I used to not like kimchi at all. My dad would occasionally buy a container of kimchi from the Asian market and he would be the only person in my family eating it.
Oh how things change! One day I found that I had fallen in love with kimchi! How could this be? The exact road to this newfound love is hazy at best (isn’t it always?) but I expect that I must have been exposed to some good homemade kimchi at a restaurant and my palate must have matured. Some restaurants have delicious kimchi (don’t you just adore the little side dishes that accompany Korean meals!) and others…not so much. I saw a vendor at a farmers’ market on a trip out west this past summer selling their homemade kimchi and it made me a little bit curious about making kimchi. But for some reason it has been long engrained in my mind that it takes A LOT of time, effort, and “scent” to make kimchi.
And then in early September, some purple cabbage appeared in my CSA share. I didn’t want cole slaw…what was I to do? A visit to one of my local farmers’ markets with a kimchi vendor re-inspired me. How hard was it to make kimchi, really!?
Not having any of my Korean friends nearby, I set about on the internet looking up red cabbage kimchi recipes. I was going to try to make my own kimchi! Now, the first batch wasn’t perfect by any means. Using purple cabbage instead of the traditional nappa cabbage really affects the flavour and texture, as the cabbage is much harder and crunchier than nappa even after soaking in a brine solution for hours. I also didn’t have the Korean chili powder that the recipe called for so I substituted with red chili flakes; turns out they’re both red but that’s about where the similarities end.
A little disappointed but just as excited to make better kimchi, I did some additional research in time for the arrival of a head of nappa cabbage in my CSA share. Figuring I should stop substituting sauce ingredients until I make it taste right in the first place, I went to my local Korean grocer and picked up some fish sauce and Korean red chili powder. This Kimchi recipe works really well, it’s very easy, and takes little time and effort (note that it is not the traditional way of making kimchi). I’ve made two fabulous batches of this kimchi so far! I was surprised to see grated pear as an ingredient (apple substituted well for me) but I suspect it creates the right type of fermentation environment.