I have to admit, the first time I tried this fermented cabbage concoction, I wasn't too keen.
Kimchi, also spelled kimchee or gimchi, is a traditional fermented Korean side dish made of vegetables.
Koreans eat so much of this super-spicy condiment (40 pounds of it per person each year) that natives say “kimchi” instead of “cheese” when getting their pictures taken.
It is made by lacto-fermentation, the same process that creates sauerkraut and traditional dill pickles.
In the first stage, the cabbage is soaked in a salty brine that kills off harmful bacteria. In the second stage, the remaining Lactobacillus bacteria (the good guys!) convert sugars into lactic acid, which preserves the vegetables and gives them that wonderful, tangy flavor.
Originally developed in 7th Century Korea as a means of storing vegetables during cold winters, the dish has been steadily — if slowly — gaining recognition beyond the boundaries of its native country.
After tying Kimchi in Ramen and dumplings, I've soon become addicted.
Wanting to brew a jar myself, I ordered a kit off of Sous Chef which included everything I needed to get started.
The kit came complete with a quick and simple recipe – far more delicious than any ready made kimchi I've found.
The kimchi changes flavour over time as it continues to ferment, even when it is kept in the refrigerator. When you eat it completely depends on personal taste – have a spoonful every few days, then decide.
Tuck in the moment the Kimchi is made, and the red pepper and ginger are the strongest flavours. After a couple of days there will be a slight fizz but the pepper kick remains and after a week it is a little fizzer, but the flavours seem more balanced. Two to three weeks and it starts to deserve its nickname ‘stinky kimchi’. It can be kept in the freezer to stop the fermentation.
Once you get into it, you can add other vegetables: grated carrot, daikon radish, and even replace the cabbage with pak choi or cucumber. However, try to keep the same ratio of anchovy sauce as it the salt preserves the vegetables.
Sous Chef's Kimchi Recipe
Makes 2 x 500g jars
1 head of Chinese leaf or Napa cabbage (roughly 600g)
1 tbsp fine salt
25g Korean red pepper powder
50g Korean anchovy sauce
1 tbsp ginger, grated
1 tbsp garlic, grated
4 spring onions, finely sliced
Slice the Chinese leaf into 1cm rounds, and separate the leaves. Toss with the salt until evenly covered, and leave to sit at room temperature for four hours. The cabbage will release water and soften.
Rinse the cabbage with tap water to wash away the salt, and drain well.
Mix the red pepper powder with the water and anchovy sauce, to make a runny bright-red paste. Pour over the cabbage.
Add the ginger, garlic and spring onions to the cabbage and red pepper paste. Mix well using your hands. The paste should coat all the cabbage.
Divide the mixture into glass jars, leaving a couple of centimetres of space at the top.
To remove all the air bubbles, press down well with your fingers. Some liquid will rise to the top. If you press down well, and there still isn’t enough liquid to cover the cabbage mixture, add another 1-2 tbsp of water directly on top.
Screw the lids on tightly, and leave at room temperature for a day, and then move to the refrigerator.