Elwood 5566

It’s Kimchi Time – April 26th 2011

Posted in Food and Drink, it's kimchi time by 노강호 on April 26, 2011

This batch of kimchi turned out to be a further improvement on my technique. My cabbages were large and I have since been told that the best cabbages are not the largest, but ideally more middle sized ones.

3 large Chinese leaf cabbages (Napa)

washing the cabbages

Preparation –  Unless the outer leaves are very damaged or spoiled, keep them as they are excellent for use in bean paste soup and numerous other recipes.

slightly damaged leaves can be kept for other uses

Salting – The salting process was very speedy, perhaps three of four hours after-which the cabbages had reduced by almost half, become rag-like and capable of being wrung without tearing. Coarse salt (굵은 소금) is vital and sea salt the most preferable as table salt is ineffective in wilting the cabbages.This brand of salt has currently been the most effective.

if the right type of salt isn’t used wilting won’t occur

table salt is ineffective

coarse salt is best, preferably sea salt

the leaves after salting

in successful wilting there is around a 50% reduction in bulk

wilted – floppy and rag, like, can be bent without breaking, can be wrung like a dish-cloth

Pasting – I usually add ginger but decide to omit it from this batch. Further, I reduced the amount of down to 2 cups but I feel this is still too hot. When I later made bo-ssam kimchi, I decided that one cup for two fairly large cabbages was still a little to hot and intend reducing it a little more.

the paste ready to go

pasting the segments

ready to ‘pack’

For the most up to date and effective recipe for Kimchi, check My Recipes.

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©Amongst Other Things –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.

Basic Kimchi Recipe (adapted for those living in the UK)

Posted in My Recipes, Quintesentially Korean, recipes for Kimchi by 노강호 on February 13, 2011

the taste of a nation

I have a number of friends and family in the UK, most notably my sister, who have been asking me to give them a kimchi recipe despite there now being many great recipes available on the Internet. So, I have written up a recipe I use when in the UK where I can’t always get authentic ingredients and I need to make substitutions.

There are many different cabbage kimchi recipes encompassing different styles to regional variations. The fact kimchi is so varied makes it exciting and without doubt, everyone who makes kimchi does so slightly different from someone else. For Koreans, when mum makes kimchi, and I’ve only met a few men who can make it, their hands invest it with love.  This is the recipe I use for what is basically a straight forward kimchi comprising the basic ingredients.

Kimchi is very easy to make but it helps if you have some knowledge of how decent kimchi tastes so you are able to assess your endeavours and make adjustments to improve future attempts.

There are 9 basic ingredients:

Cabbage – Chinese leaf (called napa in the US). In the UK places like Tesco sell these but they are white, small and very stemmy. You will need 4 of these.

Mooli – once again this sometimes appear in supermarkets though they are small, skinny and bendy. Turnips, 3 0r 4 make a suitable alternative.

A whole bulb of garlic.

An inch or so of ginger. (I often omit this)

A bunch of chives or spring onions. (the type of onion Koreans use I have not seen in the UK)

Rice flour, though I have used plain flour. Not all recipes use this but I prefer paste slightly clingy)

Fish sauce – in the UK Thai Nam Pla is fine including ‘Squid’ brand.

Salt, like a whole box or packet. You will need Kosher salt or sea salt and not table salt.

Korean red pepper powder. You cannot substitute this but I have ordered it with easy in British Oriental supermarkets.

A good size plastic tub – like a Tupperware tub.

(Sugar – not all recipes use this)

Stage 1 cabbage preparation

Without any doubt the most neglected part of recipes on kimchi involve salting, and hence wilting the cabbages. All my early failures at kimchi making resulted from recipes that failed to explain this process. Getting this right is crucial but it is very simple.

1. Immerse cabbages in water. Then trim off discoloured bases, remove any bad leaves, and using a good knife begin to cut the cabbage in half from the base. Once about a third of the way into the cabbage, remove the knife and then simply tear the cabbages in half. If you have large cabbages you would in fact quarter them in this manner but if they are the small ones I’d simply half them.

Let the cabbages drain but don’t dry them.

Double check your using sea salt! Lay the cabbage half on its back, and then begin sprinkling salt on the lowest leaf, on the inside. You’ll need to raise the rest of the cabbage up to access it and at times, with a small cabbage, you can hold it in the palm of your hand and finger the leaves apart. Make sure you sprinkle salt into the base area where stems are thickest. You don’t need lots of salt, just a good pinch for each leaf. This process is finicky with small cabbages.

salting the cabbage

When all salted, put the cabbages in a bowl, throw a handful of salt over the top and then add a cup or two of water. Then simply leave them until wilted which may be between 2 hours to over night depending on the temperature. Turning them a few times during salting is useful.

leave for several hours or overnight

How do you know when the cabbages are ready to paste? First they will have reduced in volume considerably and the container will contain a lot more water. Most importantly, the cabbages should be limp and floppy j.  A good test is to wring one and it should wring just like a cloth, without tearing.

suitably wilted so that it is limp and like a wet cloth

Next, rinse them 3 times. To prevent the kimchi being too salty, you can immerse cabbages in water and feel where excess salt is as it will have a slimy feel. Simply remove this with your fingers. Make sure you wash between the leaves.

