I’ve had kimchi twice in my life, and neither time did it strike a chord, so to speak. I mean, it’s stinky. However, the smell is also addicting. It’s multi-layered, with fish and fiery spice, garlic and ginger.
Kimchi, a spicy pickled cabbage that is considered a staple of Korean cuisine, is basically used like a condiment. I’ve learned that Korean families always have a vat of it going in their homes.
I’ve also learned that there are a multitude of recipes for kimchi, but I’m going with a quick kimchi recipe on TheKitchn.com, written by Emily Han.
From TheKitchn.com, Kimchi is made by lacto-fermentation, the same process that creates sauerkraut. In the first stage, the cabbage is soaked in a salty brine that kills off harmful bacteria. In the second stage, the remaining Lactobacillus bacteria (the good guys!) convert sugars into lactic acid, which preserves the vegetables and gives them that wonderful, tangy flavor.
So I wanted to see if my I liked kimchi more, but mostly I wanted to use the fermentation crock that my daughters had gifted me again; I recently used it for Escabeche.
If you want to understand the difference between pickling and fermenting, this is a great read.
2 pound head Napa cabbage
1/4 cup salt
1 tablespoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
3-4 tablespoons seafood flavor (I used 3 tablespoons fish sauce, 1/2 tablespoon shrimp paste)
1-5 tablespoons gochugaru, Korean red pepper flakes
8 ounces Daikon, peeled, cut into matchsticks
4 green onions, trimmed, cut into 1” pieces
Slice the cabbage lengthwise into quarters and remove the cores. Cut each quarter crosswise into 2” wide strips.
Place the cabbage and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften a bit, then add water to cover the cabbage.
Put a plate on top and weigh it down with something heavy, like a jar. Let stand for 1 – 2 hours.
Rinse the cabbage under cold water 3 times and drain in a colander for 15 – 20 minutes. Rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting, and set aside.
Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, and seafood flavor in a small bowl and mix to form a smooth paste. Mix in the gochugaru; this author recommended about 3 1/2 tablespoons.
Gently squeeze any remaining water from the cabbage and return it to the bowl along with the radish, scallions, and seasoning paste.
Mix thoroughly, working the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated. Disposable gloves are highly recommended for this step.
Pack the kimchi into a jar, (I used the fermentation crock), pressing down on it until the brine rises to cover the vegetables. Leave at least 1 inch of headspace if you’re using a jar. Seal the jar/crock with a lid.
Let the jar stand at room temperature for 1 – 5 days. You may see bubbles inside. If using a jar, brine may seep out of the lid; place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch overflow.
Check the kimchi once a day, pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon to eep them submerged under the brine. This also releases gases produced during fermentation.
Taste a little at this point. When the kimchi tastes ripe enough for your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. It’s best after another week or two in the refrigerator, but can be eaten right away.
I couldn’t wait to make the following recipe using my kimchi.
From Bon Appetit
1 large egg
1 tablespoon kimchi brine from jar
1/4 cup soy sauce, divided
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon white flour
1 1/2 cups kimchi
4 tablespoons neutral oil, divided
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
Crack 1 egg into a medium bowl. Add 1 Tbsp. kimchi brine, 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, and ¼ cup water and whisk to combine.
Whisk in all of the flour.
Coarsely chop 1½ cups kimchi, add to bowl, and stir to combine. Thinly slice 4 scallions on a diagonal. Add half to batter; reserve remaining scallions for serving.
Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high. Drop ¼-cupfulls of batter onto opposite sides of skillet (pancakes should be about 4″ in diameter, so you’ll probably only be able to cook 2 at a time).
Cook pancakes until golden brown on first side, 2–3 minutes, then flip and cook until browned on second side, 2–3 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Repeat process in batches with remaining batter and oil; you should have 8 pancakes.
Combine 3 Tbsp. vinegar and remaining 3 Tbsp. soy sauce in a small bowl.
Transfer pancakes to a platter. Top with reserved scallions and serve with dipping sauce alongside.
I honestly couldn’t stop eating these pancakes. Look at the beautiful kimchi in the batter.
They were fabulous as is as well as dunked in the sauce.
Next time I will double the pancake ingredients so there are more in which to indulge.
They’re best crispy right out of the skillet, bet you can also re-crisp them in a hot pan before serving the leftover pancakes.