Elwood 5566

Transformed by a Weed – Shepherd’s Purse with Kimchi Stew (냉이 김치 찌개)

Posted in Food and Drink, Kimchi Gone Fusion, recipes for Kimchi by 노강호 on June 26, 2012

Key Features: an excellent side dish or main meal, adaptable and healthy

Kimchi Jjigae is one of the most common dishes on the Korean peninsula and while the main ingredients are basically the same, tuna, saury and pork are often added. And you can just as easily omit them! Koreans eat kimchi jjigae all the year around but for westerners used to dreary, dark, grey winters, this stew would be considered a seasonal companion. As with other foods which stew cabbage kimchi, the older the kimchi the better. You can use fresh kimchi but the taste is far richer and with a greater depth if your kimchi is nice and sour.

Like many similar Korean foods, the recipe is very adaptable and you can easily jiggle it about and experiment. This recipe uses shepherd’s purse which while in Korea is probably classified as a herb, in the UK, is most definitely an irksome weed – especially if you are into lawns. Shepherd’s purse has quite an amazing taste and a small amount can transform kimchi jjigae into another dish. If you were to add the same amount of parsley to jjigae the effect would not be as marked as to warrant including ‘parsley’ in the recipe title.

MY DEFINITIVE RECIPE

1 cup = 180ml. T=tablespoon (15ml), d=dessert spoon (10ml) t=teaspoon (5ml) 

This recipe is ideal for one, or as a side dish – double ingredients for each additional person

SHOPPING LIST

Pork, any cut about the size of a large dice though you can add more. Chop into small pieces. Conversely, you can leave it out altogether.

2T Wine (any will do though I prefer rice wine)

1d Soy Sauce (간장)

1d Sesame oil

1 cube (4 cloves) of crushed garlic.

1d Sugar or corn syrup (물엿)

Half a cup of onion, or leek and straw mushrooms (this could be substituted), all finely chopped

0.5t of dashida (다시다) or a stock cube

1t of sesame powder

1T of red pepper paste (고추장)

1t Red pepper powder (고추가루), depending on taste

Half a cup of Kimchi (sour is preferable), chopped

Tofu, cut to about the size of six small dice cubes

Shepherd’s purse (냉이) about a third of a cup.

Sesame seeds for garnish

3-4 cups of water

See also suggested accompaniments at the bottom of the page.

EQUIPMENT

Ideally as an earthenware pot or ‘ttukbeki’ (뚝배기) or a heavy bottomed sauce pan.

RECIPE

Make a marinade with:

1. 2T wine, 1d soy sauce, 1d sesame oil, 1d sugar or corn syrup, 1 cube or 4 cloves of crushed garlic, (5 items)

2. Put the pork in the marinade and leave from two hours or overnight.

COOKING

In a heavy bottomed pot or Korean earthenware ‘ttukbeki,’ place:

3. The marinade, half a cup of onions and mushroom, 6 cubes of tofu, 0.5t of dashida stock, 1t sesame powder. (6 items)

4. Then add 1d red pepper paste and approx 1t of red pepper powder. (2 items)

5. Finally, add 3 cups of water, a third of a cup of shepherd’s purse and half a cup of kimchi.  (3 items)

6. Bring to boil, allowing it to vigorously boil for five minutes and then simmer on a low heat for 30 mins. Top up with extra water to maintain original amount.

7. Remove from the heat, garnish with sesame seeds and serve.

 SERVING SUGGESTIONS        

Serve with an accompanying bowl of rice.

ONGOING NOTES:

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©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.

Killing Kimchi and Murdering Makgeolli!

Posted in 'Westernization' of Korea, Food and Drink, rice wine (beer), vodcast by 노강호 on March 10, 2012

I’ve recently posted my new video on how to make makgeolli, but before that…

One of my Korean friends recently questioned the point of making makgeolli when it is so much easier to buy! Where do you begin? I love randomness! I hate straight cucumbers, regimented onions and all vegetables that have been forced to conform. Back in Europe, the big supermarkets, citadels of conformity, reject fruit and vegetables that aren’t a specific size and shape and I can remember a few years ago when it was a common sight to see piles of onions on the edge of a field that farmers couldn’t sell and to which you could help yourself. If I recall, it was a kind protest by farmers against the big buyers. One of the vegetables I hate buying in Korea is the courgette-like vegetable which you only seem able to buy encased in a plastic straight-jacket. Trapped inside its constraint, every vegetable grows to exactly the same dimensions and no more. What ‘ fascist farmers’ forum’ decide on the specific dimensions of a courgette?

