Kimichi – Sauerkraut’s Korean cousin

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.

 

Cabbage Kimchi

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.

 


Broccoli, Mushroom and Sesame Salad from Korean Food Made Simple by Judy Joo

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Korean food has come a long way – from a mainstream perspective –  in the UK over the last couple of years. I wrote an article for Country & Town House Magazine about it being the ‘next big thing’ a couple of years ago – you can read the article here. Whilst a number of exciting Korean restaurants have sprung up in the centre of London giving us the chance to sample a wide range of mouth watering dishes, I sense we are still a little reluctant to cook it in the home. This reluctance mainly comes from not being familiar with the ingredients and knowing what to cook exactly. Recently however there have been a couple of Korean recipe books published that will no doubt give many the confidence to give Korean cooking a try in the home.

Korean Food Made Simple

Korean Food Made Simple by Judy Joo, photography by Jean Cazals. Published by Jacqui Small (£22). More information on the book can be found here.

Judy Joo’s ‘Korean Food Made Simple’ is what we’ve all being waiting for. In many respects we want our hands held whilst we get familiar with Korean cooking and once we build in confidence we want to attempt dishes that challenge our new skills. Joo’s book gives a wonderful taster of Korean food and guides us on what we need to buy before we embark on this new culinary venture. Her store cupboard chapter is very useful as she spells out all the ingredients that are used in the recipes within the book. If I had to narrow ingredients down for first time Korean cooking I would suggest you buy: Doenjang (Korean soya bean paste), Gochujang (Korean chilli paste) and Gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes). With these few ingredients you can begin to make some of the dishes.

Late Night Naughty Noodles

Korean Food Made Simple by Judy Joo, photography by Jean Cazals. Published by Jacqui Small (£22). More information on the book can be found here.

Joo’s chapters go through the usual chicken, beef & lamb, seafood etc but also have a section on salads and veggies, pancakes, dumplings and other small bites, kimchi and pickles, sauces and breads. There is a lot to read and digest and the beautiful photographs both of the recipes and of Joo and Korea itself really engage the reader and encourage you to try making some of the recipes.

Joo’s rise in the culinary world has been impressive. After a successful stint on Wall Street in New York as a fixed income derivatives sales, Joo felt something was missing in her life. Whilst she liked her job she knew that she had to go down a different path to feel completely fulfilled. Hence she quit and enrolled in cooking school at the French Culinary Institute in New York, which gave her a culinary foundation that she could then build upon. Fast forward to today and she hosts her own cooking show – Korean Food Made Simple – and is regularly on TV. In addition she has opened her own restaurant in London and Hong Kong – Jinjuu –  where she is Chef Patron.

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Korean Food Made Simple by Judy Joo, photography by Jean Cazals. Published by Jacqui Small (£22). More information on the book can be found here.

‘Korean Food Made Simple’ is Joo’s first cookbook. The book itself is immediately striking because of it’s lustrous copper, yellow and lilac cover and the glossy photographs within, by Jean Cazals, capture the essence of Korea and Joo’s recipes exceedingly well. It’s the type of book that you want take time to pour over, with stunning photographs of Korean street life and food, architecture and it’s people. The narrative  also sets the scene and gives the reader the encouragement to start cooking Korean food themselves. I think Joo has managed to balance many easy and delicious Korean recipes to prepare at home along with more ‘cheffy’ recipes for those who want their skills to be pushed. The recipes themselves range between classics, classics with a twist and fusion largely owing to Joo’s Korean upbringing in America. She describes herself as a ‘French-trained Korean American Londoner; and the different influences in my life show up in my cooking’.

Many of her recipes appeal – mixed rice bowl with beef, known as bibimbap, is a great one to start with if you want to dive straight into a Korean main course, making your own kimchi is a must – it really is not as hard as you think. Once you have mastered that you can then make all many of delicious treats – kimchi fried rice or pork belly and kimchi stir-fry with tofu as examples.  I adore seabass and Joo has an enticing ‘steamed ginger sea bass’ that I will be trying in the months ahead. On the fusion front I particularly love the sound of the pork tacos and krazy Korean burgers (shown below).

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Korean Food Made Simple by Judy Joo, photography by Jean Cazals. Published by Jacqui Small (£22). More information on the book can be found here.

I made her ‘Broccoli, Mushroom and Sesame Salad’ (see the 1st photo on this blog post), which is light, fresh and super quick to rustle up. The Korean ingredients transform the broccoli and mushrooms giving the dish a real Korean taste. Broccoli is so good for you – check out this interesting article on its health benefits. I did not have Korean apple vinegar, but instead opted for the rice vinegar, which Joo says is a good alternative. Korean ingredients are beginning to be sold more mainstream, although I tend to make the trip to Korean Foods in New Malden. For those living out of London you can easily purchase the Korean staples from a number of online supermarkets who’ll send them to you – Oriental Mart – for example. I would love to hear how you get on with some of her recipes so leave a comment in the comments section of this blog post.

Broccoli, Mushroom and Sesame Salad

Serves 4

2 tbsp roasted sesame seeds

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp Korean apple vinegar (sagwa-shikcho) or rice vinegar

1/4 tsp of Korean chilli flakes (gochugaru)

2 cloves garlic, finely grated

175g broccoli florets

115g button mushrooms, stems tried and thinly sliced

2 spring onion, thinly sliced on an angle

  1. Slice, grate and prepare the garlic, spring onions, mushrooms and broccoli.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
  3. In a separate bowl add ice (or very cold water). Place to one side.
  4. In a frying pan toast the sesame seeds for a couple of minutes so that they bronze slightly in colour and let off a nutty smell. Place them in a large bowl along with the sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, chilli flakes, garlic and salt to taste.
  5. Place the broccoli florets to boiling water for no longer than 2 minutes. Strain and immediately plunge the florets into the ice bowl so as to stop the cooking process.
  6. Add the blanched broccoli, mushrooms and spring onions to the bowl with the dressing to coat thoroughly.
  7. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with more chilli flakes and serve.