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:
- Cure the cabbage
- Mix the other ingredients
- 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.
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…
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.
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.
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…