bent and wonky – banned by the big supermarkets

Market forces have already started killing kimchi and makgeolli. Fermentation processes, in which the development of something continues post the point of production, hinder the standardization that supermarkets encourage. It might seem an irrelevant point now, but I know several Korean women who can’t make kimchi and instead rely on their mothers for a regular supply. As for Korean men, most just about have the culinary skills to add water to  a pot of ramyon (noodles) or make a cup of coffee – with mix. Sorry guys! . When the older generation of kimchi makers have died out, I would imagine a lot of women will turn to supermarkets for their fix of kimchi and from that point the gradually numbing of taste buds will lead to shit, factory made kimchi becoming the bench mark.

MacDonald’s have done exactly the same with the noble burger. If you’ve ever had a real American burger, ‘loaded,’ you’ll know how superior they are. In the USA, I’d say most people have no idea what real chocolate tastes like after years of rape by crap like Hershey’s. British people aren’t more discerning. I once gave a class of 17-year-old British kids decent chocolate (Lindt 70% milk, Excellence) and the most common and mediocre of British chocolate (Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, around 26% chocolate), which is substantially better quality the Hershey’s ersatz chocolate. They didn’t know which was which but they mostly voted the inferior chocolate the best.  And British people are beginning to forget what real pork and bacon is like after years of abuse by pork that is pumped full of water and bacon that is similarly sodden with water and then ‘smoked’ by chemicals. Most British pork and bacon you can no longer fry as it ends up swimming in so much water they are effectively braised. Impregnation with water is what is probably going to happen with pork in Korea, which will rain torrents on samy-kyeop-sal (Korean pork barbecue) and kimchi and mekgeolli, in the hands of factory processes and supermarkets, will probably end up being similarly adulterated.

Take kimchi for example, the taste changes over anything up to several years and ‘maturation’ is greatly affected by temperature. Fermentation introduces random elements into food production that factory systems don’t like and it is safer for the image of brands to have products that are always mediocre, and hence reliable in their mediocrity, than ones where random elements occasionally deal both superb and inferior products. Most of our factory food, whether it be fast food burgers to almost anything in a supermarket, has been reduced to mediocrity. I remember when Indian restaurants in Britain all differed from each other. Not only was chicken served ‘on’ or ‘off the bone,’ choices you are never given today, but every restaurant cooked differently because the companies that were to supply all the ‘cook in sauces,’ standardise them and dominant the industry, had not yet been developed. Restaurants depended on the skills and creative talents of their chefs and eating out in an Indian was a culinary experience. I’ve even eaten curry garnished with melted silver leaf (varq) but again, you no longer see this creative addition. Standardization has killed the curry to the point crap factory products become the bench mark and preferred taste and in the process the chef is deskilled and becomes a ‘cook.’  Now, you can eat a korma in Newcastle or Cornwall and it will taste and look exactly the same – usually sickly yellow, sweet, and populated by uniform cubes of tasteless chicken.  Yes, it’s cooked in a restaurant but the components are produced by mass factory processes. Even the pickles are now mass-produced.

It was the variation and randomness of British Indian restaurants that made them so exciting and  it is currently the same variation that enlivens the experience of kimchi and makgeolli. Like most of the makgeolli type drinks you can now buy, and most of the packaged kimchi, the fermentation process has been terminated. Ten years ago, all makgeolli bottles had a hole on the top to allow the fermentation process to continue and so was packeted kimchi. Today, they are treated to kill the  micro-organisms which so miraculously collaborate to transform a pile of boring cabbage into kimchi and rice into makgeolli. You don’t really appreciate the explosive potential of makgeolli until you’ve brewed it and believe me, it can pack a punch far more powerful than champagne.

