Classic Kimchi

KimchiThis Classic Kimchi is such an addictive vegetable dish. It’s not an acquired taste either, or at least not for me. After the first time I tasted it, I was hooked. Even the mere thought of is was enough to make my mouth fill with water. Kimchi is Korea’s national dish and while it refers to a method of preserving any number of vegetables, the usual is this Chinese cabbage. The cabbage heads are left to soak in a salty mixture, then spiced and left to ferment in airtight containers or the traditional Onggi. The spicy paste needs a few obscure ingredients, firstly the gochugaru or Korean chilli flakes. Like fresh chillies, chilli powders or flakes can have a huge variety of flavours and heats so I can’t recommend an alternative. The good news is that dried ingredients are readily available online. Traditionally Korean Radish is sliced into julienne matchsticks and added to the paste but daikon radishes are a perfect alternative. They’re more common but not common enough to pick up at the supermarket so if you’re having trouble finding one, then the same weight of carrot would be perfect.

It might seem like a lot of hassle to soak the cabbage for 4 hours, then rub it in the paste, transfer it to jars and leave it for a week, especially if you have never tasted kimchi before and you don’t know if you will even like it. But I think it’s totally worth it. I cannot get enough of the stuff and once you have a good supply of it, it can be used in an array of different dishes. On this blog you’ll soon see Kimchi fried rich, Kimchi omelette and Kimchi noodles. Though it is usually served as a side dish with every meal in Korea.

Classic Kimchi

Ingredients

  • 2 heads of Chinese cabbage
  • 100g sea salt flakes
  • Table salt.
  • For the Paste:
  • 3 tbsp plain flour or glutenous rice flour
  • 250ml water
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 60 g peeled fresh ginger
  • 50g peeled garlic
  • 70g gochugaru (Korean hot chilli flakes)
  • 100ml fish sauce
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp coconut palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 5 spring onions, halved lengthwise and cut into 4cm strips
  • 450g daikon radish or Korean radish, peeled and sliced into julienne matchsticks.

Instructions

  1. Make a 10 cm incision going up from the base of each cabbage and gently pull them apart.
  2. Make similar incisions in each half but don't separate them yet.
  3. Wash them well in cold water making sure to wash in between the leaves.
  4. Rub the sea salt flakes into each leaf and between each leaf, especially into the thicker, firmer base.
  5. Now leave them soak cut-side down in salty water. How much water you need depends on the pot you're soaring them in but dissolve 50g of table salt for each litre of water you need. Let them soak for 2 hours.
  6. After 2 hours turn them over and allow them to soak for another 2 hours cut-side up.
  7. Then take each cabbage half and rinse it well under cold water. If it then tastes too salty, rinse it again. Gently split each half at the incision you made earlier and set them aside to drain.
  8. For the Paste
  9. While the cabbage is soaking, whisk together the flour with a few tbsp of water until smooth. Then add the rest of the water, whisking continuously over a high heat until it comes to the boil.
  10. Once boiling and thick, take it off the heat to cool completely.
  11. Next add the onion, ginger, garlic, gochugaru, fish sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and the now cooled flour and water mixture to a food processor and blitz until is a fine paste.
  12. Add the spring onion and radish pieces to a mixing bowl and pour over the chilli paste you just made. Mix well and set aside until the cabbage is finished soaking.
  13. To assemble:
  14. Not rub the chilli paste into the first cabbage quarter, making sure it goes right between leaf. Now fold it in half and wrap the outermost leaf around it to hold it in place and transfer it to a large, sterilised, air-tight container.
  15. Repeat for the rest of the cabbage quarters. Close the container and allow to sit on the worktop to ferment at room temperature for a few days.
  16. A few days later, open the container and with a wooden spoon, push the cabbage back down into its own juices. Close it up and transfer it to the fridge for at least another few days or up to a few years.
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