Jini and I both love Asian flavours and techniques; I fell in love with Thai food while I was scuba diving in teeny tiny Koh-Tao a few years back and Jini harbours secret desires of moving to Japan so she can eat Sushi three times a day! The fact of the matter though is that we both currently live in Hyderabad where the biryani is brilliant but the sashimi not so much! The one Asian delight that we both completely adore is Kimchi and almost since the first time we baked together we have been dreaming about tossing large quantities of cabbage in a zingy red paste and devouring it with a bowl of white rice! YUM!!
In our quest to conquer the Kimchi in our little second floor kitchen, Jini discovered and introduced me to Maangchi, this vivacious Korean lady sporting a short bob, a fish in one hand and a giant knife in another. She is the internet goddess of Korean food and has a zillion Kimchi recipes on her blog including one that is called Emergency Kimchi!
Now the challenge for us was finding the ingredients because Kimchi asks for some very specific things which are key to the perfect balance of sour and sweet and spicy! We had our hearts set on it; we had to make Kimchi and we had to make it with local ingredients that were the closest possible substitute in taste and texture to the real thing.
So we picked apart each ingredient, tried to identify the flavour profile it creates and used all our creative prowess to come up with alternates for the ones we could not find or were prohibitively expensive. You hardly want a bottle of Kimchi to set you back by a few thousand rupees!
Finally, I must say the recipe we came up with is super easy to source, and a breeze to make and we are letting you in on it, because we are kind and generous like that!
What you need: (To fill 4- 400 gm jars)
- 750 g of cabbage (we used a combination of Napa cabbage and regular Indian cabbage)
- 300 g radish, julienned
- 50 g of onions
- 5 stalks of green spring onions, thinly sliced
- 80 g of kosher salt
- 50 g of dried shitake mushrooms
- 40 g of rice flour
- 10 g of sugar
- 50 g of pickled ginger
- 3/4th cup of hot pepper flakes (we used a combination of a gorgeous Bhutanese red chilli paste I hauled back on a recent trip and regular Indian red chilli powder. Essentially you need some chilli flakes and some powder)
- 1/4th cup of garlic
- 1/4th tsp of ginger
- 1/4th cup of soy sauce (use fish sauce if you can find)
How we stir:
Making Kimchi is a longish series of processes but none of which are very difficult to accomplish. Just salt,toss, boil, stir! So here goes
Cabbage, radish and mushrooms
- First, chop the cabbage to a size you like and dunk them in cold water. This makes them ready to be salted.
- Once all the cabbage has been chopped and dunked, throw out the water and generously coat the cabbage with the salt. Use the entire amount of salt mentioned though it seems like a lot, since you will be washing away a large part of it.
- Now, leave this be for an hour and a half, turning it gently every thirty minutes to ensure that all the cabbage is evenly coated. When you turn it the first time also add the radish into the same bowl.
- Soak the dried shitake mushrooms in a bowl of boiling water for about 2o minutes till it is plump and soft. Drain and reserve for later.
- Stir the rice flour into 3/4th cup of water till it is lump free and heat on a low flame till it becomes thick and gelatinous.
- Now add the sugar and stir well till the mixture starts to become translucent. Take off flame and let it cool to room temperature.
- It totally does not look appetising at this stage and we were calling it white goo but dont be put off by that. It is the substance that contributes to magic in the kimchi!
- Grind the ginger, garlic and onions into a smooth paste and stir in the hot pepper flakes, soy sauce and pickled ginger.
- We bought the pickled ginger but you can make it at home. Thinly slice the ginger and soak in a mixture of vinegar and sugar till it becomes a lovely pale pink in colour.
- Mix this in with the porridge and stir in the chopped green onions.
Bringing it all together
- Rinse the cabbage and radish well under running water. Maangchi asks us to do it three times and who are we to defy the Korean goddess, so three times it is.
- Slice the soaked mushrooms and stir into the Kimchi paste
- Now, put on your gloves. This is crucial as you are dealing with some really spicy acidic substances. I can tell you from experience that if you work without gloves or are a klutz like me and tore your gloves in the first minute of the process you have some burning tingling craziness on your hands for a few hours.
- After you are gloved and ready, generously coat the cabbage leaves with the kimchi paste. Massage it into the leaves and push it firmly to the bottom of your empty jars. Ensure you pack your jars tightly as the leaves will shrink once the fermentation begins.
- Keep going till all your cabbage is done. Seal the jars tightly and wait for the chemistry to commence!
This is great even without it being fermented and we can vouch for that as we ate it almost immediately with a bowl of steaming white rice and Jini was literally bouncing around making happy sounds!
Kimchi is low calorie, high fiber and nutrient packed. A storehouse of good gut friendly bacteria and an assortment of powerful anti oxidants it is great for your stomach, your heart and your taste buds love it too.
So go on ahead, with the blessings of Maangchi and make this fermented gorgeousness in your kitchen. Once you have made the Kimchi you will be ready for something totally divine which we will share in the next post!