Saturday, November 10, 2012

Kimchi



Kimchi—a spicy, fermented cabbage dish—has been a staple in the Korean diet for at least two thousand years. Historically, kimchi was prepared by combining spices, salt, and cabbage in giant clay pots, then burying the pots underground for several days to ferment. Typically, kimchi is served as a side dish to Korean barbecue or other meat dishes, but I love it as an accompaniment to any Chinese or Korean meal. 

Note that any unusual ingredients—such as shrimp paste and fish sauce—can be purchased at any Asian grocer or can be found in the Asian aisle at many large supermarkets. 

I will mention that kimchi is a bit of an acquired taste. If you’re not feeling super adventurous, simply eat this dish right away (without fermenting it). The raw product is simply a spicy cole slaw and is a great side dish. If you're not as adventurous, using regular green cabbage instead of Napa cabbage makes this dish way easier to enjoy.

Finally, leftover kimchi or kimchi that has been over-fermented (more than three weeks) can be used in many recipes. You can incorporate it into dumplings, savory Korean pancakes, fried rice, or kimchi stew (kimchi chigae). I even love it as a topping for grilled veggie burgers! So if your kimchi doesn’t turn out as you would like or if it is past its prime, don’t throw it out—just get creative.

Prep time: 1 cocktail

½ cup salt
2 quarts + 1 cup warm water
1 TBSP cornstarch
1 large head Napa or Savoy cabbage, core removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 TBSP fish sauce
2 TBSP Siracha
1 1/2 tsp ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 TBSP sugar
3 carrots or a piece of daikon, sliced into matchstick-sized strips (optional)
5 scallions, chopped
1/4 bunch of cilantro, chopped
Handful sesame seeds (optional)

                                                                                   
Dissolve the salt into 2 quarts of water in a very large mixing bowl. Add the cabbage. If there isn’t enough water to cover the cabbage, add more. Cover with a weighted plate to keep everything well-submerged. Set aside for 4 hours.

When cabbage is almost done sitting, you can prepare the sauce. In a small saucepan, whisk together 1 cup of the water and the cornstarch. Turn heat on medium-high and warm up the water a couple minutes, until the cornstarch dissolves and it becomes a bit thick. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Combine fish sauce, Siracha, ginger, garlic, shrimp paste, and sugar in a bowl. Mix well. Add in the cooled cornstarch/water mixture and whisk well.

Remove cabbage from its bowl, rinse very, very well, squeeze out moisture, and strain.

Combine cabbage, chili mixture, carrot, scallions, and cilantro. Mix well. As mentioned above, this is the point at which you can eat the kimchi raw. But if you want the fermented variety, pack the mixture into pint or quart mason jars (don’t use metal containers, as the kimchi will react with it and it will stain plastic Tupperware after a few days). Firmly seal the lids and store in a cool dark place for 48 hours, flipping the jars upside down after the first day. After that, move the kimchi to the refrigerator. Anytime after going into to the fridge, it is ready to eat. Don’t be afraid if you open the jars and see bubbles or it smells sour—this is a natural part of the fermentation process. As mentioned above, it is good in the fridge for about three weeks.


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