When most of us think of kimchi, we think of spicy fermented napa cabbage, swathed in a bright red, fishy sauce. Lauryn Chun's white wrapped kimchi from The Kimchi Cookbook is not that kimchi. Dating back to before the 16th century, this white kimchi was being made before chiles were introduced to Korea. As a result, the kimchi is mild and slightly sweet, yet still retains the signature crunch and funk from natural fermentation. Instead of simply tossing the mixture in a jar, however, Chun elevates the recipe by wrapping the kimchi mixture in brined napa cabbage leaves. These little packets (ssam) are fermented in their own small containers with a bit of mushroom broth. The result is a delicate and elegant condiment, perfect for dinner parties.
Why I picked this recipe: I'd never tried a kimchi with such a variety of ingredients (dates, persimmons, Asian pear, and mushrooms).
What worked: This recipe is a nice break from the spice one expects from kimchi. In addition, all of the vegetables make the wrap into more of a funky side dish than a condiment—a nice surprise.
What didn't: I had a hard time wrapping my kimchi once I got past the first few outer layers of cabbage. The more yellow leaves make for stiff wrappers, even after brining. Next time, I'll seek out a cabbage with copious leafy greens for ease.
Suggested tweaks: If you're not up for wrapping, you could ferment the mixture on its own with a bit of the mushroom broth added for moisture. Simply pack tightly into a 2-quart container with a lid and let ferment for two days.