I'm leaving this post up for posterity, but THIS RECIPE is much better.
"Mama, I made Kimchi For Dummies last night." <attach pic, send>
<open> "Who are the dummies?"
|kimchi for dummies|
My little Asian mother apparently thinks me a mean-spirited hostess, but the dummy in question is me.
It may come as a surprise, but I rarely make kimchi. Having grown up within a ten to fifteen minute drive of a number of Korean markets, I never really needed to. Ten to twelve bucks for a huge jar of kimchi that could easily last me a month or more, and so many different brands from which to choose, it really didn't make much sense to.
But when I did make it, it was always with my mom - the old school way. Pre-brining the Napa cabbage and lots of it, making the rice porridge, julienning radish (mooh) for the stuffing (sohk), using brined shrimp and/or raw oysters, and never any measurements of course. I think my mom makes it every now and then just to make sure she's still got the touch (and she has), but even she, like many (Vietnamese) Korean cooks, still buys her kimchi most of the time.
That has a lot to do with convenience, but I think it's also to do with consistency. You take a somewhat moving target like fermentation and mix it with your average home cook's general neglect to record measurements, and you get mostly always tasty kimchi, but perhaps not so reliable or predictable a one.
But now that I find myself roughly an hour away from anywhere I can buy kimchi that isn't insipidly mild or outrageously expensive (usually both), and with a daughter who insists on properly *sour* kimchi with her weekly (at minimum) bowl of Sapporo Ichiban ramen, what's a gal to do but hunker down and make some kimchi?
This small batch recipe for kimchi fits nicely into a repurposed 25 oz. pickle jar, uses readily available ingredients and is much less labor intensive than old school kimchi. And while the color is slightly lighter due to the substitution of crushed red chili flakes (aka chile quebrado) for gohchoogahroo (Korean red chili flakes) and the shortcut of using of plain, steamed rice rather than rice porridge, the flavor is pretty spot on. I also like the smaller quantity because we don't eat Korean food on a daily basis, and a bighuge batch can be a little challenging to get through.
Admittedly, it's not as layered and nuanced as old school kimchi. There's usually some price to be paid for shortcuts. But convenience, ease of process and accessibility of ingredients considered, it totally works. And the girlchild approves - which works for me. :)
A BABY BATCH OF NAPA KIMCHI
Makes about 20 ounces once fermented
- 1 (very small) head of Napa cabbage, cut into 1" pieces (8 or 9 cups of chopped raw cabbage - I think the seasoning could probably even handle up to 10 cups)
- 1/8 cup kosher salt (about a quarter less if you're using regular table salt)
- 2 Tablespoons minced garlic (about 3 large cloves)
- 2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger root (about a 1" segment)
- 1/4 cup crushed red chili flakes (like the kind you get with your pizza - you can find 13 to 16 oz. pouches of this in the Mexican spice section at most any grocery store) 1/8 cup for mild, 1/3 cup for extra spicy
- 1/8 cup steamed white rice (short or long grain is fine - I used jasmine because it was handy)
- 1/8 cup fish sauce (like Tiparos or Three Crabs)
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 3 Tablespoons of water for blending
- 1/4 cup of water for getting the remaining seasoning off the bowl and making additional brine
1) In a large stainless steel or mixing bowl, toss the raw cabbage and the salt together to pre-brine the cabbage. Make sure to thoroughly incorporate the salt throughout the cabbage. In 10 to 15 minutes, you should start to see the cabbage leach liquid and wilt.
Let the cabbage sit for about an hour and half, tossing and redistributing every 30 minutes to ensure even brining. While you're waiting for the pre-brine to finish, it's a good idea to make the paste. (Step 3.)
2) After an hour and half of pre-brining, rinse the cabbage with enough water to cover the cabbage by 2 inches by swishing the cabbage in the water 7 or 8 times. Throw out the water, and repeat with fresh water.
Pull the cabbage out in fistfuls and gently squeeze out the excess liquid. You should have something that looks like this.
3) Make the paste by putting all the paste ingredients into a blender and blending until you have a paste that looks like this:
|crushed chili, ginger and garlic|
There's not much liquid in the paste, so you'll probably have to scrape down the sides of the blender cup to reincorporate all the ingredients 2 or 3 times before it's done.
4) Get into the bowl with your hands and mix that paste into the cabbage until all the pieces are coated.
5) Pack your kimchi into a bottle or other tight-lidded container (I repurposed a 25 oz. Kosher pickle jar) and use the last 1/4 cup of water to swish around the mixing bowl, pick up all the remaining paste, and pour that liquid on top of your kimchi.
Your lil' baby batch of kimchi is now ready for fermentation in a dark but not cold place like the inside of your cupboard. (The Man is a brewmeister and tells me light is the enemy of fermentation...)
Given the warm weather and the relatively small size of the batch, my kimchi started fermenting within a half day. You can see the difference between 14 hours and 21 hours.
A couple more hours, and it's going in the fridge. Should be ready in time for Mad's bowl of ramen this Saturday. ^^
07.30.11 - Just some post-mortem notes:
This turned out to be about 3 days' worth of kimchi. I wasn't kidding when I said baby batch.
|You can see a bit of the translucence that comes with |
fermentation in this pic.
I'm glad I cut the cabbage into 1" pieces, as I invariably have to tear or cut the storebought kimchi for my daughter to have just enough and not too much for one bite of ramen.
A friend made a mild batch and used only 1/8 cup of chili flakes today. She was worried about the color as compared to my pics, but I used something just under 1/3 cup of flakes. The crushed chili flakes will most certainly not be anywhere near as red as gochoogahroo. I wouldn't worry too much about the color, though. I don't think the chili flakes have much to do with the fermentation.
Making a double batch today. Hope it works out!!!
07.31.11 - The double batch recipe is better. :)