Korean food has become incredibly popular with chefs like Judy Joo making mainstream television programmes cooking authentic Korean food as well as opening a Korean restaurant in the heart of Soho. One of the staples of Korean cuisine is kimchi, a fermented cabbage side dish, however other vegetables such as cucumbers and spring onions are used.
It is estimated that a Korean person consumes around 18kg of kimchi each year. Kimchi is considered as one of the healthiest foods in the world due to the number of vitamins as well as being high in fibre and low in calories. Kimchi was fermented underground for consumption during the harsh South Korean winters however this version is a quick spicy version of kimchi not for the faint-hearted. It has a powerful kick and a salty tang that encapsulates the first time I tried kimchi.
Traditional methods of kimchi preparation include salting each leaf of the napa cabbage and allowing it to sit for 2 hours before rinsing them and spreading each layer of the cabbage with the kimchi paste and leaving to ferment. My method speeds up this process by making a hot brine for the cabbage which softens the cabbage as well as seasons it and then mixing the paste with the vegetables and it’s finished. And for any kimchi purists out there, this is a good way to introduce people to kimchi and Korean cuisine but won’t be like real kimchi.
The key ingredient to giving kimchi that powerful spice and colour is gochugaru, the Korean red chilli flakes. Now I have looked around and surprisingly my local Chinese supermarket doesn’t stock them so I replaced with chilli powder but I used significantly less chilli powder than gochugaru. Shrimp paste is used to provide a deep flavour but I am not a fan of shrimp paste so I simply omit it from my kimchi paste. This is the same for fish sauce. Going even further from traditional kimchi, I add sliced white cabbage and julienned courgette to my kimchi mix to bulk it out. When I mix the paste with the brined vegetables, I wear disposable gloves so my hands do not stain with the chilli powder. The kimchi paste normally has chives and julienne radish and carrots added to it however I omit this again simply because I’m keeping this simple and quick.
Then the final stage is fermentation. When transferring to the container you must make sure that there is no air inside and you simply press down firmly and use a transparent plastic container. I keep my kimchi at the bottom of the fridge and write the date of when I made it on top since this quick kimchi keeps for around 2 weeks only. You can eat it straight away or leave for a while. Serve alongside noodle or rice dishes, make a kimchi marinade for meat or chop it up and mix it into fried rice.
If you are quick, this kimchi should only take 30 minutes to make in total.
One of my Korean dishes is my Korean Japchae noodles which is in my free e-book ‘My Personal Favourites’ and you can download it by clicking here.
¼ white cabbage, thinly sliced
1 courgette, cut into thin strips (julienne)
½ napa cabbage, cut into 2cm lengths
1.5L of boiling water
7 tbsp table salt
1 medium onion, sliced
A 1cm piece of ginger, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 – 3 tbsp hot chilli powder – adjust this to your own liking
1 tsp sesame oil
4 spring onions, the green parts only
1 tsp sugar
Prepare the vegetables and then place into a large bowl. Dissolve the salt in the boiling water and pour over the vegetables. You may need more water to cover the vegetables, in which case add another tablespoon of table salt for every cup of water (240ml). Allow to soften for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare your kimchi paste. In a food processor, blitz the onion, ginger and garlic until it is a paste. Add the chilli powder and process until the chilli powder has been well incorporated. Take 2 tablespoons of the brine and add to the kimchi paste. This should loosen the paste, dissolve the chilli powder and add saltiness. Then add another 2 tablespoons of normal hot water with the sesame oil and process again. Add the spring onions and sugar and pulse until the kimchi paste is flecked with green. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary – it will be very spicy so be careful!
Drain the brined vegetables completely, giving it a squeeze if necessary and transfer back to a bowl. Place on your disposable gloves and then add the kimchi paste. Mix the kimchi paste with the brined vegetables thoroughly and beware as the chilli powder is potent and the kimchi paste is very aromatic and you might be surprised at how strong the smell is.
Transfer to a plastic container and make sure there are no air spaces in the container by pressing down the kimchi. Write the date of when you make it with a permanent marker on the lid of the container and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.