A Girl and Her Greens
Vicky Oh used to be a kitchen assistant at Salvation Taco. Her family runs its own kimchi company, Arirang, which makes a very tasty version of the pickled vegetable that is Korea’s national dish. For my Steamed and Raw Radish Salad with Kimchi and Sesame (page 87), I’ll often use a jar of Arirang kimchi. But I got curious about the process of making it myself and just had to have a go at it. I based this recipe on one Vicky shared with me. Turns out it’s good fun, slathering a paste of sticky-rice flour, salted shrimp and ground Korean chilli on cabbage leaves and scrunching the heads – particularly when you enlist some friends to help. My theory on kimchi is that if you go through the task of making it, you might as well end up with a lot. Once it’s ready, you can give those friends a jar for their efforts.
I like tasting the kimchi at different stages, from the time it’s fresh and crunchy all the way until it gets funky and even a bit fizzy. I also like including other farmers’ market finds, from all types of radishes to cucumbers to garlic scapes.
makes about 5 litres
© 2021 April Bloomfield · Reproduced with permission.
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You Will Need
Put the cabbage in a big bowl and sprinkle the salt in between the cabbage leaves. Cover and keep in the fridge overnight.
The next day, remove the cabbage from the fridge and drain it well.
Combine the rice flour and 335ml of water in a small pot, whisk until smooth, then set the pot over medium-low heat. Cook, whisking con- stantly, until the mixture thickens to a loose sludge, 1 to 2 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Combine the gochugaru, garlic, ginger, salted shrimp, sugar and rice flour mixture in a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth. Put the chilli paste in a very large mixing bowl along with the daikon and spring onions. Use gloved hands to mix all three together very well.
Take one of the cabbage quarters and add it to the bowl. Using gloved hands again, slather the vegetable-chilli mixture all over the cabbage, spreading it on and between the leaves. Tuck an especially healthy amount into the spaces between the leaves near the bottom of the cabbage. Once the entire cabbage quarter has a red tint, move on to the next one.
Fold the cabbage quarters onto themselves to create tight bundles and divide them among the containers, firmly pressing so they sit tight and leaving at least 2.5cm of space between the cabbage and the jars’ openings. Divide any remaining chilli-vegetable mixture among the jars. Press down firmly on the cabbage again to minimise air pockets that might be hiding out.
Seal the jars tightly with the lids and leave them at room temperature overnight. You might want to set them on plates to catch any liquid that sneaks out of the lids as the kimchi ferments. You can nibble on the kimchi at this point, when it’s fresh, or keep it in the fridge and eat it after 2 to 4 weeks when it’s good and funky. If necessary, occasionally press down on the cabbage with a clean spoon to make sure it’s covered by liquid. It’ll keep for up to several months.