Making your own kimchi isn’t as hard as it sounds and you may find it’s just what’s needed as an antidote to the winter doldrums. I figure just about everybody could use a spicy little kick-in-the-pants right about now. Kimchi will spice up any meal and at the same time gives your digestion and immunity a boost thanks to all the beneficial bacteria it contains — lactobacillus kimchii, and no, I didn’t make that up.
We have an inside joke in our family about losing your spark. It’s easily recognizable in others, especially when you know them well. Sometimes your spark just goes out for no apparent reason — you know what I mean — when everything seems kinda blah. Trying something new, even a new food, often reignites my spark — maybe it will for you too.
Kimchi falls into the same category of fermented vegetables as sauerkraut. The most common type of kimchi in the western world is made of cabbage and daikon radishes but in Korea it’s concocted from all kinds of foods from winter squash to soybean sprouts depending on the region and the season. Cabbage is plentiful at our farmers markets so this is as good a time as any to whip up a batch. Chopping and mixing are quick, then you’ll have to wait a few days for the fermentation to do it’s magic. The only special equipment you’ll need is a large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Quick and Easy Kimchi
1 or 2 large heads of cabbage (napa is traditional but any kind will do)
1 medium daikon radish, peeled
1/4 cup coarse sea salt (this was very salty, the next time I’ll cut back to a couple of tablespoons)
1 cup water
4 green onions or baby leeks, cut into 2″ lengths
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T minced or grated ginger
2 T Korean chile powder
1 T Asian fish sauce
Cut cabbage crosswise into 2″ lengths. Cut daikon lengthwise into quarters, then into pieces about 1/2″ thick.
Dissolve salt in 1 cup water. Put cabbage and daikon in a large bowl and pour the salt water over them. Let sit in a dark, cool (not as cold as the fridge) spot overnight.
The next day drain vegetables and reserve the liquid to use later. Return cabbage and daikon to the large bowl. Add green onions, garlic, chile powder and fish sauce and mix well. Pack tightly into a clean jar and tamp down with wooden spoon. Pour the reserved salt water over the vegetables to cover, leaving an inch or so at the top of your jar. Wipe the jar opening well with a clean cloth and then close tightly.
Let the jar sit in a cool, dark place for 2 to 3 days, depending on the weather and how ripe you like it. Refrigerate after opening. It will keep for a couple of weeks.
When you first open the jar it may make some noise and smell stinky, but in a good way. Those are signs that fermentation has occurred which is what you want. At first it tastes lovely and crunchy all by itself as a side dish. It will continue to ferment in the fridge. As it ripens, you may want to use it in fried rice or in kimchi pancakes. I saw this recipe for kimchi pancakes this morning in the NY Times. I want to give it a try.
I highly recommend the cookbook, Quick and Easy Korean Cooking by Cecila Hae-Jin Lee that sparked my interest in kimchi and gave me the basis for this recipe.
If you’re looking for some food for your soul instead of your belly, Sally and I have a collection of our photographs displayed downtown at the Sightline Institute. They’re a not-for-profit research and communication center — a think tank — based in Seattle. Their mission is to bring about sustainability, a healthy, lasting prosperity grounded in place. Their focus is Cascadia, or the Pacific Northwest. Sightline is located on the fifth floor of the Vance Building directly across the street from Benaroya Hall. Poke your head in during business hours, take a look at our photos and check out all the cool maps and graphics they have available, including a map of walkable King County. They’re doing some very important work and we’re excited to have our photographs there.