As millions around the world prepare for months of isolation at home, we know plenty of you will be looking for a new lockdown food project to get your teeth into… and what better lockdown experiment than homemade Kimchi!
The global popularity of Korea’s national dish has skyrocketed in recent years, but many of us are still put off fermenting at home.
But with the prospect of another month of shuttered bars, homeschooled kids and *sigh* family Zoom calls - homemade kimchi is the perfect step up from sourdough and banana bread!
So get ready to wow your loved ones when the lockdown is lifted, because when life gives us Covid - make Kimchi!
In essence, Kimchi is simply fermented cabbage. It first appeared in Korean kitchens around a thousand years ago, but didn’t take on its signature bright red colour until the 19th century with the introduction of Chillies to the region from South America.
As a way of preserving the harvest just before winter, Koreans would first salt then tightly pack their cabbages into large clay urns, burying them underground to avoid the frost.
The resulting fermented product took on a delicious flavour, and Kimchi began bubbling up across the whole country.
Just like Indian families making yoghurt, and German families making Sauerkraut, almost every Korean family has their own slightly different Kimchi recipe, but most versions contain a range of similar ingredients:
Cabbage, Gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes), garlic, ginger and spring onions are all standard additions, but there are plenty of ways to amp up the flavour, for vegetarians and non vegetarians alike.
Making Kimchi consists of 4 main stages. Brining your cabbage, making the paste, smothering the cabbage then packing and fermenting! Be warned this is a labour of love and will take a bit of time - but once you’ve made it, Kimchi is truly the gift that keeps on giving!
These are the ingredients you will need (but they’re really more of a guideline than anything, don’t be afraid to get creative and add your own twist!)
3 large heads of Napa Cabbage
Pinch of kosher salt per cabbage leaf
¾ cup of water
Heaped tablespoon of Mochiko (or flat tablespoon of rice flour and a heaped teaspoon of sugar)
12 garlic cloves
Thumb sized knob of ginger, grated
½ medium onion, grated
1 ½ tablespoons of fish sauce
¾ cup of Gochugaru Korean red pepper flake (or Aleppo pepper/standard red pepper flakes)
1 cup of Daikon cut into matchsticks (or large sturdy radish)
½ cup of carrot cut into matchsticks
6 spring onions shredded
1 pear cut into matchsticks
Large Sterelised mason jar/fermentation jar
Kimchi can be enjoyed at any stage of its preparation, and many Koreans enjoy eating it raw before the fermentation process has even begun.
But if you are patient and decide to wait until after the two week mark, you will definitely start to taste that signature sour tanginess, which will only become a more complex flavour as time goes by.
After this stage there are any number of beautiful uses for Kimchi, ranging from main dishes to condiments.
Kimchi fried rice and savoury Kimchi pancakes are a brilliant way to make the fermented cabbage the star of the show, but it is also a lovely compliment to a dish like bibimbap or as part of any rice bowl dish.
Kimchi juice is also a wonderful funky base for a salad dressing, but thats only the tip of the iceberg. People have got seriously creative, making aiolis, butters, and dipping sauces with the stuff!