The allure of making your own makgeolli and kimchi, lies in the fascinating interplay, a kaleidoscope  of activity, that is produced when enzymes and environment collide and every production is a little different – and the difference continues to develop. And they are so very much alive; both kimchi and real makgeolli have a ‘zing’ that is absent when bottled or packeted. No matter how good a commercial makgeolli or kimchi is there is something they lack and quite simply, it is life. Homemade kimchi and makgeolli are full of ‘zeng’ (ie – ‘saeng,’ 생 -生), which is the Hanja (Character) for ‘life’ or ‘living.’ The moment you taste real kimchi or real makgeolli you taste life, it has a quality that with clinically dead food is only ever an approximation. Bottled makgeolli, boiled to death, is artificially resuscitated and put on a carbonated life support but despite the bubbles and facade of life, it is a zombie in comparison to makgeolli that has been allowed to retain its miraculous micro-organic population.

If you want kimchi that is always ever just, ‘just’ (그냥), well, the Chinese are making it in abundance. In my local Chinese store in the UK you can buy Kimchi made in the PRC that has not only been killed prior to packaging, but suitably embalmed in liquid chemical environment hostile to any micro-organic activity and then entombed in a can! And believe me, it tastes as bad as it sounds.

Kimchi and makgeolli are incredibly easy to make and doing so is fun. Homemade kimchi is much cheaper than the packet, supermarket variety and you can make around 8 liters of makgeolli from about 1.3 kilograms of rice (costing about 6000W – £6) which compared with shop bought makgeolli, is about half price. But more to the point, it is more about preserving taste and culture, than cost!

For more information on making makgeolli, visit Mister Makgeolli , and for information on making kimchi, visit: Kimchi Gone Fusion.

 Bathhouse Ballads chronicles many aspects of my life in South Korea. Kimchi Gone Fusion focuses on ‘the way of the pickled cabbage’ while Mister Makgeolli is dedicated to Korean rice wine.

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©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Pork Kimchi Jjim – 돼지 김치찜 – My Recipes

Posted in Food and Drink, Kimchi Gone Fusion, My Recipes, recipes for Kimchi by 노강호 on February 13, 2012

Key Features: Korean fusion / very healthy / adaptable

Pork Kimchi Jjim

I’ve lived for almost five years with one of Daegu’s best pork kimchi jjim restaurants less than 10 seconds walk from my front door. I very quickly developed a taste for this tasty dish and over the years have managed to gleam a few tips to help me reproduce it. This recipe is best with sour, aged kimchi, indeed the older the better. Even kimchi of a year old and which has started to grow a layer of mold on the top, can be washed clean and used for this truly satisfying and healthy meal.

The best cut of meat for this is pork leg and if you have time to cook on a low heat for an hour or more, you can cut the meat in large chunks about 1.5-2 inches square. My local restaurant cooks the pork, in large chunks, for several hours until it melts in your mouth. For quicker versions you can reduce the cooking time by cutting meat into smaller portions. If this is the case avoid more fatty cuts of meat – such as pork leg.

MY DEFINITIVE RECIPE

1 cup = 180ml. T=tablespoon (15ml), d=dessert spoon (10ml) t=teaspoon (5ml)

This recipe is ideal for one large portion – double ingredients for each additional person

SHOPPING LIST

240 grams pork tenderloin (목살) or front leg (앞다리). If you have time, leg is preferable.

2T Wine

1d Soy Sauce (간장)

1T Sesame oil

1d Sugar

1 cube or 4 cloves of crushed garlic

Half an inch of finely chopped ginger

Half a Spanish onion roughly chopped

Mooli – about same amount as onion, diced, but omit if this is a main component in your kimchi. White turnip is a good substitute.

0.5t of dashida or a stock cube

1t of sesame powder

1T Mild bean paste

1t Red pepper powder

1 cup of Kimchi, sour is preferable

Sesame powder

Sesame seeds and or pine nuts for garnish

3-4 cups of water

See also suggested accompaniments at the bottom of the page.

EQUIPMENT

Ideally as an earthenware pot or ‘ttukbeki’ (뚝배기) or a heavy bottomed sauce pan.

RECIPE

1. MARINADE

Cut the meat into cubes about an inch square. Then, make a marinade with:

2T wine, soy sauce (간장), 1T sesame oil, 1d sugar,1 cube or 4 cloves of crushed garlic, half an inch of finely chopped ginger (7 items)

Put the pork in the marinade and leave from two hours or overnight.

