Kimchi is the new darling of condiments- I’ve seen it pop up in vegan and health-conscious restaurants, and there is even a food court chain named after this over 2000-year-old Korean condiment. It is the national dish of Korea and there are reportedly more than 200 ways of preparing it. What is all the fuss about kimchi? Try it once and you’ll get it!
What is Kimchi?
Kimchi is a Korean condiment made by fermenting cabbage (typically Napa) with an assortment of vegetables and seasonings. Although there are many varieties of kimchi, the most popular version outside of Korea has the key ingredients of napa cabbage, gochugaru (Korean hot pepper) and green onions. As with sauerkraut, kimchi is lacto-fermented and follows a similar cycle of bacterial growth. The dominance of the lactobacillus bacteria and salt creates an acidic environment that wards off pathogens and imparts a delicious tang to the dish. Researchers have actually discovered a new species of lactobacillus inherent to kimchi called lactobacillus kimchii. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11034488
The Health Benefits of Kimchi
Not only is kimchi super, insanely delicious, it is also packed with nutrients and probiotics. It is rich in vitamins A, B and C, as well as iron, calcium and selenium.
For those of you who are afraid to eat cabbage, fear not! The lacto-fermentation process makes the kimchi easier for us to digest, giving us the high fiber benefits without gastrointestinal distress!
How to Include Kimchi in Your Diet
There are endless ways to enjoy kimchi. In our house, I always include it with my eggs at breakfast. My husband eats it with ground meat dishes, and both my daughter and I love adding it to soba noodles with peanut sauce.
Since kimchi is such an essential staple for our family, I always make a mega batch. The preparation might be time-consuming, but worth the effort! I adapted the below recipe from the fantastic Korean chef Maangchi’s version of napa cabbage kimchi. It has never failed me and has gotten rave reviews from my friends and family. Kathleen, my friend and photographer (Studio Kat Kennedy) of some of the photos on my website is now admittedly hooked after trying my kimchi and sends me frantic emails for more when her supply is running low!
HOW TO MAKE NAPA CABBAGE KIMCHI
Fermentation Time: 3 days to 1 week
- 6 lbs (2.70 kg) napa cabbage
- kosher salt, sea salt or any non-iodized salt
- 2 cups water
- 2 tbsp rice flour
- 2 tbsp sugar (brown or sucanet)
- 2 cups daikon (cut in sticks or grated)
- 1 cup carrots (cut in sticks or grated)
- 8 chopped green onions
- 1 cup chopped garlic shoots
- 12 diced garlic cloves
- 1 chopped white onion
- 2 tbsp diced ginger
- 1-2 cups korean chili flakes (gochugaru)
- 1/2 cup fish sauce
- 1/2 cup dried, salted shrimp
Step 1- Prepare the Cabbage
- Remove outer layer leaves. Make a small slit in the base of the core and pull it apart to split the cabbage in half. Make a second small slit in the core of each half.
2. Dip each half in filtered water, enough to saturate. Sprinkle each layer of leaves with kosher salt, applying more salt at the thicker stem end of the leaves.
3. Let salted cabbage sit for 2 hours, flipping the halves over every half hour. Be sure to add the salted liquid that has collected at the bottom of the container to the halves after each flip.
4. After 2 hours, thoroughly wash cabbage and split in half again using the second small slit you made in the core. Let drain in a colander.
STEP 2- Prepare the Porridge
- Bring the 2 cups of water to a boil, whisk in rice flour. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring to prevent lumps. Add sugar and cook for an additional 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
STEP 3- Prepare the Paste
1. Using a food processor, combine the rest of the ingredients (vegetables, pepper flakes, shrimp and fish sauce) and cooled porridge.
2. Blend until you achieve a paste consistency, small pieces of vegetables are ok and add to the crunchy texture of the finished kimchi.
3. I advise wearing disposable gloves when applying the kimchi paste to avoid red-stained and sore hands! Apply the paste to each leaf of each cabbage half. Roll up the half and place it in the fermentation container. Continue adding the cabbage in this way leaving a 1″ space to the top of the container. Place lid on container.
4 Leave containers at room temperature for 3 days to 1 week. After 1-2 days, you should see bubbles forming as the beneficial lactobacillus get busy starting up the lacto-fermentation process. Sample after 3 days and store in the refrigerator when you are happy with the taste.