Coming to Terms with the Kimchi Gods

Like most children of my generation, I pleaded ignorance when it came to making Korean food.  I either went to my mom’s house, bought it at the store or ate it at the restaurant.  I took advantage of the easy access to my culture through my mom’s cooking.  Now in my late forties, I am starting to understand a little of what pleading ignorance does to one’s identity.  I am haunted by the childhood memories of eating meals around the kitchen table.  My grandparents, my parents, my siblings and sometimes the occasional visiting relatives.  Shared meals meant family togetherness and facing hardships as well as abundance together.

Koreans are by default a resilient people.  Generations of hostile takeovers between the Mongols, the Chinese, the Japanese resulted in a mixing and blending of food and culture.  However what stands above all of this is kimchee.

Kimchi is what I consider very inherently Korean.

It is the national side dish of Korea.  Every region and family has their own recipe.   My mother inherited her recipe from my grandmother and so the cycle goes.

I have always defaulted in begging my mom to make me a batch of kimchi and she would always set aside a jar just for me.  I also have a few dietary restrictions to consider so in my mom’s eye, I am a pain in the rear to deal with.

I am allergic to shrimp and gluten.  Very allergic.  Like anaphylactic shock allergic to shrimp.  As I am coming to terms with these dietary restrictions, I have become keenly aware of the variety of Korean dishes that do not have shrimp and or wheat/gluten in them.  I began digging into the reasons why these became more common in dishes and how to research dishes for their authenticity.

Temple food is vegan food that is prepared and eaten by the Korean Buddhist community.  As the website states “The defining characteristic of temple food is that it embodies the spirit of meditation and the principle of compassionate interdependence.”

While I don’t consume meat anymore (fatty liver disease complications) and increase food with dark greens, I started incorporating the mentality that food equals medicine.  I started becoming open to the idea that you have to go back to the basics.  The basic understanding how ingredients blended together in a perfect and harmonious blend of spices and flavor can bring out deep rooted family and childhood memories.  I think this is why I am learning how to cook Korean food.

  1.  To satisfy my longing for childhood memories.
  2.  Heal my liver and be healthy again
  3. Food is more than medicine.  It is medicine for your soul as well.

With that being said, I am making kimchee for the first time by myself.  Without my mom’s help and without her guidance.

It is springtime again and I am taking that first step into coming to terms with the kimchi gods.  😀

Kimchi is traditionally made 2 times a year.  Spring and Fall/Winter.  These are traditionally when cabbage is plentiful and families prepare for the lean times ahead.

I found a couple of recipe that leverages vegan recipes.  They both reference temple kimchee but incorporate using garlic and onions.  Traditional temple food prohibits using garlic and onions because the energy that it brings out is too strong.

Beyondkimchee.com

koreanbapsang.com

We will be using garlic an onions in this recipe though.

Making kimchi is a time consuming process.  Salting the cabbage can take up to 6 to 8 hours depending on which recipe you use.

Do not think that making kimchi will be a 2 hour experience.  It is a two day excursion, my friend. Just like a cruise to Gilligan’s Island, you are in for the long haul!

It is very different than making sauerkraut  in that there are a lot more complexities to the spices uses.

For this recipe I used the recipe in koreanbapsang.com

1 salting kimchee

  1. Salting the cabbage is also known as brining.  Each leaf should be rubbed with salt.  I used Korean coarse sea salt. After salting each leaf, let this sit for 6 to 8 hours.

2.     Wash excess salt from cabbage.  The cabbage should bend and hold it’s shape.  Think limber, like yoga!

3.  Make the rice paste and let it cool.

4.     Make the seaweed and mushroom stock.  You will need to use this to replace the fish sauce.  Do not forget to use this.  I also used pumpkin puree and Asian pear to replace the shrimp.  

5.   Combine spices and Korean soy sauce for soup and blend together.

For this piece, I used modern kitchen technology – the Cusinart!  Hurray!

IMG_2652 (1)

6.  Mix in cooled rice paste and seaweed and mushroom stock.

7.  Now it’s time to assemble the cabbage and kimchi sauce together.  There are 2 different kinds of methods.

Traditionally, the kimchi sauce is smeared in between each cabbage leaf and wrapped like a little baby.  This keeps the taste locked in to the cabbage leaves.

IMG_2653

Mak kimchi is when you cut the cabbage and mix together.  You can do this method if you want to eat your kimchi faster.

Both are great to use.

8.  Fermentation!

Now that you have assembled your kim, you will want to fermentate your kimchi.  This happens at room temperature.

The best way to ensure that fermentation magic happens with your kimchi is to keep the new kimchi below the kimchi sauce.  Traditional method would be to place a giant rock on top of the kimchi to keep the cabbage leaves below the sauce and place your kimchi prized possession in a giant earthenware jar.

I have either large kimchi pot nor giant rock but I do have lots of cute clear pebbles from gardening projects.  I place a large clear plastic wrap on top on my kimchi.

IMG_2659

Seal!  Make sure the cabbage leaves are underneath the sauce!  You do not want any introduction of mold or bacteria to enter your kimchi environment during fermentation.

Fermentation will take about 2 to 5 days depending on temperature of your region.  2 days if you live in a warmer spot.  Refrigerate after.

To learn more about fermentation and kimchi, here is an article I found How to Ripen Kimchi.

Remember above everything else, have patience.  Your newly bottled kimchi should start to bubble and fizz.  Magic of fermentation!

Your kimchi should last about 3 months. You can start eating it after a few days after your refrigerate it though.  The longer you let it stew in kimchi sauce, the richer and robust the flavor!

One of my favorite childhood dishes is kimchi jjigae.  Which is basically kimchi stew.

Here is a recipe for kimchi stew.

For additional information about kimchi and the health benefits about it, I’ve listed several websites below.  Enjoy!

10 Surprising Benefits of Kimchi

Health benefits of kimchi

Fermented Foods and Cancer

One thought on “Coming to Terms with the Kimchi Gods

  1. Nice explanation of making kimchee.
    Didn’t you use the Cuisinart to chop the garlic and onions into a paste that you mixed the grated ginger and chili powder into? And pumpkin!

    Tastes really good now- and will only get better.

    The old method was to make Kimchee in big clay pots buried in the ground- this kept them at a lower temperature, and also protected the kimchee from freezing during the winter. Those big pots of kimchee would have to last the whole winter!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s