Napa Cabbage Kimchi (pg. 74)

Pauchu Kimchi

Napa cabbage kimchi appears quite frequently in the Momofuku Cookbook.  The kimchi is a key ingredient for the brussel sprouts, kimchi consomme, fuji applas salad, bo ssäm, and a few others.  It’s one of the recipes you have to get used to, referring to the amount of times you will make it, and either plan for two weeks ahead or have some on hand.  I’ll have come a long way if I can ever make this without having to refer to the recipe.

Kimchi is the result of a fermentation, microbes (Lactobacillus plantarum) converting sugars to lactic acid.  Anyone who has toured a brewery or distillery has seen the process.  The fermentation occurs over one to three weeks.  I’ve heard the stories of Koreans burying the kimchi underground for months or years at a time.  Would be an interesting taste at that point…

It’s a pretty simple process:

  1. Cure the cabbage
  2. Mix the other ingredients
  3. Wait for nature (or chemistry) to do it’s work.

Certain chefs have signature dishes or techniques.  David Chang’s appears to be start with salt and sugar, wait a day.  It works well for the pork belly and pork shoulder, why stop now?  Grab a head of napa cabbage, cut it up, and add the salt and sugar.

It takes a surprisingly little amount of salt and sugar to work it’s magic.  While not exactly a cure, it draws a lot of the moisture out.

This mixture gets covered up and placed in the fridge overnight.  The next time I do this, I’ll weigh the cabbage before and after to verify how much water is drawn out.  That’s no longer borderline over the top, it’s clearly over the line…

Day 2

The ingredients:

The prep work requires a lot of mincing.  There is an obnoxious amount of ginger and garlic.  I prefer a spoon to peel the ginger, cut it into disks, sticks and mince.

and the garlic, I’ll spare you those pictures.

The kimchi requires two ingredients from the Korean market: kochukaru and jarred salted shrimp.  I wrote about kochukaru, a Korean chili powder, in my last post.

A man can play the helpless card in very few circumstances, shopping in ethnic markets is one of them.  The kochukaru required a little help.

The jarred salted shrimp is a bit of a bizarre item.  I’ll have to find a few more uses for this.  At two teaspoons per recipe, this jar will last for years, even with the all the uses for kimchi.

I’ll let you make your own comments on what this looks like…  I will add that I am sure the jarred salted shrimp is the source of the funky smell kimchi is famous for, although a strong argument culd be made for the fish sauce.

Mise en place in the bowl:

The kochukaru and sugar take on a ying-yang appearance which is appropo of the sweet and spicy nature of the ingredients.

Mixing it all the kochukura pigment dominate the final product.  It takes on a beautiful bright red hue.

It comes out a little thick but can be thinned out with some water to achieve the appropriate consistency.

Once the paste is ready the carrots and scallions are stirred in.

and the cabbage, drained of water into the mix..

and into a jar.

Throw the kimchi in the back of the fridge for a couple weeks and it will be all set to go.  Two weeks later we tried it the night before ssäm night, it was fantastic.  The word most frequently used to describe kimchi is pungent.

There are a couple good lessons to be learned that one can change for the next attempt.  First, knife skills are very important, the amount of time spent mincing the garlic and ginger is time well spent, achieving a consistent fine mince.  I will also reduce the amount of garlic used next time as it was a bit overpowering.

David Change advises curing in the refrigerator the whole time while traditionally, kimchi is cured in a cool place, or underground.  Harold McGee, in On Food and Cooking, recommends the for fermentation temperature between 41-57º F/5-14º rather than fermenting in the refrigerator.

Final piece of advise:

Michale Pollan, author of Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, advises Rule #33: Eat some foods that have been predigested by bacteria or fungi.  Foods such as kimchi yogurt, etc. have significant health benefits.  Lactobacillus plantarum provides particular beneficial properties.  A quick google search reveals more informations than I really cared to find…


24 Responses to “Napa Cabbage Kimchi (pg. 74)”

  1. 1 Jessica February 27, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    great post on the kimchi – I’m looking forward to making this one as yours turned out so well for Ssam night. Thanks again – great time! oh, and j. wants you to know it was 4 bottles of the korean wine that we drained, not one. I think someone is feeling guilty about his “state” at the end of the night 🙂

  2. 2 Karen Bekker February 27, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    For years, I’ve used a japanese grater (no holes, just prongs)to grate ginger and garlic. It’s excellent for ginger since the fibres wrap around the prongs, whilst the juice and ginger puree separates from it.

    Koreans I’ve met in Toronto, and David Chang inspired me to learn Korean. I started lessons a few weeks ago, and my wonderful teacher told me about special Kimchi fridges. I’ve taken a look at these at the Galleria Mall in Toronto and was fascinated at the range of kimchi fridges. Apparently, kimchi stored in a kimchi fridge tastes superior. Some of these fridges also had separate sections for storing fruits and vegetables.

    • 3 chrisdenoia February 27, 2010 at 8:31 pm

      I may have to check into a Japanese grater. Thanks for the tip, I’ll check out the kimchi fridges as well, but I’m sure my studio apartment cannot accommodate a fridge, wine fridge, and a kimchi fridge…

  3. 4 alkali February 27, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    To ask a slightly rude question, how does the house smell after you’ve prepared the kimchi? My wife (a huge kimchi fan, but we’ve never prepared it at home) wants to know. Thanks.

    • 5 chrisdenoia February 28, 2010 at 3:16 pm

      I don’t think that’s a rude question at all. Kimchi is known to be pungent and it’s fair. I have not had an issue with odors and I attribute that to having the right jar. There is nothing incredibly special about it, straight from bed Bath & Beyond but it has good seal which keeps the odors inside. It’s been three weeks now, just about the time the funk would start to set in and I still don’t have a problem.

      Give it a try, it’s amazingly simple.

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