2.  COOKING

In a heavy bottomed pot or Korean earthenware ‘ttukbeki,’ place:

Half a Spanish onion roughly chopped and the same amount of mooli (or white turnip) omitting this if it features in the kimchi. (2 items)

0.5t of dashida or a stock cube and 1t of sesame powder. (2 items)

1T Mild bean paste

1t Red pepper powder

1 cup of Kimchi

Then add the marinade and bring back to the boil, boiling for five minutes before reducing the heat to a simmer for 25 minutes. You will need to add around 1 cup of extra water during simmering. If my meat is cut larger than inch cubes, and if I’m using the more fatty leg meat, I will cook on a low heat for up to an hour – until the meat is at a stage where easily falls apart. Stir occasionally and add extra water to maintain the original level.

Before serving and an extra teaspoon of sesame oil, some sesame seeds and/or pine nuts.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS        

Serve with an accompanying bowl of rice and a selection of side dishes (반찬) and laver bread (김).

ONGOING NOTES:

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©努江虎 – 노강호 2012  Creative Commons Licence.

Cabbage Kimchi (Sun-hee version) My Recipes

Posted in Food and Drink, it's kimchi time, Kimchi Gone Fusion, My Recipes by 노강호 on January 6, 2012

‘Kimjang’ – the Korean kimchi making season between mid November and December

Without doubt, cabbage kimchi is the most important item in the Korean kitchen. Not only is it an important side dish, accompanying most meals, but essential base in a number of other recipes. Kimchi is a ‘keynote,’ a defining feature of Korean culture and mastering its production will gain you much respect in the eyes of Koreans. There are not only geographical variations on the recipe, but family and personal ones and homemade kimchi is infinitely superior to that bought in supermarkets. This recipe was taught to me by my friend Sun-hui (순희) and it has proved to be a very successful.

Key Features: very healthy / relatively easy to make/ an essential Korean food

MY DEFINITIVE RECIPE

 1 cup = 180ml. T=tablespoon (15ml), d=dessert spoon (10ml) t=teaspoon (5ml)

SHOPPING LIST

1 large Chinese leaf cabbage (Napa) weighing about about 1.25 kilograms

I cup of mooli (무)

0.5 cup of red pepper powder (고추가루)

2T rice flour

0.25 cup of Fish sauce (액젓) plus more if required

24 cloves of crushed garlic

1. inch piece of fresh root ginger, grated

1cup of chives or wild leek (실파/부추)

0.75 cup of salt (sea salt, kosher, rock, 호렴)

1d Sugar

3 cups of water

Kimjang in Cheonan

SUBSTITUTES IF YOU’RE LIVING IN THE UK

Mooli can be substituted with white turnip but I would grate it rather than dice it.

Red pepper powder must be Korean (고추가루) and not chili powder.

Rice flour can be replaced with standard flour and many Koreans use this in Korea.

Fish sauce (액젓) can be either anchovy (멸치) or sand-lance (까나리) but Thai type squid sauces will suffice.

Chives are best but wild leek is better and after these small spring onions without the bulbs.

Salt – sea salt (Maldon) and rough salt such as rock salt or kosher salt are highly important. Table salt is totally ineffective at wilting the cabbage leaves!

EQUIPMENT

A large plastic basin

A plastic Tupperware type container

Possibly a muslin type bag

Rubber gloves

SALTING

  1. If the cabbage is a large one, cut it lengthwise into quarters and wash it. Then chop the cabbage into pieces about 1 wide and a few inches long. Wash the chopped cabbage and drain. Next dice the mooli into small pieces approx an inch square and a quarter of an inch thick and add them to the cabbage. Put the mixture in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and then and 1.5 cups of water. Fold the mixture, pat down firmly and leave for about 12 hours turning once after six hours or so. 12 hours should ensure the cabbage is fully wilted but often it is ready much earlier than this. You should notice the volume of cabbage reduces by about half as wilting occurs.

PREPARING THE PASTE

When the cabbage is ready, wash it three times in clean water and thoroughly drain. I use a muslin bag for this process so I can squeeze out excess water. This process ensures the paste doesn’t become too watery though some people prefer it such. Set the cabbage aside.

