Isn’t it all about fermenting these days? Seems like folk have suddenly decided to embrace the (formerly) boring old sauerkrauts, sour cucumbers, kombucha and kefir. ‘Choc-full’ with probiotics and ‘packed’ with good bacteria, space needs to be made for all things fermented, so spiralised courgettes, quinoa and kale – move over!
I am pleased. I was raised on sauerkraut and frankly always thought it was the plainest of the plain foods, invented only to preserve vegetables better in the days of scarce refrigeration (not that I remember THOSE days - please!!!). So it’s kind of ironically fair to see faddish neophytes massaging cabbage with salt and trying to keep their kombucha at constant temperature.
Kimchi traditionally uses the Chinese leaf, or Napa cabbage, but I think ordinary green or white winter cabbage might work as well, being a bit more gutsy – even though it won’t be quite as traditional, as I understand.
Kimchi is delicious with fried rice, adding a kick and a hit of sourness to the grain. You can also make kimchi pancakes, kimchijeon, which must be a lot like Japanese okonomiyaki. I haven’t tried the former, have the latter and can happily vouch for deliciousness.
The recipe below comes from NY Times Cooking.
- 1 Chinese leaf cabbage weighing about 1-2lb
- 50g sea salt
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- 5 tsp fish sauce
- 6 tbsp. Korean chili powder (Gochugaru)
- a bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
- 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 4cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated or cut into thin matchsticks
- 3-4 carrots, cut into thin matchsticks
Quarter the cabbage lengthwise and shred. Place it in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Massage the salt into the cabbage using your hands. Cover with cold water and weigh the cabbage down with an inverted plate. Leave at room temperature overnight.
The next day lift the cabbage out of the water with a slotted spoon or your hands and transfer to another large bowl, keep the brine. Make a paste from the chili powder, soy sauce and the fish sauce and add to the cabbage with all the other ingredients. Mix very well, again best if using your hands (although both them and the bowl will end up stained dark orange).
Prepare a glass jar with a good lid or a hard plastic tub by rinsing it with boiling water – for the above amounts you’ll need a 1l container. Pack the cabbage mix into the jar or tub, pressing down well, pour in a little of the brine to immerse the vegetables. Close the container and leave in a cool place (room temperature is fine, as long as it’s not too hot) for three to four days before the first tasting. Once it’s to your liking, keep the rest in the fridge.