Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bae-Chu Kimchi: Traditional Korean Napa Cabbage Kimchi | 傳統自家製韓國泡菜

Kimchi - the national dish of Korea and staple side dish on every Korean table - needs no formal introduction. Recognized long for its range of health benefits, this fiery, fermented vegetable side dish is rooted in tradition. Among the hundreds of kimchi varieties in Korea, the Napa cabbage variety, also known as pogi kimchi or tongbaechu kimchi, is the most iconic and common and is generally referred to by the catch-all name, kimchi.

Nowadays, one can easily skip the seemingly labor intensive process of making kimchi and purchase kimchi sold in jars or vacuum packs in supermarkets, but there is something irreplaceable in old-fashioned, authentic homemade kimchi.

Great kimchi starts with good, fresh Napa cabbage!
As with almost anything homemade, you get to tweak and customize.
And it's not just how spicy or mild you want your kimchi to be. Various salted seafood is used in kimchi to add a depth of flavor and to aid in the fermentation process. Whether it is salted shrimp, squid, or dried fish, the complex pungency of seafood is truly irreplaceable in kimchi. But if you are like me who is allergic to crustaceans, omit the shrimps and go with dried pollack and even anchovy paste for the unmistakable essence of the sea.

Eat it straight, as a banchan, or get creative: a batch of kimchi opens up infinite culinary possibilities

Making kimchi is like a mini science project.
Admit it, you were religiously watering and watching your beansprouts grow as an elementary school kid. Making kimchi from scratch is so much more fun than that. You get to get in and dirty, watch it ferment, and reap the benefits of all that effort in as short as a few days as it ripens!

You are participating in an age old tradition. 
Aside from adding a human touch to what you eat, making homemade kimchi allows you to experience hands-on the wisdom, knowledge, and tradition passed down from grandmother to mother, mother to daughter, generation after generation for centuries in Korea. As I made my own kimchi in my kitchen, I could almost hear the stories and laughter shared among women who gather for gimjang, where enormous quantities of kimchi is prepared communally to last through the harsh winter. Try it, you'll know what I mean.

A major bucket list item gets checked off.
Making kimchi, nevertheless, is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. It only gets better with practice!

Don't attempt to leave the gloves out!
After much research and trial, my recipe is based loosely on Korean American Chef Esther Choi's recipe which has been passed down from her grandmother. I have modified certain steps in preparation to make it simpler for home cooks. Apple or pear puree is added for a nice tinge of sweetness, whereas Korean dried pollack adds immense depth of flavor to the kimchi.
It's fall... kimchi making season! So get them gloves on and let's make some!
What you'll need...
1 head of Korean Napa cabbage, cut lengthwise, quartered
5 tablespoons rock salt
70g of Korean dried pollack (bugeochae), shredded
1 medium daikon radish (1lb), cut into 2-inch matchsticks
1 small carrot, cut into 2-inch matchsticks (optional)
1 bunch of scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 small apple or nashi pear, peeled and cored
2 inches fresh ginger
1 head of garlic
1 small onion
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup anchovy sauce (I used the filipino Bagoong Balayan)
1/4 cup lance fish sauce, or Thai fish sauce
3 tablespoons salted shrimp (saeujeot)*, chopped
2 tablespoons glutinous rice flour
1 cup Korean red chili pepper flakes (gochugaru), or more to taste
*Note: for a crustacean-free version, substitute salted shrimp with anchovy fillets or paste.

Prepping and salting the Napa Cabbage
To split a Napa cabbage in half, cut a slit in the base of the cabbage up to a third of the total length of the cabbage, gently pull the two halves apart. Repeat for each half to quarter the cabbage.

Add 1 1/2 cup of water inside a basin, dissolve 2 tablespoons of rock salt, wet the quartered Napa cabbage inside the basin and sprinkle salt between each layer of leaf. Let rest for at least two hours, turning them over every 30 minutes.

Rinse each quarter well under running water to remove the salt. Squeeze out excess water and let drain in a colander.

Making the rice gruel
In a small saucepan, add the rice flour and 2 cups of water over medium heat. Whisk constantly. Cook for 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Set aside to cool.

Making the seasoning paste
1. In a blender, blend together the apple, onion, garlic, and ginger with the mirin.
2. Soften the dried pollack with some lukewarm water. Drain.
3. In a big bowl, combine the rice gruel, apple mixture, daikon radish, carrot, scallion, dried fish, and the rest of the seasoning ingredients and massage everything well to become a paste.

Bringing everything together
Bring the drained cabbage quarters into the mixture and spread the paste onto every single leaf. Tightly pack the kimchi into jars or containers with fitted lids or cover tightly with plastic. 

Allow the kimchi to sit in room temperature for at least two days, or longer for a stronger flavor. The warmer and more humid the environment is, the faster the kimchi will ferment. Store in refrigerator once the kimchi begins to ferment and use as needed. Refrigerating slows down the fermentation process, which makes the kimchi more and more sour as time goes on.

【 傳統自家製韓國泡菜 】

韓國旺菜  1 棵
粗鹽  5 湯匙
韓國鱈魚乾  70 克
韓國大根蘿蔔  1 磅
甘筍  1  枝
大蔥  數棵

蘋果或梨  1 個
  2 吋
蒜瓣  6 個
洋蔥  1 小個
60 毫
鯷魚露  60 毫升
魚露  60 毫升
韓國蝦醬  3 湯匙*
粘米粉  2 湯匙
韓國辣椒粉  100 - 120 克

1. 於旺菜底部切一刀,用手把旺菜輕輕撕開兩半,再分為共四份。
2. 於大盤裏加入一碗半清水及 2 湯匙粗鹽,沾濕旺菜,再於每片葉之間灑上剩下的粗鹽,硬的部份多灑一點。
3. 完成後待其軟化出水,每半小時翻轉一次,共約 2 小時。
4. 徹底洗去鹽份,輕輕擠去多餘水份,晾乾備用。


1. 大根、甘筍切絲,大蔥切段。
2. 韓國鱈魚乾搣成絲,加入少量清水待其軟化。
3. 蘋果/梨去皮去芯切粒,加入薑、蒜、洋蔥和味打成蓉。
4. 於大盤子裏加入大根、甘筍、大蔥、蘋果/梨蒜蓉、鱈魚乾絲、蝦醬/鯷魚、鯷魚露、魚露、米漿和韓國辣椒粉,用手拌勻所有醃料再作調味(謹記帶手套啊!)
5. 加入旺菜,並於每片葉之間塗滿醃料至完全覆蓋。
6. 完成後把泡菜放在玻璃盒或陶瓷煲內,加蓋封好。
7. 放在室溫發酵 2 天後放入雪櫃,泡菜會繼續慢慢發酵。隨時享用!

- 泡的時間越長味道越酸,泡菜汁中培養出來的各種益生菌也更多。
- 較成熟的泡菜最適合煮食泡製出其他菜式。
- 調味很隨意,亦視乎材料原來的質素及味道。調味可加亦可減。

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Chef Esther Choi: