Lesson II Kimchi
It’s been a week since a couple of friends and I got together to start a good healthy mix of mushrooms and cabbages. Lesson 1 in fermentation was brewing the tea for kombucha and this week’s recipe and reflection is on Kimchi, which is a traditional fermented Korean side dish. It is actually the country’s national food and consists of vegetables, most often cabbage, seasoned with a variety of spices. There are hundreds of varieties that are typically made with one main vegetable ingredient such as Napa cabbage, radish, scallion, or cucumber. Historically Kimchi was left to ferment underground in jars for months at a time. In my case, I jarred it last Saturday and by Thursday I was bringing it and a bowl of rice to work for lunch.
Preparing the Kimchi was relatively simple. We left the cabbage to soak in salt water for a few hours. I left mine for 3 hours whereas the others only had theirs soaking for two. The longer it sits in warm water the softer the Napa cabbage leaves will be. We had a fairly short list of ingredients, all of which were easily found in our local grocery store. The list included green onions, spicy chili sauce, we used the rooster brand’s crushed chilies, fresh ginger, regular red radishes we bought at the farmers’ market, green chilies, tons of garlic, a cup of fish sauce – which is the one ingredient that smelled the worst and I wish wasn’t part of the list – and a little bit of sugar. We just downloaded a recipe online and found that most of them were fairly similar. Some recipes call for rice flour, but we opted out of this and it worked just fine. It also made the process easier because there was no cooking involved.
After all the spices were mixed together we drained the soaked cabbage until there was barely any water left and then stirred in the seasoning. We stuffed the jars making sure to pack the mixture down firmly in order to avoid any air bubbles.
Leave the mix on the counter for about a week to ferment and then move the jars to the refrigerator where the kimchi can last up to a month. Tasting the mix throughout the week I could definitely see a difference from when it was first made to when it was a week old. It always tasted spicy, flavourful and delicious and had that distinct Kimchi taste, but by the end of the week the garlic and ginger were less distinct, softer and seemed to have mixed in to the flavour as a whole rather than stand out from the other tastes.
Kimchi goes great with plain white rice and with meat for those who eat it. Careful when you bring it to work though, you might get some coworkers complaining about the “STINK” in the fridge!