No Korean meal is complete without a bit of kimchi, the love-or-hate-it fermented vegetable preparation, usually made of cabbage or radish. Kimchi's flavor varies widely depending on how it's made. It can anywhere from bright red and spicy with plenty of Korean chile powder to over-the-top-brush-your-teeth-immediately garlicky. Personally, I love them all and eat plenty of kimchi straight out of the jar, standing in front of an open fridge.
So, when I came upon this recipe for Quick Kimchi in Quick and Easy Korean Cookings by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee, I knew there'd be some homemade kimchi in my future. This wasn't my first homemade kimchi experiment—I'd tried David Chang's recipe from The Momofuku Cookbook before, which calls for little preserved shrimp giving it a fantastic fishiness that might turn some people off.
Lee's version is much less intense, both in time and flavor. Instead of shrimp she subs in much milder fish sauce, which adds an oceanic element without an overpowering stinkiness. The recipe begins with soaking cabbage and daikon in a salt water mixture overnight to leech out moisture.
The next day the vegetables are mixed with a red paste of chile powder, garlic, ginger, and fish sauce, and tossed with scallions. The fresh kimchi is loaded into jars and left to sit at room temperature for two to three days or more depending on just how ferment-y you like your kimchi. It's a much quicker turnaround than most at-home kimchi recipes with much milder flavors, almost like a kimchi for beginners. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge, but if you like kimchi enough to make your own, chances are it's not going to last that long.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Quick and Easy Korean Cooking to give away this week.
- 2 napa cabbages
- 1 medium daikon radish
- 1/4 cup coarse sea salt
- 1 cup water
- 4 green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths
- 7 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced or grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons Korean chile powder
- 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
Rinse the cabbages and cut them crosswise into about 2-inch lengths. Peel the daikon, cut lengthwise into quarters, then into pieces about 1/2 inch thick.
Dissolve the salt in 1 cup water. Put the cabbages and daikon in a large bowl and pour the salt water over them. Let sit at least 6 hours or overnight.
The next day, drain the vegetables but reserve the water. Return the cabbages and daikon to the same bowl. Add the green onions, garlic, ginger, chile powder, and fish sauce and mix well. Pack the mixture into a 1-gallon glass jar. Slowly pour the reserved salty water over the vegetables to cover, leaving about 1 inch of space on top. Tightly close the jar.
Let the jar sit in a cool, dark place for 2 to 3 days, depending on the weather and how ripe (pickled) you like your kimchi. Refrigerate after opening. It will keep for a couple of weeks, after which you'll want to make fried rice, kimchi pancakes, or a hot pot with it.