Monday, February 15, 2010

Kim Chi

The newest edition to my fermenting repetoire.

Fermenting food has been a rather intimidating project which I have put off for a while, but have recently integrated fairly smoothly into my life. I think I was afraid of the idea of rotting food on purpose to eat, like, maybe if I did it wrong it would become deadly poison. But the few things I've made so far...have been very easy and imprecise, mostly assembled to taste and with whatever kitchen sink ingredients happen to be around. Kim Chi worried me a little, because it's so exotic, or something.

Probably also because Jean explained that we must use salt preserved shrimp, because vegan Kim Chi isn't truly Kim Chi, it's just pickled cabbage, a westernized facsimile. Ah, salt fermented shrimp...the strangest thing in my refrigerator right now. When Kate saw the jar last night at Dinner Club, she said, delicately, "is that....pickled maggots?!". Nope, just some tiny, incredibly salty shrimp in a jar. Duh.

It took a while to assemble all the ingredients for the Kim Chi, because, well, where does one find salt preserved shrimp? Jean found it at a Korean grocery store in Tacoma. And now we have a whole jar!

1 napa cabbage
2 daikon radishes
lots of salt
3 carrots
bunch green onions
head garlic
inch or two ginger
salt preserved shrimp
korean crushed red pepper
fish sauce

Slice the cabbage in half and lay it in a big bowl filled with freezing cold water, let it sit for a moment and then dunk it in and out several times. This causes the leaves to bloom a bit. Set to dry out in the dish drainer or a colander. Chop the radish into cubes and put in a large bowl. Throw a handful of salt onto the radish, and mix it around with your hands. There should be enough salt so that each cube has some on every side. Lay the cabbage halves, one at a time, into another large bowl, sliced side down. Rub salt on each side of every leaf, all the way to the center.

Through the magic of osmosis, the water in the vegetables is drawn out by the salt. They get pretty droopy and after about two hours are totally wilted and veritably floating in a puddle of brine.

Rinse the radish cubes thoroughly in a colander, return to bowl. If the bowl has a lid, so much the better, but we just used a plastic bad. Rinse the cabbage out very carefully, running water between each leaf. Gently squeeze the water out, and rinse again. Repeat once more. Lay the cabbage halves into a flat-ish container (we used a casserole dish with a glass lid).

Slice the carrots, green onions, and a few cloves of garlic into thin strips.

In a food processor (or else, maybe a blender), add the ginger, as much garlic as you want (we used a whole head for the recipe), a few tablespoons of salt preserved shrimp, and some splashes of fish sauce, about a quarter cup, and chop to a paste. Pour into a large bowl, and add the chili powder, again, to taste, and stir. The consistency will very based on how much chili powder you use, ours was kind of like thick pancake batter, and was just spicy enough for me, but Jean would have preferred it a bit spicier.

Stir the carrots and green onions into this spicy batter, coating them totally. Now the fun part. Smudge a dollop of the pungent mixture between every leaf of the cabbage. Don't do it with your bare hands or your skin will be burning for hours; I suppose if you were extremely prepared you'd use plastic gloves, but we just used recycled bulk food bags. Stir the rest of the paste into the radishes until they are bright red. When each leaf of the cabbage and cube of radish is coated, cover the dishes with a lids/plastic bags and put it somewhere not too hot and not too cold. We put it in the closet on the top shelf. Leave it there for two or three days, tasting every day, until it "tastes right", then keep it in the fridge until devoured.

We made our Kim Chi at night, and in the morning it greeted us with a robust, "Hell-llo! Kim CHII-III!!" smell. If I lived in a cartoon, there would have been bright orange clouds meandering down all the hallways. At first it was a bit appalling, but we all became accustomed to the smell and greeted it back. After the second day, the smell was associated to my body with the way it tastes, and I just wanted to eat it all the time. It didn't last long, we ate it all in about a week.

Jean said he thought it might be the best Kim Chi he's eaten.


  1. Holy cow! I make my kimchi so much differently. I definitely suspect that yours is closer to traditional kimchi, but here's the recipe I loosely base mine off of

  2. that looks good!

    i made sour beets last night, with ginger instead of caraway seeds. now that we know more, we should try making pickled ginger again...

  3. oh nice. that's a great use of ginger. have you tried it yet? i wasn't chowing through mine very quickly because it was a little too salty and i wasn't as huge a fan of the caraway as i thought i would be... UNTIL, last night I made borscht out of it all! and now it's so yummy! i put sprouted lentils in it too, and it was tasteeeee.

  4. P.S. I am just in awe of how beautiful your pictures always are. A+ in artsy food blogging Whitney!