2. Chop the chives into pieces about an inch long

3.  Crush the garlic and chop the ginger into small slivers.

4.  In a large plastic bowl, put the:

Red pepper powder (0.5 cup)

Chives (1 cup)

Ginger

Garlic

0.25 of a cup of fish sauce

sugar (1d)

5. Mix the flour in a little cold water and then heat a pan containing 1.5 cups of water. Add the flour mixture to this and stir until it is starts to boil. The flour paste needs to be the consistency of porridge so add more flour as required. When ready add this to the ingredients in the large bowl.

6. Mix the ingredients with a spoon and then, when you are not in danger of scalding, with your hands (you might want to wear rubber gloves for this process).

7. Add the cabbage mixture to the paste and thoroughly fold them together.

8. You can now taste the kimchi and if necessary add additional fish sauce to increase the saltiness. I hold back on using 0.5 of a cup to allow me more control over saltiness.

9. Put the kimchi in a Tupperware type container and pack down firmly to remove air pockets.

Kimchi does not need to be fermented and many people prefer kimchi when it is fresh. However, fermentation will begin immediately, indeed it has already begun. It can be kept in part of the fridge where it won’t freeze though you can leave it in room temperature for a few days to speed up fermentation. The lid will pop off the tub every day as gases build up but the smell grows on you!

Kimchi keeps for a very long time and even after a year it has its uses. Personally, I have used kimchi older than a year and have read of people using kimchi that was 3 years of age. My year old kimchi had a small layer of mold on the top but this washed off.  Aged kimchi, tart and sour, is a delicious basis for kimchi stew (kimchi jjim – 김치 찜) and far superior to fresh kimchi.

delicious..

ON GOING NOTES

None! The recipe is perfected!

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© 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.

It’s Kimchi Time – Killing the Kimchi

Posted in Food and Drink, it's kimchi time, seasons by 노강호 on November 9, 2011

Over the years I’ve had several temper tantrums which have resulted in my wrecking some valuable possessions. I’m not ashamed as I usually only ever lose my temper with objects, this being preferable to losing it with people, and the tantrum is never public. That I will talk to inanimate objects during a tantrum certainly curtails where they occur. The catalogue of damages is extensive: I’ve axe kicked a television, stabbed a pair of Japanese sai into a DVD player, wrapped a Gemeinhardt flute around the leg of a table, kicked to death a hard-drive that was being lazy and a thumped a laptop which used the Vista system. Let’s face it! Microsoft’s Vista deserved a more humiliating and public demise and after being forced to spend around £120 to purchase the latest Word package (it wouldn’t work with earlier ones), I am totally in favour of pirating anything Microsoft.  I remember the days before Gates got totally greedy, when Word was a standard part of the Windows operating system. But I’m digressing…

Sun-hee. My kimchi guru

Recently however, I’ve taken my tantrums out on kimchi that hasn’t wilted properly when doused with salt. A few weeks ago a cabbage that refused to wilt was given a stern talking to before being savagely torn to shreds. This weekend I got so annoyed with a badly behaved Napa that I ripped it apart and then cursing, dumped half a sack of salt on the remains. I realised, as about 4 kilograms of salt was burying the cabbage, that this was overkill and such a quantity was likely create a meltdown rather than encourage some wilting but in the heat of the monent all rationality evaporates. Later in the day, I met some friends who taking pity on my endeavours, came to my one room armed with two large cabbages and a new bag of salt.

preparing cabbages for salting

There is no doubt that salting cabbage is the most problematic part of the kimchi making and yet in so many recipes the process is treated with such abandon you’d think a cabbage liable to wilt the moment the salt is brought into the same room. For the last few months I’ve made kimchi every weekend making small amendments to the previous week’s recipe or trying entirely different ones. This weekend I’d tried a recipe from a very well-known western chef who soaked his cabbages in water in which two cups of salt had been dissolved. Unfortunately, despite using the correct type of salt, the cabbages were fresher after twenty-four hours soaking than they were when I’d immersed them. The problems of salting are well documented on sites such as Maangchi where there are numerous comments on both inadequate wilting and excessively salty kimchi.

