Kim Chee…

I love kim chee.  It’s spicy, healthy, and just goes with a lot of food.  You want it with a steak, it fits. You want some with some seared snapper, it fits. I suppose it would go with pasta (although I haven’t tried that).  It’s one of the world’s best condiments. I’m talking about traditional kim chee, which means it MUST be fermented. This process is why it can last so long in the fridge. Plus the fermentation adds the health benefits of probiotics. In Korea, it used to be made by putting it in a jar and burying in the ground for weeks to months at a time.  I prefer the kitchen counter, thank you. You will have to venture over to the Asian grocery for items you probably don’t carry in the pantry. Korean chili powder is something you won’t have, unless you’re maybe Korean and do a lot of spicy cooking.  It has a different taste and aroma than cayenne pepper, almost sweet. Fish sauce is another item you may not have, but it’s a must. It’s very versatile and is making a big surge in American cooking thanks to the creative chefs at some of the best restaurants in the nation becoming creative with it. Even if you’re not making Asian food, like say you’re marinating a piece of fish. Add a splash of this for that extra seafood flavor. The last odd item you’ll need to get is tiny salted shrimp, available in the refrigerated section of an Asian grocery.  It’s a Korean condiment, so look in that section as well, called Saeujeot.

Soaking the cabbage in salted water is an important step in making kim chee.  You want the cabbage to be soft, yet still crunchy when you bite down, not soggy.  If you don’t soak it, it’ll be soggy.  Yuck!

It should bend and be very flexible, but still snap at the stalk when it’s ready.

There isn’t any real cooking involved with this, but heating briefly helps to dissolve all the ingredients. I also boiled water with kelp to get more of the seafood flavor, plus it helps with making the water more “slimy” for clinging to the cabbage.  Watery kim chee is a total gaffe, the sauce has to stick to the vegetables.

That’s some mighty fine looking kim chee.

Kim Chee
scaled down to reasonable size

1 head chinese (napa) cabbage
1 1/2 c kosher or sea salt
1 L water
1 T rice starch (or tapioca starch)
1 sheet dried kelp
1 c korean chili powder
1/2 c fish sauce
2 T sugar
6 green onions
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1″ ginger, sliced thinly
1 t salted shrimp

Mix water and 1/2 cup salt.  Plunge leaves and submerge. Drain. Sprinkle salt on the leaves (you may not use all), rubbing it in thoroughly with your hands and putting a light coating on the leaves.  Let it sit 5-6 hours. At this time, test the leaves.  They should bend a lot, but still snap at the end.

Rinse well to rid the salt and drain.

In a saucepan, heat water to a boil.  Once boiling, add the sheet of kelp (cut into strips if desired) and let sit with heat off for 20 minutes.  Remove kelp and turn heat to low. Mix starch with 1/2 water in a small bowl and add to water as it heats. Stir in chili powder, sugar, fish sauce, green onion, ginger, shrimp and garlic.  Stir to mix well, you’re not cooking it.

Taste for seasoning. Turn off heat and remove to cool a bit. Coat cabbage thoroughly. This can be done individually or just place some leaves in a big jug, layer with sauce, and repeat until all the ingredients are in the jar. Cover and shake vigorously to get sauce everywhere. Leave covered on counter at room temperature for 3 days. Taste for liking and if done, place in the fridge. If you want more tang, let it ferment more.  By 3 days, there should be tiny bubbles popping up everywhere. That’s the sign of a healthy fermentation. Fermentation may still occur in the fridge, just at a slower rate.  Just know that so when you hear a hiss when you open your jar, you know why.


*next up…Meyer Lemon Curd…*


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