The first time I tried kimchi, I was a 20-year-old college student, who was lucky enough to get a summer job waiting tables at a Korean restaurant. I had never heard of kimchi before and I didn’t realize how much I loved “hot, spicy” food! I worked the lunch shift which offered a buffet. Suki (restaurant owner) let me eat whatever I wanted for lunch. When you’re a poor college student, getting a free meal after work, major deal. Anyhow, I would eat from the buffet, which did not offer traditional Korean dishes. It was similar to your standard Chinese restaurant buffet. That’s what the public wanted. On occasion people would come in and order off the menu for example; Bulgogi Steak, Mung Bean Pancake, Madu Dumplings etc…. I was fascinated by it all! One thing I noticed, regardless of the dish, it was served with kimchi on the side. I noticed Suki and Young-ae (chef) ate the same thing everyday. Brown Rice, kimchi with a fried egg on top. After a few weeks of working there, I asked if I could try what they were eating. The dish is called a “Hot Pot”. So simple, so full of flavor, I was hooked. There are all different heat levels of kimchi. I happen to like the “hottest”. The richness of the fried egg complements the heat and vinegar taste of the kimchi and the brown rice adds a nutty flavor. It is still one of my favorite go to meals. Suki would joke and ask me if I was Korean, because I wasn’t supposed to like super spicy. The extra spicy kimchi was only served to patrons if specifically requested. Which was almost never.
I asked why kimchi was served with every dish? I agreed it complimented everything in regards to taste, but still why was it served with everything? Besides being delicious, kimchi helps with digestion and is loaded with probiotics and antioxidents, which are essential for “good gut” health. You can buy Kimchi at any grocery store, health food store or farmers market. I’ve ordered “Simply Seoul” on-line. Really good. I like to make my own. It’s a lengthy process, but Kimchi lasts forever. I make a huge container of it and leave it in the fridge. You can make it vegan by leaving out the fish sauce and not using honey as a sweetener.
- For salting cabbage: 1 lg. Napa cabbage, 1/2 cup salt, water
- For making porridge: 1 TBSP sweet rice flour, 1/2 cup water, 2 TBSP cane brown sugar or Monk sugar or honey
- For seasoning/spices: 1 cup Korean red pepper powder (grind red pepper flakes in your coffee grinder), 1/2 cup fish sauce, 2 TSP minced ginger, 1/2 cup minced garlic, 1 medium minced onion, 1 pear (optional-chopped or minced)
- For vegetables: 1 cup radish matchsticks (julienned) , 1/2 cup carrot matchsticks, 7 green onions chopped
- Prepare the cabbage: Wash & remove the leaves from the core. Place cabbage leaves in a bowl of heavily salted water and let sit for 4-5 hours (turn over a few times)
- Prepare the rice powder: Combine the water and the sweet rice flour in a small pot. Mix well and let it cook over medium heat for about 10 min. until it starts to bubble (stir continuously). Add sweetener; cook 1 more minute, stirring. Remove from the heat and let it cool completely.
- Prepare the red pepper paste: Pour cooled porridge into a large mixing bowl. Add garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, and hot pepper flakes. Mix well until the mixture turns into a thin paste.
Mix the red pepper paste with the veggies
Rinse the cabbage and chop into 1-2″ pieces. Mix everything together. You may want to wear cooking gloves. Mixing with your hands works best. (cabbage, veggies, pepper paste)
Press the kimchi down into an airtight container. Leave it out at room temperature for at least 2-3 days. This is when the fermentation begins. You can refrigerate it, or leave it at room temperature for up to a week.
- Fermentation: After 2 days, check your kimchi and pack it down. Taste it to see how it is doing. Continue tasting and packing down every few days. The longer you pack it down while fermenting, the more of a vinegar like taste it will have. Usually no more than a week. Stir and refrigerate.
Although I like it with extra hot pepper flakes. These are the measurements I use with others in mind. Especially my children. There’s enough kick, but not overbearing. They love it! I also make it vegan (no fish sauce; no honey). My husband doesn’t like fish and can taste the fish sauce. Honey has a distinct flavor so I stick with the monk fruit sugar.
Nutritional Value Of Kimchi
Kimchi is a low-calorie, high fiber and nutrient –packed side dish. It is a storehouse of a range of vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and vitamin C. It is also rich in essential amino acids and minerals such as iron, calcium, selenium. It has an impressive assortment of powerful antioxidants and provides an additional benefit of probiotics as well in the form of lactobacillus bacteria. It contains numerous healthful components including capsaicin, chlorophyll, carotenoids, flavonoids and isothiocyanates with low amount of fat and sugar.
Do you love Kimchi? Have you made your own? What’s your favorite brand? Do you eat it with anything unique? I want to know….