The most effective wilting method I’ve used is rubbing coarse salt into each leaf  and while this produces the quickest response, the process is tedious. Coarse salt, such as Kosher or sea salt are  imperative as a Napa cabbage (Chinese cabbage), is impervious to even the largest quantities of table salt. I usually make kimchi with quartered cabbages whereas Sun-hee’s chopped one large cabbage, around 1 kilogram, before folding  3/4 of a cup of coarse salt through it. Rather than grate mooli (무)  as I usually do, she then added about 2 cups cubed. After tossing the mixture, it was firmly pressed down and left to stand over night. I was then instructed to ‘stir’ it in the morning and leave it for a further hour after-which it was to be washed three times.  Not only was this salting process superior to other methods I’ve used, but it used less salt. Consequently, the taste of the prepared cabbage wasn’t salty which meant the actual saltness could be easily controlled by how much ‘fish sauce’ was added in the final part of the paste making process.

Chun-hee and Sun-hee. Spot the makeolli!

I’ve also discovered that using dried chillies to make you own pepper powder (고추 가루) can be problematic. The dried chillies I bought are slightly smaller than the ones I usually see and are thus hotter. Consequently much less is required to make kimchi paste. I recently used only half a cup powder for one large cabbage (1kg). While my latest kimchi is tasty it has lost the vigorous, rich red colour and I intend to return shop bought chili powder in the future.

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

More on Cabbage Kimchi – Some Guidelines

‘decanted’ after over two months and deliciously sour

This post was originally published in February 2011 and is now updated.

I am now quite proud of my cabbage kimchi, a skill which has taken me about ten years to get right. One reason why it takes a long time to make decent kimchi is that you have to develop a sense of what constitutes a good kimchi and an awareness of kimchi at different stages of fermentation. Unless you have a cultivated appreciation of what Kimchi is, and by that I mean an awareness of kimchi that a Korean would enjoy and not what you personally think it should taste like, your kimchi will never be authentic. The subtleties of kimchi are as intricate and extensive as wine or Indian curry  and an appreciation is important if you are to use a recipe to guide you.

There exist many recipes for cabbage kimchi, regional, personal and for accompanying certain meals; bo-ssam (boiled, sliced pork, 보쌈) for example, uses a special type of kimchi. I am concerned here with the standard type of kimchi that accompanies the majority of Korean foods and which can be divided into two categories, fresh and sour.  There is of course, a range of flavours in between these extremes. Many Koreans have a preference for one or the other and foods which use kimchi as a major constituent, as for example with kimchi stew (김치 찌개 or 김치찜), suit one or the other.

scary yes, but tasty

I’m told by Korean friends that big cabbages are not the best to use and that medium sized ones, which compared to Britain are enormous, are the most suitable. The outer leaves are trimmed and unless damaged these shouldn’t  be thrown away as they can be used in other recipes.

One of the most persistent problems I faced was the most crucial; namely getting the salting process right. Even cook books sometimes overlook what is a seemingly simple procedure. When the prepared cabbages are ready to paste with your kimchi paste mix, they should resemble a dishcloth by which I mean they should be floppy and it should be possible to wring them without them tearing. If you get your kimchi paste wrong you can always adjust it. Even if you subsequently discover your kimchi is too salty it will mellow as it ferments but should the kimchi fail to wilt properly it will not be easily rescued.

Many recipes gloss over the salting process and only this week I read Jennifer Barclay’s book, Meeting Mr Kim (Summersdale, 1988). The book is an interesting account of life in Korea and not a cookbook, but her kimchi recipe, and she is not alone, simply directed you to soak the cabbages in salted water. If as recipe does not explain the salting process in some detail, tread with caution!  I once used an entire big bag of table salt in which I soaked the cabbages for several days and they still failed to wilt effectively. The salting process is actually simple if you use a coarse type of salt  (such as sea salt or if in Korea  굵은 소금)) and sprinkled between the leaves is all that is required to wilt the leaves in several hours, depending on room temperature. When I make kimchi in the UK, I am forced to use cabbages which are almost white in colour, very stemmy, and which are too small to quarter but even these wilt if treated properly. After salting the washed and wet cabbages they can be placed in a bowl or sink, sprinkled with extra salt and a few cups of extra water and left. Immersing them in water isn’t necessary. In hot weather the wilting process is much quicker. You should notice the cabbages almost half in volume and soon become limp, floppy and wringable.

