QUICK VEGAN KIMCHI
I fell in love with Kimchi at first bite. Salty, spicy, gingery and garlicky in a complex medley ending with a gently sour undertone, kimchi is a Korean firework of flavour. It is also exceptionally good for you. There are over 200 documented types of kimchi alone, so this crowning symbol of Korean culture and national pride is as much a living thing as the product itself.
Good things come to those who wait and real kimchi is a thing of delicious patience, it takes several days and can ferment for weeks or even months. Traditionally, it sits in a brine for 6-8 hours, but this recipe cuts prep in half. You can enjoy the flavour right away, or experience the probiotic benefits and a pow of kimchi goodness within 48 hours. If you give it a week you get the full probiotic powerhouse and uniquely funky flavour.
Funky Goodness is what I call all things fermented. It refers to that funk or “going off” smell that to many people might mean, ‘toss that it’s gone bad!’ but to me means yum, good stuff is happening. And it is, bacteria is growing. With care and attention to the process, it is the best bacteria, the kind you want and NEED. *Good digestion, weight loss, even autism and depression are linked to poor gut flora and low beneficial bacteria populations. Repopulate for a happy gut with this delicious and quick vegetarian kimchi recipe:
Quick Vegan Kimchi
Prep: 20 mins active prep time, 3 hours total time including salting and draining the cabbage
Serves: 15 portions
1 large Chinese Cabbage (about 1kg)
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
3 spring onions (green and white), chopped roughly
Optional extra veg, 6 red radishes or ¼ of a long daikon radish, sliced thinly
4-5 big pinches of sea salt
4.5cm/2in piece of ginger, peeled and grated, comes to about 3Tbs
20-30g of red chili flakes or gochugaru red pepper powder**
30g/2Tbs of nama shoyu, coconut aminos or soy sauce
30g/2Tbs of coconut, palm sugar or maple syrup
40ml of raw apple cider, coconut or rice vinegar
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
½ a small yellow or white onion
1 fat pinch of sea salt
1 large glass jar (about 750ml) or 2-3 smaller ones
1 large glass or wooden bowl, stainless steel
1 large strainer
Be sure your cabbage is clean and dry but don’t use any antibacterial soap, this will kill the good guys. Prepare the cabbage by slicing off the base and chopping the rest into 2cm pieces, or the width of your index and middle finger. Toss it in a bowl and add the salt, mixing it in with your hands. The purpose of this is to extract the water from the cabbage so you have a firmer end product and less water in your kimchi jar, which would dilute the flavours.
Set the cabbage aside for at least an hour, but ideally up to 2.5 hours. When ready, rinse the cabbage and drain it, you can even squeeze it with clean hands to extract more water and set over a strainer while you make the flavour paste.
Combine the ingredients in a food processor or blender until it is a well mixed paste. Don’t worry about the little bit of sugar in the recipe, it is for flavour balance and bacteria food. If you let it ferment for a week, the bacteria actually consumes the sugar resulting in very little net sugar. Set aside the chili paste and chop the other pickling vegetables.
Give the cabbage salting bowl a quick rinse and layer the pickling veg and flavour paste in and mix with your hands (preferably with a glove so you don’t get chili deep under your nails and apply later somewhere you definitely don’t want it, like your eye) until all cabbage is covered with the paste. You can now enjoy the kimchi as is or pack it tightly into your very clean glass jar and close the lid leaving it at room temperature for at least 24-48 hours ensuring some liquid covers the top layer.
After 24-48 hours, you can move it to the fridge and then consume it within a week. Bubbles may form, more liquid will release and perhaps a funky smell. This is okay and even a little mold, which can be scraped off the top or you can discard the first layer if you feel squeamish about it, but if you see black, pink, or orange mold, then something went wrong and you should toss it. Fermenting is gardening and cooking in one, sometimes forgiving and sometimes requires forgiveness, either way an experiment and usually delicious process.
*To read more, check out GUT: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders, or the award winning book by Sandor Ellix Katz The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World
** You can find gochugaru red pepper powder at a Korean or Asian grocery store, but don’t buy the paste as it usually has bad preservatives and MSG. Basic red pepper flakes are a decent substitute and usually available at any supermarket, just check for added salt in the mix, which is common and might make your kimchi too salty.