Kimchi is traditional Korean fermented food eaten usually as a side dish made either of napa cabbage, radish, scallion or cucumber as the main ingredient. There are hundreds of varieties of Kimchi that differ not only from region to region but also from season to season.
I was initially outraged when I saw fermented red cabbage labelled as Kimchi being sold in Irish shops. However, I eventually came to the conclusion that ANY vegetable fermented with ginger, garlic and hot pepper flakes can be called Kimchi. Especially as this Irish Kimchi was really delicious when I tried it and is a great example of how the rebellious and creative Irish attitude leads to something good.
Unfortunately, I cannot say that the perfect recipe has been passed from generation to generation in my family because I am Polish, not Korean. We pass down sauerkraut soup, not Kimchi. So, in my quest to become a seasoned fermenter, I had to do some research and as a result found quite a few interesting recipes.
I combined them all, tested, tweaked, tested again and came up with the recipe that I now use each time. I love to simplify recipes, but this time managed to stick to the one with more than ten ingredients which is probably my biggest culinary achievement ever. Still, it’s very easy to follow with the most difficult part being getting your hands on proper ingredients (see the list below).
The process of making Kimchi is relatively time consuming but I find it extremely relaxing. Probably, it’s because of the smell of the spices. Also, I love the touch of the paste that you have to mix into the veg with your hands. All in all, Kimchi spa.
I shall reveal this recipe in the next post. However, before you proceed, I recommend you to have a look at the comments about the ingredients below.
A few comments on Kimchi ingredients:
- Nappa cabbage, a.k.a. Chinese leaf, sui choi, wong bog, celery cabbage, pe-tsai, is not a very popular vegetable in Ireland and was rather hard to buy in here as recently as a year ago. However, this week I saw it both in Tesco and Dunnes Stores. Hopefully, it will stay for good. If not, it can be bought in Asian shops (not in all of them, though) or by a special order from a local veg shop.
- Daikon, a.k.a. White radish, winter radish, oriental radish and dozens other names, is a long white radish of mild taste. I don’t use it as a base in my recipe but only as an additional ingredient so if I cannot buy it, I just skip it. Sometimes, I am tempted to substitute it with an ordinary Irish radish but was advised against doing so, because the taste would be too strong. Unfortunately, diakon is even harder to buy in Ireland and even if I do see it in stores sometimes, it is already wilted.
- Gochugaru, a.k.a. red pepper powder. However, it is not ANY red pepper powder, it must be Korean red pepper powder. I have tried to substitute it with chilli flakes, chilli powder and even fresh chilli. But, trust me when I tell you that it is not the same. The real Korean Gochugaru gives Kimchi its proper colour and specific taste. Period. It took me quite some time to find it in Dublin and the best place to look for it is in a proper Korean (not ‘general’ Asian) store. Not only you will be guaranteed the authenticity of your gochugaru, but also will have a chance to get into a conversation about Kimchi with a native Korean. Priceless.
- Glutinous rice flour. Don’t be tempted to buy ordinary rice flour from a health store. It is not really the same. I’m pretty sure that most Asian stores sell the proper one, though, so no worries.