Written by Reya Borbridge
Kimchi is wonderful for many reasons and hopefully by the end of this blog post you will want to make it yourself as well as experiment with recipes that include it! Kimchi is fermented and made using napa cabbage as the base. Kimchi is a Korean staple, and is used in traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes! The signature spicy flavor component derives from the Korean red pepper. You can find red pepper flakes and powder (Gochugaru), and Korean pepper paste (Gochujang) in stores and when making kimchi from scratch. For the kimchi recipe that I am creating, I'm using the Gochujang paste. However, using the powder is more recommended and traditional since it gives it more of that vibrant red color and a way more refreshing taste as opposed to an umami flavor. Other main components that go into kimchi-making is glutinous rice flour or regular flour, and some other seasonings including garlic and onion powder, sugar, salt, and chili powder. These are all going to bring out the amazing flavor in the fermentation process. Next in the mix is to add some other veggies. The most common and traditional are carrots and leeks or green onions, but feel free to get creative with it! Kimchi is a bit more of a time and hands-on recipe, but is nice since it's broken up, making it seem like a breeze!
To begin making kimchi you will want to first start by breaking it up into halves and quarters. Once this is finished you then need to slice it into 2 inch thick strips. Place the cabbage into the bowl and then sprinkle in a 1/4 cup salt along with 1/2 cup water and mix well. This sounds like a lot of salt, I know! But trust me this is an important step. After it has been sitting for 1.5 hours, and mixing every 30 minutes go ahead and drain and rinse the cabbage, 2-3 times to make sure it is well washed, and the excess salt and dirt is out. Now is time to squeeze out the liquid in the cabbage. This is going to depend on how much kimchi juice you want, so the more juice you want the less you squeeze out. I personally like to have some juice for use in recipes such as kimchi pancakes and fried rice so I recommend not squeezing the cabbage water out too much! After this step, we can go ahead and toss the cabbage into a large mixing bowl as well as start by creating the kimchi paste. We want to do this by heating a pot on the stove on medium-low heat. Add in 1/4 cup water and then mix in 4 tsp. rice flour. You can now turn the heat to medium heat. Place the paste, 1 tbsp. sugar, 5 cloves garlic, 1 small knob of ginger, ⅓ cup chili paste, and 1 white onion in a blender or food processor. Blend or process until well incorporated. Place the carrots and sliced leeks with the drained cabbage. Pour the chili paste into 1 cup of green onions or leeks and 1/2 a medium carrot julienned, mix until well incorporated. Add in salt, or to taste, if needed. Mix well. Divide the kimchi into jars or air-tight containers. This part is important to note since filling the jars only 3/4 all the way is important since during the fermentation process the cabbage/kimchi begins to expand and you need room in your jar for that to happen. You still need to tightly pack the kimchi by pressing down with a spoon or other utensil, but make sure it's not full. Leave to ferment at room temperature for at least a day. If you are new to fermenting this may sound so bizarre or scary to leave something that you typically would refrigerate, outside the fridge, but don’t worry this is perfectly healthy and safe and what is needed to make something “fermented”. Don’t open your bottle of kimchi for the first 24 hours. Everyone's fermentation time will vary depending on your room temperature, so for example if you live in a really hot climate you may only need a day versus a colder climate that will be better after sitting for 2 days. The other option is to slowly ferment the kimchi in the refrigerator, but I recommend the faster and tastier option, making it have that really good sour/hot flavor that is so incredible in kimchi.
So now that we know how to make kimchi, let's start to use it! I want to quickly provide some recipe ideas that are fun, not too crazy, and hopefully inspire you to create it yourself. Next week I will be posting the kimchi recipe video as well as the recipes that I use it with to have a more visual understanding and inspiration! For one, the go-to dish to make with kimchi is a Bibimbap bowl! These are so customizable, amazing for any mealtime and packed with some much protein, flavor, fats, rice, and veggies. Bibimbap is essentially a bowl that is filled with rice, kimchi, a protein such as tofu or meat, cooked carrot and shitake mushrooms, Korean spinach salad, Korean mung bean salad (both of which I will show you how to make in the upcoming video), and last but not least a fried egg on top! The sauce that goes with it is used with the Korean pepper paste we included in the kimchi recipe so it allows you to continue using that Korean paste without feeling lost with what to use it for. The second but not least recipe is a Korean kimchi noodle soup. This recipe is great for a day when you really need something warm and comforting. All you need is an hour to make this and you can meal prep it too for the week, which saves time overall! All you really need for this type of recipe is some dry noodles such as ramen, soba, udon, etc. onions, ginger, garlic, mushrooms, tofu or meat, greens of choice, soy sauce, and a pinch of sugar! This is an easy go-to dinner recipe that will hopefully become a new staple in your diet and inspire you to experiment with more kimchi recipes overall.
I hope you give kimchi a try and make sure to follow Slugsinthekitchen_ucsc on Instagram!