In November, I started working at a Japanese restaurant around the corner from my house in East Vancouver. Like many Japanese restaurants in the city, this one is owned and operated by Koreans. Aside from the 2-minute commute, one of the best things about working there are the staff meals. I’m used to the “scarf down a plate of fries as fast as humanely possible” approach to dining on the job at restaurants, so sitting down to a freshly prepared (free!) meal after every shift felt like a pretty sweet deal. We’re constantly spoiled with a delicious array of Japanese and Korean dishes, lots of which I never tried before working here. Bibimbap? In-fucking-credible. Spicy Korean Soup with Spam? Surprisingly great.
The spread changes from shift to shift, but the one thing that’s always present: a big, stinky bowl of Kimchi. For the better part of my life, I’ve had an unjustified aversion to the stuff, and it wasn’t until I started working here I grew a pair and tried it out. I feel like a chump for the 22 years I didn’t have the balls to eat the damn stuff, because low and behold, Kimchi is the bomb.
Now, aside from being delicious, Kimchi also offers lots of health perks. It contains beneficial probiotic bacterias which can speed up your metabolism, enhance immune system, lower cholesterol, and produce antioxidants. I asked many of my Korean co-workers for tips on how to make Kimchi, but save for one, none of them have ever attempted to make the stuff. “The older generation always makes it”, and “It’s too difficult” were common responses. These guys eat Kimchi like there’s no tomorrow, so learning that none of them had ever actually made it scared me a little bit. Is it really that difficult? Testimonials I had been reading on blogs made it seem pretty easy, so my boyfriend and I decided to give it a shot.
We went off a couple different recipes, but mostly stuck to this fantastic video by Maangchi. Super cute.
Basically, you need the following ingredients:
Korean Red Chili Powder
Japanese Mochiko Flour
A Butt-load of Garlic
Another Butt-load of ginger
Julienned Daikon Radish
Salted, Drained & Rinsed Napa Cabbage
Whatever other cabbage-like things you want to throw in there
Some people add squid or oysters to theirs. I think that sounds gnarly, given the fact that you’re going to have to let it ferment for a couple weeks.
Napa cabbage gets heavily salted between all the leaves, left for a few hours, then well-rinsed and wrung out.
Red Chili Flakes, Fish Sauce, Onion, Garlic, and Ginger ready to be pulverized.
The red pepper pasted gets added to a cooked mixture of mochiko flour, sugar and water, and gets blended to make the kimchi paste
Julienned Carrots, Daikon Radish and chinese chives are added to the kimchi paste. It’s now ready to be spread on the cabbage.
The kimchi paste mixture gets spread liberally between every leaf of the cabbage segments.
The prepared cabbage is sealed inside glass quart jars. We fermented one inside the fridge, and one outside.
The jar we fermented outside of the fridge was ready in about a week. It was pretty damn tasty, but we both agreed the one fermented in the fridge tasted better, although it took about 2 1/2 weeks. It was a lot of work, but none of the techniques involved in the kimchi making process were very difficult. You just need a lot of ingredients, and a lot of patience. It cost us about the same amount to make it as it would to buy the same amount in the store, but next time it will be a lot cheaper (all we’ll have to buy will be the veggies).
Ways to eat Kimchi
By Itself (duh), or Cut up on rice with other asian pickles
In Kimchi Soup
In an asian noodle salad
I used my Kimchi to make this Shirataki Noodle Salad. Thinly sliced cukes, radishes, carrots and Kale, dressed with sesame oil and rice wine vinegar, tossed with Kimchi. Fresh, healthy, and delicious.
On the grill: rolled up in flattened beef and skewered
Kimchi Okonomiyaki from Namu Gaji Street food at the Ferry Building Market in San Francisco. Earth-shatteringly delicious.
In an Omelette
On a Pizza
Basically any way you choose to eat it, Kimchi is delicious. If you’re up to a challenge and have got a free day on your hands, give homemade Kimchi a shot.