Fermentation gives bread, cheeses, vinegar, and many other foods their flavorful complexity. The result of benevolent, enzyme-producing microbes that help break down foods, fermentation may also make what we eat more digestible and nurture the good bacteria in our gut.
Marrying the home-preserving trend with an interest in spicy food, I want to share what I learned from Lauryn Chun, who taught me to make the red-hot, surprisingly flavorful kimchi—Korean pickled cabbage—her mother serves at Jang Mo Jip, her restaurant in Garden Grove, California.
Making kimchi is surprisingly easy; it’s ready in as little as three days. If you have never cooked with kimchi, Soba Noodles with Kimchi is a good start. Use it as a condiment and a seasoning. Try kimchi in grilled cheese sandwiches and scrambled eggs, too.
To reduce sodium and make my kimchi vegan, I omit the fish sauce traditionally used. To learn more about kimchi-making and to see other recipes, check out The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat Kimchi by Lauryn Chun.
(Makes 16 servings, yields 1 quart)
- 1 head (1½ pounds) napa cabbage
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 4 scallions, green part only, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 ½ tablespoons red chile pepper flakes
- ¼ cup very thinly sliced onion
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Cut cabbage vertically into 8 wedges. Cut each wedge crosswise into 2-by-1-inch pieces. Place cabbage in large stainless steel, glass, or other nonreactive bowl. Add salt. Sliding hands down sides of bowl, lift and squeeze handfuls of cabbage, pile them on top and repeat until cabbage is wet and slightly wilted, 3-4 minutes. Set aside for 50 minutes.
- Transfer cabbage to large colander and place under cold running water for 1 minute, stirring cabbage to rinse thoroughly. Drain cabbage for 30 minutes. Transfer cabbage to large bowl and add scallions, chile flakes, and onion. On cutting board, combine garlic, ginger, and sugar. Using side of heavy knife, press and smear, then scrape together and chop mixture. Repeat 3-4 times to make coarse paste. Let paste stand for 15 minutes. Add paste to cabbage mixture and use sturdy fork to mix until contents of bowl are well combined.
- Using back of stainless steel spoon, pack mixture into 1-quart glass canning jar, leaving 1 ½-inch space at top. There will be some small air bubbles in jar. Add ¼ cup water to bowl, swirl to collect any remaining seasoning, then pour liquid into jar. Screw on jar lid, set jar in bowl, and let stand at room temperature (65-70°F) for 3 days. (Some liquid may come out.)
- After 3 days, when you open jar, top of kimchi may look foamy or have little bubbles; this indicates fermentation has taken place. If kimchi smells unpleasant or looks slimy, then discard and start over. In refrigerator, kimchi will keep several months, continuing to ferment slowly.
Per Serving (4 tablespoons or ¼ cup)
Total fat: 0 g
Saturated fat: 0 g
Carbohydrate: 1.48 g
Fiber: 0.4 g
Protein: 0.59 g
Sodium: 234 mg
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