Bo-ssam (보쌈) uses a different type of kimchi

Like rice, traditionally, Koreans rinse the cabbage three times. I have learnt it is much better to rinse them thoroughly, perhaps removing too much salt but this can always be remedied later. However, if you use the correct ammount of salt and don’t sprinkle excess on, three rinses are adequate. You can feel where salt residue remains as the stems are slimy and you can remove these by simply rubbing your fingers over them.

Salty kimchi will mellow with fermentation, it is probably better for it to be not salty enough than too salty, especially given the concerns over salt and blood pressure. One hint Mangchi suggests is adding some thin slices of mooli (무) if it is overly salty.

A good kimchi paste will cling to the leaves like a sauce so it is prudent to drain the segments and even wring  water out and this will prevent your kimchi becoming watery as the cabbages ferment.

Pork kimchi stew (김치씸) – works just as well with mackerel

Plenty of recipes, online and in books, will guide you through making the paste but my all time favourite is Maangchi. Her website is enormous and her videos on Korean cooking are well presented. Here you will also find other ways to use kimchi as well as many other types of kimchi, cabbage and otherwise.

British friends who have since become lovers of kimchi often ask me how long it will keep. I tend to keep kimchi in the refrigerator in hot weather and somewhere cold, but not freezing, in winter. If you like kimchi fresh (newly made,) keeping it cool or cold will delay fermentation. If you like it sour then you can use a warm  place to speed up the process. I tend to juggle things in order to better control fermentation. I made my last batch of kimchi in November and the tub in which it is stored has stood on my balcony almost 6 months. I have now moved it to the bottom of my fridge to mellow indefinitely. I have used kimchi that was over 6 months old and which had white mold on the top but this washed off and the underlying cabbage was excellent as the basis for a stew.

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

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.

More Tips on Cabbage Kimchi

Posted in Food and Drink, it's kimchi time by 노강호 on February 16, 2011

‘decanted’ after over two months and deliciously sour

I am now quite proud of my cabbage kimchi, a skill which has taken me about ten years to get right. One reason why it takes a long time to make decent kimchi is that you have to develop a sense of what constitutes a good kimchi and an awareness of kimchi at different stages of fermentation. Unless you have a cultivated appreciation of what Kimchi is, and by that I mean an awareness of kimchi that a Korean would enjoy and not what you personally think it should taste like, your kimchi will never be authentic. The subtleties of kimchi are as intricate and extensive as wine or Indian curry  and an appreciation is important if you are to use a recipe to guide you.

There exist many recipes for cabbage kimchi, regional, personal and for accompanying certain meals; bo-ssam (boiled, sliced pork, 보쌈) for example, uses a special type of kimchi. I am concerned here with the standard type of kimchi that accompanies the majority of Korean foods and which can be divided into two categories, fresh and sour.  There is of course, a range of flavours in between these extremes. Many Koreans have a preference for one or the other and foods which use kimchi as a major constituent, as for example with kimchi stew (김치 찌개 or 김치찜), suit one or the other.

scary yes, but tasty

I’m told by Korean friends that big cabbages are not the best to use and that medium sized ones, which compared to Britain are enormous, are the most suitable. The outer leaves are trimmed and unless damaged these shouldn’t  be thrown away as they can be used in other recipes.

One of the most persistent problems I faced was the most crucial; namely getting the salting process right. Even cook books sometimes overlook what is a seemingly simple procedure. When the prepared cabbages are ready to paste with your kimchi paste mix, they should resemble a dishcloth by which I mean they should be floppy and it should be possible to wring them without them tearing. If you get your kimchi paste wrong you can always adjust it. Even if you subsequently discover your kimchi is too salty it will mellow as it ferments but should the kimchi fail to wilt properly it will not be easily rescued.

Many recipes gloss over the salting process and only this week I read Jennifer Barclay’s book, Meeting Mr Kim (Summersdale, 1988). The book is an interesting account of life in Korea and not a cookbook, but her kimchi recipe, and she is not alone, simply directed you to soak the cabbages in salted water. If as recipe does not explain the salting process in some detail, tread with caution!  I once used an entire big bag of table salt in which I soaked the cabbages for several days and they still failed to wilt effectively. The salting process is actually simple if you use a coarse type of salt  (such as sea salt or if in Korea  굵은 소금)) and sprinkled between the leaves is all that is required to wilt the leaves in several hours, depending on room temperature. When I make kimchi in the UK, I am forced to use cabbages which are almost white in colour, very stemmy, and which are too small to quarter but even these wilt if treated properly. After salting the washed and wet cabbages they can be placed in a bowl or sink, sprinkled with extra salt and a few cups of extra water and left. Immersing them in water isn’t necessary. In hot weather the wilting process is much quicker. You should notice the cabbages almost half in volume and soon become limp, floppy and wringable.

