Now that I am addicted to Korean tacos, I felt it was time to learn how to make kimchi. I have had lessons in making saurkraut, so I felt I had a little bit of experience in fermenting cabbage. I turned to David Lebovitz because he is my go-to-guy for recipes these days. His recipe made it seem possible to make kimchi without too much sturm und drang.
I enlisted my friend Catherine to help with moral support and hard labor--ie chopping all those ingredients. I gathered as many ingredients as I could find, heading all the way to South Seas in Granville Island to pick up the Korean chili flakes. (Apparently it does not include the seeds of the chilis.) I found just about everything except the daikon, which is always everywhere you look in Vancouver when you're not looking for it.
I prepared the Chinese cabbage ahead of time. Now that was my biggest stumbling block. David says to remove the tough bits of stalk. Ummm how much do you remove? I removed almost all of it and was left with a tiny bag of leafy bits. This was obviously wrong, so we added most of the stalk. Now I have been looking at kimchi making vids online and those cabbage vary greatly in size. I think I'd picked one that must have been about half the size of David's. Anyway we decided to wing it, adding in some Easter egg radishes instead of daikon and hand chopping the ginger and garlic instead of putting it in the food processor. I didn't leave the leaves of the cabbage whole, btw. I wanted it in bite size pieces to put on tacos.
We drank strong tea, chatted about dogs, the universe and everything and we chopped cabbage, onions, garlic, and ginger. Here it is, all mixed up with the fish sauce, honey, and chili flakes. Catherine tasted it and declared it addictive. She said I needed to take it home to ferment or else she'd eat all of it. We got excited about the variations we could make in the future.
Here us our jar of kimchee which it is supposed to ferment outside the fridge until it starts to fizz or bubble. Then you can keep it for about three weeks in the refrigerator where it will gradually get stronger in flavor. So I looked kimchi up on the Wikipedia and of course it has a long and venerable history and back in Korea people make different kinds of pickles depending on the season. Winter kimchi is made though a process called Gimjang. Koreans even take kimchi holidays to get together and make the stuff and they store it in dedicated fridges to keep it at the optimum temperature and also because the smell can leach into other foods.
The new kimchi, made with fish sauce and less salt is healthier than the really traditional stuff, in fact it is considered by many to be one of the healthiest foods in the world. I'm really looking forward to those kimchi tacos and to learning more about this super food.