mash into a beautiful red and great spicy dish. Like so many spicy things, kimchi is highly addictive – you soon might want to make more!
Filed under: vegetarian | 11 Comments