Bo-ssam (보쌈) uses a different type of kimchi

Like rice, traditionally, Koreans rinse the cabbage three times. I have learnt it is much better to rinse them thoroughly, perhaps removing too much salt but this can always be remedied later. However, if you use the correct ammount of salt and don’t sprinkle excess on, three rinses are adequate. You can feel where salt residue remains as the stems are slimy and you can remove these by simply rubbing your fingers over them.

Salty kimchi will mellow with fermentation, it is probably better for it to be not salty enough than too salty, especially given the concerns over salt and blood pressure. One hint Mangchi suggests is adding some thin slices of mooli (무) if it is overly salty.

A good kimchi paste will cling to the leaves like a sauce so it is prudent to drain the segments and even wring  water out and this will prevent your kimchi becoming watery as the cabbages ferment.

Pork kimchi stew (김치찜) – works just as well with mackerel

Plenty of recipes, online and in books, will guide you through making the paste but my all time favourite is Maangchi. Her website is enormous and her videos on Korean cooking are well presented. Here you will also find other ways to use kimchi as well as many other types of kimchi, cabbage and otherwise.

British friends who have since become lovers of kimchi often ask me how long it will keep. I tend to keep kimchi in the refrigerator in hot weather and somewhere cold, but not freezing, in winter. If you like kimchi fresh (newly made,) keeping it cool or cold will delay fermentation. If you like it sour then you can use a warm  place to speed up the process. I tend to juggle things in order to better control fermentation. I made my last batch of kimchi in November and the tub in which it is stored has stood on my balcony almost 6 months. I have now moved it to the bottom of my fridge to mellow indefinitely. I have used kimchi that was over 6 months old and which had white mold on the top but this washed off and the underlying cabbage was excellent as the basis for a stew.

For my up to date and effective Kimchi recipe, check the, My Recipes, page.

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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 Alive!

Posted in Comparative, Food and Drink, My Recipes, recipes for Kimchi, vegetables by 노강호 on January 21, 2011

Judging by the proliferation of cooking programs on British television, you might assume we are a nation which appreciates good food and enjoys cooking. Unfortunately, with the demise of many good quality butchers and fishmongers and the ascendancy of enormous supermarkets stocked full with frozen food and microwave meals, it becomes apparent that we are more interested in watching food being cooked and positively captivated if the chef is some contrived character who has enough family members in his show to almost make it a soap drama. The fact the supermarkets and brands they endorse represent the very opposite of  ‘back to basic cooking,’ is rarely acknowledged.

Over my holiday, I happened to watch a program on Korean cooking which bore all the hallmarks of cooking programs which really have nothing to do with cooking and everything to do with self promotion and the establishment of a dynasty. The entire program was filmed either in the presenter’s village or in her home and introduced us to most of her family and friends.

As for the cooking, anyone acquainted with Korean cuisine knows that kimchi, a form of spicy fermented cabbage, as well as numerous other kimchi, accompany a meal. This Korean cooking was as Korean as the standard Korean pizza is Italian. Not only was there no mention of kimchi, but some very odd items were used in some standard Korean meals. I’ve both eaten and cooked bulgogi many times but this version used beetroot, asparagus and English pear. Though you can probably buy these somewhere in Korea, I’ve never seen beetroot or asparagus. As for English pear, once again this is a fruit you do not see in Korea and yet Asian pear is not difficult to buy in the UK. The program further irritated me when it was eaten off individual plates with knives and forks and in the total absence of side dishes or a plate of assorted leaves in which to wrap the bulgogi. During the entire cooking process red chili powder and red pepper paste were absent.

With so little knowledge of Korean food in the UK, especially outside London and a few other areas, it is possible for chefs to concoct any food combination and call it Korean.

Meanwhile, here is a video from my November batch of kimchi in which I opened the lid to catch the contents in the middle of a very active bout of fermentation.

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I’m currently  on holiday and my usual posts will re- commence next week.

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

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