Last week, in preparation for Kiuk’s arrival, I made kimchi. Lots and lots of it!
When I was in Ottawa I lived with a Korean friend who had decided that, instead of buying super expensive kimchi from the supermarket, she’d rather make it herself. She taught me how and ever since then I’ve been making it on my own. This might look a little strange for those of you who have never tried this super food. There are so many different types of kimchi (fermented cabbage) and so no two taste exactly alike. It’s used as a side dish, in rice dishes, stews, dumplings, savoury fried pancakes… the list goes on. It’s a staple food so there are dozens of different Korean recipes that contain kimchi. As a result, people make a ton of it once a year. There aren’t too many ingredients but the procedure takes a while and doing it alone is hard work. Thankfully I had some friends join in!
You’ll need 3 napa cabbages, sea salt, 2 large daikon radishes, 3 bundles of green union, 3 garlic bulbs, one large piece of ginger, 2 cups of gochukaru (Korean red pepper flakes), 12 tablespoons of fish sauce and 3 tablespoons of sugar (you can use pear instead of sugar to add some sweetness).
First, wash the outside of the cabbage, picking off any old pieces. Then, cut the cabbages in halves, then in quarters. Do this vertically with the leaves facing away from you and the base toward you.
Take the quartered piece and turn it so it’s horizontal. Cut one and a half inch pieces and sprinkle them into a big empty bucket. Sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt on the layer of cut cabbage. Continue cutting the cabbage, sprinkling the pieces into the bucket, along with the sea salt layer by layer until you’ve used up all 3 cabbages. Don’t worry about the base of the cabbage… you can add that in, too!
Wait 6 hours (no more, no less).
While you’re waiting, cut the daikon radishes and green onions.
The radish should be cut diagonally into thin disks, turned over and cut again into thin strips. The green onion should be cut diagonally into thin pieces.
After 6 hours the cabbage will have absorbed the salt and your pile of cabbage will have decreased in size. Cabbage pieces should be salty. Rinse off the salt and strain.
Now make your sauce. Mash 3 bulbs of garlic with a mortar and pestle. Do the same with the large piece of ginger. Add 12 tablespoons of fish sauce and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Mix together with 2 cups of red pepper flakes. You can find these in a Korean supermarket. I find that chill is too big and paprika is too small. “Gochukaru” works just right.
Now for the fun part. After you’ve mixed the sauce together put on some plastic gloves and mix the sauce with the cabbage, radish and green onions. Make sure to get the sauce on each piece and not to leave any clumps. Leave at room temperature for one day and then refrigerate.
If you follow this recipe you’ll be eating kimchi for a while.
Here are some photos of another recipe. You can see what I mean about how to quarter/cut the cabbage. Also, here are some recipes for how you might want to use your kimchi in Korean cuisine.