that dish: the kimchi chronicles

The Peck Slip Pickle Fest last week got me thinking about all things pickled that I love (read more about that here). Salty and spicy are my tastes of choice so it should come as no surprise to most of you that I am extraordinarily fond of the Korean staple, kimchi.

my neighbors in seoul whipping up a batch

Kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean dish made of vegetables with varied seasonings most notably garlic, salt, and loads of chile. The varieties of kimchi are hard to count, hundreds exist throughout Korea, though the most popular are by far napa cabbage, daikon radish and cucumber. Kimchi is an acquired taste to say the least, though most people I know, myself included, develop a taste for the stuff quickly.

During my time in Korea I became VERY comfortable with the pickled treats- kimchi is served everywhere and always. As a side dish to breakfast or atop your burger kimchi is the way of life in Korea. Luckily for me, kimchi is starting to catch on here.

SO many kimchis! clockwise from top left: zucchini, cabbage, cucumber, julienne radish

mamma o and her kimchi dogs @ new amsterdam market!

It’s become pretty easy to pick up this snack at most grocery stores, especially those in the NYC area. Sunja’s, Mother In Law’s, Jo San, Tobagi and Mamma O’s are all popular authentic brands. According to Serious Eats (and their thorough taste testing) The Tobagi brand is not only the most authentic but also the most delicious. I tend to agree- though my utmost favorite of the varieties- and one of the harder to find commercially- is cucumber.

Want to try your hand at making your own? Here’s a classic recipe to try!

  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • Water
  • 2 heads Napa cabbage, cut into quarters or 2-inch wedges, depending on size of cabbage
  • 1 bulb garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of ginger root
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce or Korean salted shrimp
  • 1 Asian radish, peeled and grated
  • 1 bunch of green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1/2 cup Korean chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds

Dissolve 1 cup salt in 1/2 gallon water. Soak cabbage in the salt water for 3 to 4 hours. Combine garlic, ginger, and fish sauce or shrimp in food processor or blender until finely minced. In large bowl, combine radish, green onions, mustard greens, garlic mixture, chili powder, 1 tablespoon salt and optional sugar. Toss gently but thoroughly. (If mixing with your hands, be sure to wear rubber gloves to avoid chili burn). Remove cabbage from water and rinse thoroughly. Drain cabbage in colander, squeezing as much water from the leaves as possible. Take cabbage and stuff radish mixture between leaves, working from outside in, starting with largest leaf to smallest. Do not overstuff, but make sure radish mixture adequately fills leaves. When entire cabbage is stuffed, take one of the larger leaves and wrap tightly around the rest of the cabbage. Divide cabbage among 4 (1-quart) jars or 1-gallon jar, pressing down firmly to remove any air bubbles. Let sit for 2 to 3 days in a cool place before serving. Remove kimchi from jar and slice into 1-inch-length pieces. If serving before kimchi is fermented, sprinkle with a little bit of sesame oil and sesame seeds. Refrigerate after opening.


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