Finally, wring them to remove excess water which will otherwise dilute your paste. The cabbages are now ready to paste.

Stage 2 Preparing the other ingredients.

Grate the mooli (white turnips) and squeeze any fluid from them

grate the ginger

crush the garlic

chop the spring onions (chives)

Mix 2 tablespoons of rice flour (or plain flour) in a little cold water, until it is a runny paste, then add this to a pan containing 1 and a half cups of water. Heat this until it begin to boil, stirring it constantly and adding any additional water until it resembles porridge. As it begins to boil you can add a 1 tablespoon of sugar but this is optional. The ‘porridge’ provides some body to the paste and many Koreans do not use it. Personally, I quite like a thicker paste on kimchi though not too long after fermentation, the paste will have become diluted regardless.

Stage 3 making the paste

Put the rice flour porridge in a large bowl

Add half a cup of fish sauce

3 cups of red chili powder

Add garlic, ginger, onion and mooli

Mix them all together into  a paste being careful not to burn your fingers on the porridge mix.

Stage 4 pasting up the leaves

kimchi pasting

This process is almost the same as salting the leaves; lay each cabbage on its back and staring with the inside lowest leaf, paste on the mixture. Any leftover paste I simply spread over the top unless there is a lot when I might freeze it for later use. Segments should be placed in a Tupperware container with each segment being laid in a head-tail-head order. They pack better this way.

Some General Points

Where to store kimchi – basically, if  it’s summer in the fridge and if winter, somewhere cold but not freezing. Kimchi ferments and as it does so the taste is altered. Part of the fun in making kimchi is in controlling the fermentation so you keep your batch in the condition in which you best enjoy it.

Fermenting kimchi – You can eat kimchi immediately. Prior and during fermentation, kimchi has a very fresh taste where individual ingredients are distinct.  The kimchi will also be lively in colour. At this stage the kimchi can be salty but as fermentation and infusing continues, saltiness is lost. Some saltiness or even heat (spiciness) can be compensated with some additional sugar. If it has lost saltiness you can adjust this at this stage. Stems may still be slightly firm and thick stems may still have a little crunch left in them despite being wilted.  Be prepared for some bad smells during this period. Fermentation can last up to  a week depending on temperature and in comfortable room temperature (21 degrees) you can expect the lid of the Tupperware container to pop open about once every 24 hours. I’ve slept in the same room as fermenting kimchi and no longer find the aroma unpleasant but the released gasses will easily scent a room with what some will consider a very unpleasant smell.

Fermented kimchi – individual flavours are much less distinguishable, saltiness is reduced and the paste has probably thinned and increased considerably.  Don’t worry; this is delicious in stews and soups. I often make minor adjustment to saltiness and sweetness.

Aged Kimchi – aged kimchi draws your mouth with its sourness and if you appreciated this type of kimchi, there is a point, which differs for each ‘connoisseur,’ where the balance of saltiness, acidity, and sweetness combine to provide an exquisite taste.    I often add a little sugar or salt to this kimchi in order to balance the mixture exactly as I like it however; it never produces the same sensation as it does when the balance is naturally right.  Aged kimchi is slightly yellower in colour and the stems slightly translucent. What aged kimchi might lack in lustre is compensated by its mature taste.

Once you know how you like kimchi you can move your Tupperware pot in order to slow down or suspend fermentation. After the kimchi has stopped releasing gas, it will continue to mellow but at a much slower rate and during winter months or when it is kept in a cool place or the fridge, the taste will differ very little over several months.

Very old kimchi, over six months might have mould on the surface but don’t throw it away; wash the mould of the top segments and the kimchi is still edible but much better for use in stews.


kimchi  segments packed head to tail style

If you can obtain minari, as you can in Korea, a bunch of this, chopped can be added along with the spring onion, garlic and ginger.

Good luck and don’t be afraid to experiment as you gain experience!

