Korean Kimchi - Detail - © Karen Jung via scmp.com

Classic Dishes: Korean Kimchi

Kimchi is Korea’s National Dish. Koreans eat it with almost every meal and it’s regarded as their go-to Pickle, Salad and, generally, their source of hot flavours. For something with such an exotic, complex flavour, it’s deceptively easy to make. And, if you’ve never tried it, you really should!

Korean Kimchi - © Karen Jung via scmp.comClassic Korean Kimchi: Folks there eat it at almost every meal!

Some folks say it smells like old socks with Chili. Others say it smells like Heaven on a jar. Still others say it’s the best hot condiment they’ve ever tasted. Make some using this classic recipe and see where you fit in on the Kimchi spectrum!

What you need…

1 medium Nappa Cabbage
2 cups / 500 ml Daikon Radish, peeled and sliced into thin sticks about 2 in. / 5 cm long
1/2 cup / 125 ml Table Salt
1/2 cup / 125 ml Granulated Sugar
1 qt. / 1 L Cold Water
1/2 cup / 125 ml Fresh Garlic, peeled and minced or pressed.
2 tbsp. / 30 ml Fresh Ginger, peeled and minced
1 cup / 250 ml Sweet Onion, peeled and sliced thinly
2 tbsp. / 30 ml Nam Pla (Fish Sauce)
1/c Hot Red Pepper Flakes (or to your taste)

What you do:

First: Remove any less-than-perfect outer leaves from the Cabbage Quarter the Cabbage lengthwise then cut across each quarter in 1 in. / 2.5 cm slices. Don’t use the root ends; they’re too tough.

In a large bow rinse the Cabbage in cold water and drain/spin dry in a Salad Spinner

Back in the large bowl, sprinkle the Cabbage with Salt. You’ll use about 1/2 cup. Mix the Cabbage thoroughly with your hands and let sit for 30 minutes. Mix up again and let stand fore another 30 minutes. Then , mix it up a third time. The Salt should be drawing some liquid out of the Cabbage by them.

Next: Rinse the Cabbage thoroughly in cold water and put it back in the big bowl.

In a big bowl, combine Daikon, Garlic, Onion, Ginger and Sugar, and mix well to combine. Add Cold Water to make a paste. Add the Hot Red Pepper Flakes and blend thoroughly to ensure all vegetables are equally covered.

Finally: Add the paste to the Cabbage and mix thoroughly to ensure the small veggies and paste are evenly distributed throughout the Cabbage.

Pack the Kimchi tightly into in tightly-sealed plastic or glass containers. I use Mason Jars. You can use it right away as a Quick Pickle or side Salad. Or let it ferment in the jar. Some folks in Korea age their Kimchi in earthenware jars buried in the group for up to a year. You can store your Mason Jars in the root cellar or any other cool dry place until you’re ready to use Kimchi.

A Korean lady I met once in the Asian Grocery said she makes Kimchi in big batches – about 20 lb. / 11 kg at a time, Whatever… She had a large grocery cart filled with Nappa Cabbages (probably a dozen, at least) and Daikon Radishes. This she does twice a year, only because she doesn’t have the room to store 40 lb. / 25 kg at a time. If the Koreans love it that much, you’re bound to love it at least a little!

Give one of the world’s iconic flavours a taste!

~ Maggie J.