Thursday, May 06, 2010

Homemade Kimchee

I love Korean panchan, all of those lovely spicy and savory dishes served with Korean meals. I like kimchee too, but not necessarily the full-blown old-fashioned, buried in the ground with raw oysters version. There's something about the almost effervescent quality of the mature fermented cabbage that I don't find enjoyable. Odd, since I quite like sauerkraut, but it could be because I grew up eating one and not the other.

While searching through cookbooks for interesting vegetarian ideas, I found a quick kimchee recipe that could be eaten immediately, or within a week. That sounded young enough for my palate, so I made a batch over the weekend. I reduced the proportions a bit, using less of everything. Even so, one small taste contained so much garlic that brushing my teeth, gargling with Listerine, and chewing gum did not alleviate the strong flavor and aroma that lingered on my palate. That made me question my actions - why did I make something that involved so much raw garlic? When did I think it would be appropriate to eat? The thought did occur that I should have a forkful in the morning before getting on the bus to work because my morning commute is seldom pleasant and I wouldn't mind offending one or more (or a whole busload) of people. But then I'd have that taste in my mouth all day, and I wouldn't want that.

So I came up with the idea of making kimchee rice. It's easy-peasy - mix kimchee and rice, season to taste. Eat. I figured that cooking the kimchee would temper the garlic, and it did. Mr Minx added some sautéed onions and dashes of soy and fish sauce for seasoning. It was...delicious. And it didn't create garlic breath.


Kimchee (adapted from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

1 small head white cabbage, separated into leaves
Kosher salt
4 scallions, both white and green parts, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons Korean red pepper flakes (or more, if you like it spicy. I don't find Korean pepper flakes to be as spicy as some others; certainly not as spicy as your standard McCormick crushed red pepper flakes. If you don't have Korean red pepper, start out with half a teaspoon of regular red pepper flakes and go from there.)
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons sugar

Layer the cabbage leaves in a colander, sprinkling a little salt between the layers. Place the colander over a bowl to drain and and allow to sit for about 2 hours. When the cabbage is wilted, rinse and dry.

Mix the other ingredients together in a medium bowl. Roughly chop the cabbage and add to the soy mixture. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to a week; it will become stronger every day.

Quick Kimchee Rice

1/4 cup onion, chopped
vegetable oil
1 recipe kimchee
4 cups of cold, cooked rice
Soy sauce
Fish sauce (optional)

Sauté onion in a bit of vegetable oil until it starts to brown slightly. Add kimchee, including all of the juice that collected at the bottom of the container. Stir fry for 5-7 minutes, until warmed through, giving the garlic a chance to cook a bit. Stir in cold rice, breaking up lumps. Season with soy (or salt) and fish sauce, and serve with a drizzle of gojuchang, if desired. Serves 4-6 as a side, 2-3 as a main dish.