Kimchi is a global culinary phenomena. I was introduced to it by my husband a few years ago. We have a jar of kimchi in our household as a staple, partly because of my step-children being half-Korean but mostly to do with its health benefits.
Kimchi is a spicy fermented pickle that is really good for your gut. I swear Kimchi will resolve all your health problem. As a kid, I grew up on my grandma and mum’s homemade Indian pickles; packed full of turmeric and ginger and all sorts of other fermented food like steamed dhoklas (lentil cakes) and dosas (lentil pancakes) — and I am aware of how these superfoods are a labour of love. Kimchi is the same, and you can’t rush it.
Traditionally kimchi has anchovy paste in it or shrimp paste, but I wanted to make a vegan version that tastes like the real deal. Making it at home is cheaper, healthier and more customisable. Most store brought imports are far too sweet for our palette anyway. Also making it at home and having it in the fridge means not having to go to the Asian supermarket (which for us isn’t very close and often shut at the weekends).
So here is a recipe that finally worked after years of trial and error. Hope it works for you. Making kimchi is an art. So if it goes wrong, don’t be too disheartened and try again. It is totally worth the effort.
1 head of Chinese Cabbage, Chopped in big chunks
2-3 Tablespoons of Korean Hot Pepper Flakes (or more depending on your taste)
10 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
2 Inches of Ginger, grated
1 tablespoon sugar
1 Big White Onion, Sliced
3 to 4 Spring onions, chopped
2 teaspoon of tamari
a handful of dried seaweed or kelp, crushed or torn into pieces
1-2 eating apple, sliced
A whole Lot of Salt (or about 12 tablespoons)
After chopping up the cabbage wash them thoroughly. Apply and massage a lot of salt onto the cabbage and let it rest for a couple of hours. Then wash it again.
Next, soak the cabbage into salted water preferably overnight.
In the morning, wash the cabbage thoroughly, this is an important stage, because by now the cabbage must have absorbed a whole lot of salt and you don’t want your kimchi to be too salty.
In the final stage, make a paste with half of the onions, ginger, garlic and all of the apples. Now mix in the red pepper flakes and combine. Massage the cabbage and the rest of the onions, garlic, ginger and tamari along with all of the seaweed with this paste.
Put this kimchi mix into a clean and sterilised mason jar or any air tight container. Let it ferment for about 12 hours and then store it in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. As it rests in the fridge, you will notice an organic brine being produced which is referred to as “kimchi juice”. This juice means, your kimchi is fermenting well.
Tips: If by any chance your kimchi is not fermenting, you may need more sugar or longer period of time outside the fridge. Simply take it out of the fridge and let it rest for a few hours and pop it back in the fridge.
And if you notice your kimchi has fermented too much, don’t throw it away. Koreans often use over-fermented kimchi to cook with. They make for a great ingredients for kimchi chigae (soup), kimchi pajong (pancake) and kimchi bokkum-bap (fried rice).