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« Carthage, The Berbers and The Phoenicians by Farid Zadi | Main | Changing of The Guard by Farid Zadi »

July 24, 2005

Kimchi by Farid Zadi

Me_and_my_kimchi_1The first time I tried kimchi was the first time I met my wife's family. I had only been in America for about six months and the world of non-French, non-Algerian foods was just opening up to me. One bite of kimchi and the door seemed to slam shut. It was a ferocious introduction to Korean cuisine and culture. I thought they were trying to kill me with this spicy, sour concoction. I wanted to scrub my tongue with an icycle, it felt as if my mouth was going numb and my stomach was being filled with acid.

Eight years later I am addicted to kimchi. I eat it as often as five times a week with steamed rice and kalbi or bulgogi. Most days at school I have to taste 100-150 dishes that my students produce. Can you imagine tasting 17 spoonfuls of bernaise sauce, 17 bites of salmon, 17 bites of sauteed potatoes, 17 bites of blanched asparagus, then another 2-3 rounds of plates with 3-4 components? Kimchi reopens my palate and energizes my appetite like nothing else.

This is my mother-in-law's recipe for kimchi. Kimchi making is an art, recipes are merely springboards, one must taste, look and touch throughout the entire process. The seasonings are added entirely according to personal taste, some prefer more garlic and others prefer less red pepper.  The quantities I give are approximate.

Ingredients:

2 heads of napa cabbage
1 cup of coarse salt. I prefer to use Korean pickling salt, but you can use Kosher salt.
1 pound of mu or daikon radish, julienned.
1 bunch of scallions, cut in half and then into 3" strips.
1 bunch Korean watercress stems or minari cut into 3" strips
1 cup of Korean red pepper flakes reconstituted in a little bit of ice cold water. This helps retain the vibrant red color.
3 tablespoons of Korean red pepper flakes
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of grated ginger
3 tablespoons of jeotgal or salted shrimp
1 cup of myulchi geungmul or sun dried anchovy broth (optional, I find this produces kimchi with a clean refreshing taste)
sugar to taste

Method:

Trim the cabbage of the older leaves and cut off discolored ends. Make a deep incision at the bottom and gently tear the cabbage in half.

Liberally sprinkle salt between each leaf, cover with water and let brine for several hours. The brining time varies with the quality of the cabbage. It's ready for seasoning when it is slightly wilted and a bit transparent. Taste it for the texture.

Rinse thoroughly with cold water.

Gently massage the julienned mu with the sesame oil, add 3 tablespoons of red flakes and toss to coat. Add the minari and scallions, toss again.

In a bowl add the garlic, ginger, reconstituted red pepper flakes, jeotgal,  a tablespoon or so of sugar and the myulchi geungmul. Taste, add more of any seasoning if necessary.

Add the red pepper mixture to the mu, mix thoroughly. You might want to wear rubber gloves. Taste again, adjust seasoning. Take a little of the mixture and taste it with a little bit of the cabbage, again adjust seasoning if neccessary.

If you are making tongkimchi as I did in the photo, stuff the seasoned mu in between each leaf. When all the cabbage halves have been stuffed place in a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid and allow to ferment at room temperature untill ready to eat, depending on the weather it can 2-10 days.

If you are making makkimchi, quarter the cabbage and cut into 2-2 1/2" pieces and toss well with the seasoned mu.

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