Forgive me if I brag a little. This city gal just made kimchi, a spicy pickled cabbage, which is the national dish of Korea. Korean food was new to me when I moved to New York City, but I took to it like a duck to water. The variety of tastes and textures make it one of my favorite cuisines. The food often includes all 5 tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Many dishes are fermented. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! If you find yourself in Manhattan, the Korean restaurants are on the side streets that surround Macy's Department store at Herald Square.
Consider that approximately 7 pounds of bacteria (100 trillion) live in your intestines, helping you to digest your food. According to medical studies, fermented food is super healthy for us, providing our digestive tracts with good bacteria and offsetting bad bacteria, so we should eat fermented food regularly. Kimchi is a delicious way to do it!
I learned how to make kimchi by watching a wonderful teacher, the Korean cook, Maangchi's YouTube videos. Not only is she a good teacher, she is funny! Maangchi shows us how to make kimchi three ways. I recommend watching all three videos to understand the process, then perhaps starting with the fastest way, her emergency kimchi.
Striving for an authentic batch, I ordered Korean red pepper flakes and fish sauce from Amazon. I also let my kimchi ferment for several days at room temperature before storing it in the refrigerator, unlike Maangchi who eats hers right away in the video. I know from watching her easy kimchi and traditional kimchi videos that letting it ferment for days makes sense. And if you wonder, flavoring the cabbage with fish sauce doesn't give it a heavy fishy taste. After fermentation, the dish marinates into a uniquely kimchi taste.
I'm surprised at how easy kimchi is to make. In a supermarket a tiny jar costs $6+. When making kimchi at home, you get a huge batch of spicy, pickled deliciousness with one head of cabbage.
1. On my second try, I made a bigger batch of emergency kimchi, using a huge head of cabbage and adding: Daikon radish, a whole diced onion and a diced ripe pear (to the original recipe). I think Maangchi would approve.
2. I added 1/2 cup of dried anchovies to one of my jars, which gives the kimchi protein and calcium. It tastes fine, but eating it freaks me out a bit. Staring at the tiny silver fish, who stare back at me! Never again!! (Why do I have a bag of dried anchovies? Well ... on a visit to a Japanese grocery store, I got carried away [as many Japanese were buying them. Monkey see, monkey do. :)] As it turns out, I don't like them in miso soup either. Some people pop dried anchovies into their mouths as a snack, but unlike a potato chip, they have tiny heads and tails, so honestly I don't know what to do with them. Perhaps this?) But, I digress.
3. When canning, pack the kimchi tightly into the jar:
(a) Press the air out, but leave a tiny space at the top. As it ferments, the kimchi releases gas and liquid, which runs down the jar if you fill it to the very top.
(b) Also be sure to spoon a little juice on top to help with fermentation. In other words, a jar of packed kimchi should be dry-ish, yet mixed, then topped with the paste. And note, as the kimchi ferments it gets juicier.
4. One big head of cabbage makes three 32 ounce jars, plus one 24 ounce jar (total: 15 cups) of kimchi. As a beginner, you can use a jar to sample: Open and taste it until the kimchi is as sour as you like before refigerating the jars. You can pack it all into a single large container, if you wish. The 32 ounce glass jars are easy for me to store in my refrigerator.
Maangchi likes to eat kimchi with rice. Next I'll make her easy kimchi, then her kimchi and fried rice. She makes Korean cooking look easy. Bon Appetit! ... 잘 먹겠습니다
Update: She published a book of her recipes: Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking.
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