Saturday, 17 March 2012

Kimchi or not Kimchi... that is the question!

Cabbage is a bit of a sore point in our household, since Mr P is practically phobic. I have just about managed to get him to eat the odd sprout, stirfried in a flash in a spicy sauce, but cabbage remains a major task. And since we get a fortnightly box of mystery seasonal veg delivered to our house, cabbage has featured rather heavily of late, and it's been my sole responsibility.

A colleague introduced me to Korean food recently, and I got very excited googling the various exotic options on the menu. Most intriguing was the idea of Kimchi - apparently a staple of Korean cuisine that often involves fermented cabbage, ginger and chilli. Fish sauce is normally a key ingredient in Kimchi, but I wasn't going to let this put me off  the possibility of a solution to the cabbage overload I've been having of late. If you're a meat-eater or a pescetarian, you could substitute fish sauce for half of the soy sauce in the recipe. However, for vegetarians/vegans, my recipe is probably so different from its namesake, that I'm not sure if it's fair to stick to the original name. But as I can't think of anything more suitable (and as it's provided me with a puntastic title for this post), I think we're good to go.

Kimchi (or not Kimchi)
2 large cabbages
8 dessert spoons salt
1 red onion, finely minced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
5 tblsp lazy chilli (the kind pre-chopped in a jar)
about 2cm fresh ginger, grated
10 des sp soy sauce
3 tsp sugar

1. Chop the cabbages in half, then chop into pieces about 2cm in size, then rinse.

2. Put the cabbage into a large container, dissolve the salt in a jug of water and pour over the cabbage. You will then have to top up with more water until your cabbage is totally covered (unless your jug was gargantuan). Weigh the cabbage down so that it is completely submerged. Leave for 4-5 hourse, then drain, rinse and dry.

3. For the sauce, mix together the onion, garlic, chilli, ginger, soy sauce and sugar.

4. Cover the cabbage completely in the sauce, and pack into sterlised jars. Invert a couple of times, then pop into a cupboard for a couple of days, after which it should be starting to ferment and ready to serve. In normal kimchi, this is indicated because it starts bubbling, though this never happens to mine. Transfer the kimchi to the fridge.  If you don't want to eat it straight away, you can leave it to mature for longer. It will get richer and more sour over time, and then is better used as the base for sauces and soups rather than eaten on its own.

5. The kimchi is lovely served with sesame seeds, either as a snack on its own, with noodles as a simple lunch, or as a side to many different kinds of dishes. But don't get carried away and eat a whole jar in a couple of days, as a certain friend of mine recently did - your belly won't thank you for it! It is fermented cabbage, after all.

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