Monday, March 16

Evella and Jacwabbit Blogoff #1 - Kimchi!

So as I mentioned previously, my friend Gabe and I decided to do some blog crossover cooking and for our first blogoff we chose to take on Kimchi. Make sure you check out the Evella half of this blogoff as well. Kimchi is a kind of Korean pickle, usually involving cabbage, chili and fermentation... but there are a lot of variations on this theme.

I had never made kimchi before but I'd had such a huge hankering to try, especially after the Tanuki experience (and the fact that I've been on a bit of a pickling roll lately) . I decided to use a combination of a recipe from pyongyang metro and another from Tigers and Strawberries. I actually did this battle royale in two stages; I made a practice kimchi with radish, turnip and mustard greens because I had no cabbage but I'll only cover the real deal this time.

Napa cabbage or wom bok

Firstly I took one large napa cabbage (we'd call in wom bok in Australia, or baechu in Korea). The good ones are heavy but without soggy leaves or thick stems. I stripped off the outer leaves, cut it into quarters and washed the leaves very thoroughly. Kimchi involves fermentation and I was planning to ferment mine for at least 2 days unrefrigerated, so the most important thing was to make sure everything was clean. I had already cleaned down the kitchen like the good little microbiology major that I am. Once the cabbage was washed I cut it down into strips, about an inch across.

Next step was the salting of the cabbage leaves. Again this kills off all the bad bacteria but hopefully leaving only the useful lactic acid producing bacillus. I used a big ziplock bag, took a handful of salt and and couple of handfuls of cabbage and mixed them well, kind of rubbing the salt into the leaves with a bit of a kneading motion. Repeat with the rest. Then I removed the air from the bag and left it to brine for about three to four hours, mixing it every hour or so. Then it was into the strainer for many many rinses to remove as much of the surface salt as possible. The cabbage was delicious at this point! Soft but still a little crunchy and saltily delicious. Bad Jac no snacking on the job!

Brined and rinsed cabbage

While the cabbage was rinsing I put together the rest of the ingredients. I decided to use a bunch of radishes, a bunch of spring onions, a few cloves of garlic, a thumb sized piece of ginger, about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1/4 cup of sugar and the most important ingredient, Korean chili powder! This stuff is a lovely bright red but not too spicy so I threw in about half a cup, maybe more. I found it at our local Asian grocer.

The kimchi ingredients

I simply ran the garlic, ginger and soy sauce through the food processor. Then thinly sliced the spring onions and radishes.

Spring onion and gorgeous fresh radishes

Then threw all the vegetables into a mixing bowl...

This pic was too pretty not to include it

Then I added the garlic mush-mush, the sugar and the chili powder and mixed the whole thing up with my hands. And of course I wore gloves!!

I mixed this for quite a while to make sure it was well distributed

At this point I decided to throw in the secret ingredient...a little extra heat. My practice run with the first batch taught me one thing and that was needs more heat! The Korean chili powder tastes good but it just doesn't have the fire that I like. So I threw in a couple of heaping spoons of good old sambal oelek.

For when you really like it hot

From there I pressed the kimchi mix down into a very clean tupperware container, getting rid of most of the air bubbles, put the lid on and let it sit on the kitchen bench for 2 and a bit days. I considered it done when I could see bubbles forming and rising to the surface.

Pre-fermented kimchi looks a lot like fermented kimchi

Finished product is fabulous! Much better than my practice round and I definitely like it more with cabbage. It doesn't smell too funky, lots of garlic in front but the rest is all kimchi, and the heat is really satisfying, especially with cooling radish and cabbage in there.

So what do you do with kimchi? Well really it is a side dish or ingredient for soups, stirfries etc. To celebrate this batch I decided to make Tanuki inspired kimchi chahan (fried rice). No great detail for the recipe here but the ingredients included lap chong (chinese sweet sausage), fresh and dried shitake, bamboo, spring onion, garlic, asparagus, pea shoots and egg. I used a soy/sweet sherry seasoning on the rice.

I make the scrambled egg separately and run it through the rice at the end, but to give it some more grunt I mix a few dashes of chili sesame oil through the egg.

I use a short grain rice and mix it through, along with the soy seasoning, just after the last greens have gone in.

Wok on baby

Finished product is the fried rice. topped with kimchi and spring onion. Mix the whole thing up just before eating and hey presto, you're enjoying kimchi! Make sure you check out Evella's half of the blogoff as well!

Fried rice with kimchi


Gabe said...

Ooh, looks good! Heh, fried rice seems to be the standard for kimchi beginners I see. I did not know that the point of the brining was to kill off bacteria, but it makes sense.

This was a ton of fun, can't wait to do it again. Curry?

Jac said...

You're on baby, and yeah it was heaps of fun. Curry sounds like a great plan, although I'm still up for jerky as well ;)

Things I forgot to mention - kimchi often includes fish sauce, shrimp or oysters, all of which the beloved is allergic to hence their absence.

Also it shouldn't be left to ferment anywhere too warm but lucky for me we had a freak cold snap here in Texas of I would have refrigerated it right away. I think under 20C is probably ok but I might be out.

Mothersupex said...

You two girls are having great fun and you both had fried rice thrown in there too. Just so pleased JoJo is not squirmish at the food smells.

We look forward to more of the blogoff. Next we will have the iron chefs with their English translation, half a second later, and the film crew there.

Go get em girls.

Jac said...

Hehe mum, I'm pretty sure Gabe is a boy. Nice visual image though. I do actually have boy friends!

Dumblond said...

That was awesome. I truly envy your foodiness.
So is that the right way for fried rice? To add the egg in last? I have a debate going with Paul...

Jac said...

I don't know if there is a right way but I like the egg to be soft, not dry, so I scramble it just as I'm serving the rice and mix it through last. Also, because of the preggersaurus, I scramble it separately so I know that while soft it is cooked.

Gabe said...

Heh, yes I am male!

As for fried rice, I agree, I make a hole in the center of the rice and fry the egg there, once it is done then I'll scramble it a bit and mix it into the rice, but essentially it is the same process as Jac's.

One key thing when you are making fried rice is to make the rice and then refrigerate it so that it does not mush up on you when you are stirring in all the other ingredients.

Jac said...

True for some rices but I use a new crop sushi rice straight from the rice cooker. I add it at the end but it retains its integrity and makes the fried rice more like the kind of sticky rice you'd get in a lotus leaf wrap for yum cha.

For nasi goreng style, definitely fridge first but I will come out and say I like it sticky!

Adrienne said...

I'm awarding the first round in the blogoff to you Jac. On the basis of:

- the description of method
- quality and quantity of photographic evidence
- the pleasing colouration of the end product
- the superior fried rice execution

xMrs M

Jac said...

Thanks Rennie you loyalist, although we definitely weren't competing! Plus it isn't a fair competition since I'm a girl and girls rock (plus I've had more camera experience).

And if it wasn't for you and your egg foo yong I wouldn't have known the joys of lap chong! (sorry if I mashed the spelling)

Adrienne said...

I think the only rule with spelling chinese food words in English is "spell it how you say it". A rule we can all abide by!

Word verification: fibion (I think that's the little white lie bone)

xMrs M

Anonymous said...

Well. This all looks very interesting.
Time for some balance in this blog...


Mmwa ha ha