Something is happening. South Korea is becoming seriously cool.
Gangnam Style bareback dancing is taking the world by storm – and is now officially the most ‘liked’ video in the world. Hipster chef Gizzi Erskine is launching a pop-up Korean restaurant at Concrete in Shoreditch. And Korean chef David Chang (one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People) continues to launch global food trends from his Momofuku bar in America.
Out of all the great things to come from this explosion of Korean culture though, I wanted to share one of the best. Kimchi.
The spicy, fizzy, fermented cabbage is utterly addictive. It makes everything taste great, and honestly makes your tummy feel great too (the fermentation creates lactobacilli which is also found in Activia and Actimel). The only downside is that if you’re eating kimchi you have to be round other people who are also eating kimchi as well, otherwise it’s just too antisocial for words. Stinky as hell.
Stinky, but addictive. In doing some research for an article I wrote about kimchi I learned that Korean troops took vats of it to fight in Vietnam, and the first Korean astronaut took some a load of kimchi into space with them. So it’s good to know that I’m not the first (and won’t be the last) person to develop a serious taste for the fermented cabbage.
Although you can buy ready-made pots of kimchi, it’s not a patch on the homemade kind.
Sous Chef are selling kits which contain the hard-to-find Korean anchovy sauce and the Korean red pepper powder needed to make the salty sauce base. This means you can mix your own varieties using whatever combination of cabbage, carrot, radish, cucumber and pak choi you come across at the shops.
Chop a cabbage into 1cm slices. A Napa cabbage is traditional – but I used a sweetheart cabbage which worked just fine. Shake a tablespoon of salt over it, and set aside for a few hours so that the salt draws the water out of the leaves and they go all limp and floppy. Rinse and drain.
Next, mix up 25g of Korean red pepper powder with 50g of anchovy sauce and 50ml water. Add a tablespoon of grated ginger and fresh garlic and four spring onions.
Use your hands to mix the sauce into the cabbage. Stuff it inside two jars, and sit it on the side for a couple of days until it starts to ferment. Keep it in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process. There are no rules about when you should eat it.
Kimchi makes a great condiment to go with rice. I’ve grown especially partial to using it for bokkeumbap though.
Delicious. Do drop me a note to let me know if you’ve been making kimchi, and what recipes you’ve been using it in. Would love to know.