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

It's Kimchi Time – November 2010

Posted in Diary notes, it's kimchi time, My Recipes, recipes for Kimchi, vegetables by 노강호 on November 12, 2010

Usually, around this time of year I make a new batch of kimchi. The last batch was made in May and  since August or thereabouts, I have occasionally had to wash mold from the top leaves, which has been excellent in kimchi-stew. However, I didn’t really enjoy it as a side-dish. To be honest, my May batch had a bad start as once again the first process, salting the leaves, didn’t go well. This time I  consulted a couple of grandmothers who recommended the coarsest salt. So, after finding two very tight, and heavy cabbages, at 6000 Won, (£3), I sprinkled the leaves with salt and rather than immerse them in water, just sprinkled a cup’s worth over the top. The cabbages took about 24 hours to completely flop but this might not be unusual as the temperature was quite cool, if not cold, in my kitchen.

tight and heavy

salting process

suitably limp

I was also extra careful making the paste and this time used twice as much of everything except the fish sauce which I reduced a little. I was also careful to wash the salt off the cabbages and let them stand in water for an hour as in the past they have remained salty.

ready to paste the leaves

The sauce was slightly sweeter than usual and the consistency much thicker which I think was the result of carefully draining the leaves and using double the ingredients stipulated in Maangchi’s recipe. I didn’t alter the recipe and simply made double the amount. A few friends suggested it needs some additional salt which is fine as too little can be remedied but too much can’t.

the finished product

Don’t forget, for a great recipe for making kimchi, visit Maangchi.

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© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

Cabbage Kimchi

Posted in Quintesentially Korean by 노강호 on May 17, 2010

Salted cabbage

You can’t have a blog on Korea without there being a post on Kimchi. Oh, I’m not going to recite a recipe as there are a number of brilliant sites able to do this much better than I. Ten years ago there was nothing on the internet about making kimchi, Korean history, Hanja and so forth but now it all awaits you at the stroke of a key. This week some one asked me if I prefer Korean food or western food? Well, being a fat twat, I like all food. But at this moment a roast dinner consisting roast potatoes, pork with crackling, homemade gravy and garden peas and sprouts would be my choice. Yes, in Korea I miss English food but I only have to be back in the UK a few days to pine for Korean food. Nowadays, I’ve usually prepared a batch of kimchi within a day or two of arriving back home, ready for when I suffer kimchi withdrawal symptoms. Making kimchi in the UK can often be a little problematic so I’ve include some suggestions here should it prove difficult to find quintessentially Korean ingredients.

Moo (무), usually called Mooli. Be prepared to have to buy moo which looks like a big white carrot and is so stale you can bend it in half without it snapping. Tesco’s often sell them. If you can’t buy moo, white turnips are a good substitute.

Thread Onion (실파) – a good substitute is spring onion or better still, chives.

Anchovy fish sauce – (액젓) the Thai version, easily available, is indistinguishable (in my opinion).

Minari  (미나리) – I have read some people use water cress for this but I’ve never tried it. Parsley might also be an option but I’d choose the flat leaf rather than curled. If I cant use minari, and in the UK, I have never been able to buy it though it is probably available in areas with  a Korean population (eg, New Malden), I have simply left it out.

Chinese leaf cabbage (배추) – bought in a place such as Tesco’s are always shit quality. Small, probably four times smaller than an average real cabbage, almost pure white, and around £1 (2000W) each. They are difficult to cut properly and I have often cut them up rather than try to keep them in sections.

MAKING KIMCHI TIPS  (these are my tips recorded for my own benefit. If you want to jump straight to Maangchi’s kimchi making video, providing clear instructions in several different formats, click the photo below.

Maangchi! The Queen of Korean cooking

One sure way to impress both Koreans and wayguks is to be able to say you can make kimchi. No! despite what you have been told, it is not a difficult process. After some trials and experimentation you will find it easy to ‘fine tune’ kimchi to your own particular preferences. There are very many different versions of cabbage kimchi both  in terms of individuals recipes and in the taste of kimchi as it ‘matures.’

The price of seasonal goods in Korea can alter drastically depending on the weather and other factors. Currently Chinese cabbage (배추) is increasing in price due the late start of spring but in December, when I made my last batch, one large cabbage was 1000W (50 pence) and two of these were enough to provide me kimchi for about six weeks. This morning I found it very difficult to but cabbage in the market and when I did find some it was rather manky and expensive. Currently, cabbage is a bout 300% more expensive than in December. Make sure you scrutinize the underlying leaves and beware of  ones which appear eaten as some pest burrow into the cabbage. A tell tale sign are brown smudges on the leaves. If you’re buying cabbages in the west you won’t encounter this problem but the quality will be much poorer.  A cabbage, apart from the outer leaves, should be tight.

Two good size cabbages

Two good size cabbages

Outer leaves removed

Quarter about 2-3 inches into the base and tear apart rather than cleave them into sections

The most boring part is salting between the leaves. I was originally taught to rub the salt into leaves but on several web sites, Maangchi, for example, they leaves are sprinkled. I found this just as effective and much less tiresome.

standing in salt

When the cabbage section are adequately salted, they should be floppy,and in a state where they can be ‘rung’ like a cloth without tearing. They will also have reduced significantly in volume.

Limp and floppy

Other  ingredients include:

Mooli (moo) 무

Minari and thread onion (미나리, 실파)

Rice flour and fish sauce

Ready to be stored

Storage in a Kimchi pot

Or in a 'Tupperware' box

Great links for making Kimchi: Maangchi

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