spicy pickled cabbage, the national dish of Korea.
My fella and I are big fans of kimchi. Several years ago we began a quest to make good, homemade kimchi, which led us on a funny path through the interwebs reading everything from traditional Korean recipes that involved "hugging the cabbage" to health-nut adaptations that caused us to furrow our brows. After some trial and error, we finally struck upon a basic recipe that works for us every time and feels fairly traditional. I thought I'd share it here in case you're interested and spare you the exhausting effort of trying to find "the" recipe among millions on the internet.
1 large head Napa cabbage
6-8 tablespoons sea salt (for brine)
6-8 cups water
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 head garlic, crushed
1-inch piece fresh ginger root, grated or finely minced
1/2 cup Korean red pepper powder (kochukaru)
1 tablespoon sea salt (for seasoning)
1/2 tablespoon sugar (optional)
Start by pulling the leaves off the cabbage, one by one, and rinsing them in a sink of cool water. Cut away any parts that have browned. Pack all the rinsed leaves into a big bowl or pot and cover with a brine made from 1 tablespoon salt per cup of water. For one head of cabbage it generally takes about 6-8 cups of water to cover it completely. Cover the bowl or pot with a plate and something heavy to weigh it down so that the leaves remain submerged under the brine. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and soak overnight.
The next day, rinse all the leaves of the brine and allow them to drain in a colander. Shake a bit to remove excess water.
Chop the cabbage into 1-inch chunks and place in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup Korean red pepper powder (available in most Asian markets - and really, getting this pepper powder is key to getting the best flavor), 1 tablespoon sea salt and 1/2 tablespoon sugar.
To the cabbage mixture add the green onions, ginger and garlic.
Mix everything thoroughly and transfer to 1-quart size glass jars. Be sure not to screw the lids on too tight as the fermenting process produces gas. Let sit for a day at room temperature, and then sample to see if it has fermented to your liking. If not, let sit another day and then store in the refrigerator.
We like to eat kimchi as a garnish alongside rice bowls with tofu and veggies, but can also be found quite often eating it straight out of the jar with chopsticks. Some people make kimchi soup, others kimchi pancakes; the options are endless. You might also like to try adding other things into your kimchi such as mustard greens, daikon radish, grated carrot, mung bean sprouts, green beans or whatever else you can dream up. We've tried a few variations but always seem to come back to this basic recipe.
And when the jar gets this low, you know it's time to start soaking more cabbage to get the next batch underway!
Any other kimchi lovers out there? What are your favorite ways to eat it?