As part of my spice tours (which accompany my London Indian and Sri Lankan Cooking Classes) I often point out interesting vegetables at the grocers that I show clients. One vegetable that many are unfamiliar with, but that I love, is daikon, which is also known as white radish or mooli. It looks like a large (cucumber length) white turnip and is perfect for pickles – such as this one to put into your Vietnamese banh mi, but also kimchi, the Korean fermented cabbage side dish that is as ubiquitous in Korea as miso soup is in Japan. It is sauerkraut’s Korean cousin that has a fiery kick, a crunch and is terribly moreish. Being fermented it is packed full of good bacteria that is thought to boost immunity and improve digestion.
I was talking to a group the other day about kimchi, so thought that it might be useful if I pop up my recipe. With all this rain we have been having it’s the perfect time to do some pickle making in the warmth of your home. Living in London does have many benefits, one being that it is easy to get hold of all manner of interesting ingredients. When it comes to Korean ingredients I head over to Korea Foods in New Malden, but there are a number of Asian grocers all around London – and the UK – that will be equally good. Korean Foods though for me is a dream. I actually get excited to visit the place as it is such an eye opener. You can buy live fish, dim sum, every noodle on the planet, a wide range of tofu – you name it, if it’s Asian then they will stock it. As well as picking up the relevant ingredients I also picked up this pyrex container, which is perfect for making kimchi as it does not allow the kimchi ‘perfume’ to contaminate your house.
Now let me be very up front about this. Making Kimchi requires a little bit of commitment and patience as you won’t be able to eat it for a few weeks. It needs time to ferment and allow the good bacteria to grow. The initial slicing, dicing and mixing together is very straightforward. It then requires daily squelching to release the gases and submerge the cabbage. You need to store is in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, for up to 5 days before putting it in the fridge. The whole resting and fermenting period takes around 2 weeks. You can try a little as the days roll by to see how it tastes, but if you can try and wait for 2 weeks.
Let me know how you get on. I would love to hear what you think.
1 napa cabbage, halved lengthways and then quartered (core removed)
70g sea salt
water for soaking
1 tsp of fresh ginger, grated
5 cloves of fresh garlic, grated
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp salted shrimp (see 2nd photo from the top)
3 tbsp Korean red pepper flakes known as gochugaru
250g daikon, cut into 1 inch match sticks
5 spring onions cut into 1 inch matchsticks
1. First quarter the cabbage lengthways and then cut into 2 inch strips and place in a large bowl with the salt. Work the salt into the cabbage for a minute so that it softens and then add enough water so that it covers the cabbage. Cover the cabbage with a plate and press down using a heavy object. Leave to stand for 1 hour.
2. Drain the cabbage thoroughly under cold water a few times so the salt has been washed away. Leave to drain thoroughly.
3. Meanwhile prepare the paste by mixing the ginger, garlic, sugar, fish sauce and salted shrimp together, followed by the Korean red pepper flakes. Using your hands (I used washing up gloves) gently massage the paste into the daikon, spring onions and the now fully drained cabbage so that they are fully covered.
4. Transfer the kimchi into your pyrex jar and press down firmly so that the cabbage and vegetables are packed tightly.
5. Leave to stand out of direct sunlight for up to 5 days. Each day you need to complete the ritual of pressing down firmly so that the vegetables are submerged under the brine. Very pungent odours are released during this period of fermentation. Do not be put off as the end result will taste great. After the 5 days transfer to the fridge. If you leave it for another week or two in the fridge it will taste even better, but equally you can try some after the first 5 days.