spicy silky fermented kim chi

IMG_7601I’ve been asked a few times to post a “normal” kim chi recipe, the ubiquitous kind at Korean restaurants, with napa cabbage and spicy sauce.  Your wish is my command.

The last time I made this recipe, I was teaching a demo on fermentation to the brand spankin’ new Master Food Preserver class of 2014, and I had the distinct pleasure of horrifying our eminent leader, Nellie Oehler of Dutch extraction, who likes her pickles sweet but still gamely tried a piece of my kim chi.  Her face reminded me that this is not a recipe for everyone.  But as she said, smiling as she grimaced, “I’ll try anything once!”  And so should we all.

I like this recipe because it retains the spiciness and color better and has a lovely silky texture, thanks to the porridge made of sweet rice powder that binds everything together. The porridge, I believe, is a style of the south.

I never hesitate to throw in seasonal vegetables: the last batch I made contained cubed tiny turnips and young daikon with their leaves from the farmers market (thanks, Groundwork Organics!) and strippings from the aging kale in my garden.  You might experiment with fresh new carrots, thinly sliced green garlic, garlic scapes, radishes…the list goes on.

If you’re a fan of kim chi or want to see more background on kim chi techniques, you might want to read my daikon cube kim chi and white kim chi with pear recipes, too.  Add some shiso pickle and salted cucumber slices with sesame seeds, and you’ll be well on your way to a fancy Korean banchan (set of kim chi dishes that accompany meals).

Spicy Silky Kim Chi

Yield: varies, about two quarts when finished.

  • 1 ½ lbs. white napa cabbage
  • 1 small Korean radish (“moo”) or enough daikon for 2-3 cups cubes
  • brine: 2 tablespoons salt plus 5 cups water
  • 3-4 medium cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup Korean salted shrimp, minced*
  • 1/3 cup fine (vs. coarse) Korean red pepper powder (“gochu karu”)
  • porridge: 1/2 cup water plus 1 tablespoon sweet rice powder**
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1-2 cups shredded young kale, mustard, or turnip greens
  • 1 small Asian pear or green apple, thinly sliced into matchsticks

The night before you plan to make the kim chi, rinse and cut the cabbage into 2-inch square (no larger) pieces.  Peel and cut the radish into thinly sliced half-moons. Toss radish and cabbage, then add a brine made out the salt and water. Let mixture sit in bowl on counter for 8-12 hours.

Wash your hands, counter, and cooking equipment well. Drain the brine from the vegetables and prepare the kimchi souse and rice porridge.

For the porridge, add 1/2 cup of cold water to a saucepan, then add immediately the sweet rice powder. On medium low, whisk the powder into a solution, and cook for a few minutes, whisking constantly, to create a sauce the texture of paste. Let cool on the stove.

For the souse, make a paste in a food processor with the garlic, ginger, sugar and shrimp.

Mix the souse, porridge, and the red pepper powder into the cabbage and radish mixture well with your hands (you might want to use gloves if your hands are sensitive to spice), massaging spices into the cabbage.  Add a little bit of water to ensure everything is nice and pasty, and the souse covers the cubes.  Add the scallions, greens, and Asian pear slivers, and mix well.

Place the kim chi in a half-gallon or larger-sized glass jar that has been thoroughly cleaned and sterilized.  I use a 3L hinged jar without the rubber ring, so I can close the jar but not seal it.  It helps to use a canning funnel to get the stuff into the jar — you’ll get red pepper paste everywhere.

Let sit on the counter for about 2 days, mixing and pushing down the vegetables into the souse.  After it starts to bubble, let rest in the refrigerator for 5 days before eating.  You can actually eat the stuff at any point from right after you make it onward, but it tastes better after a few days.  It will keep in the refrigerator for a month or so, but the flavor will change over time.

*Purchase at an Asian grocery store like Sunrise, available in the refrigerated section. The shrimp should be tiny and bright pink and very salty.

**I use Mochiko, a Japanese brand, which is widely available, but you can buy it in bulk at Market of Choice.

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salt and shiso

IMG_3859One wouldn’t think an herb so fragile and leafy as shiso (aojiso or ohba, sometimes labeled as perilla or beefsteak) would take kindly to salt, but it does.  If you grew a plant or two this year, consider making the traditional salted pickle from Japan, or a shiso kimchi from Korea.  Personally, I’m partial to the clean, simple flavor of the salted shiso, but have enjoyed both.  Either lasts for several weeks to months in the refrigerator, but quality is best after at least a few days of curing.

In Japan, red shiso (akajiso) is used as a dye for umeboshi, pickled plums, and a delicious addition to pickled cucumber or eggplant.  It’s also dried and used as a furikake, or crumbly delicious crunchy topping for morning rice.  Mmmm.

Why don’t I eat more Japanese breakfasts?

Because I don’t have a Japanese wife to make them, duh.

Ah, right.

Green shiso leaves are chiffonaded and mixed in with rice, or used to wrap bits of ground chicken breast and pork and grilled.  I often pick a few leaves and eat them with rice, using them like those little nori strips that are now popular with the nutritionist crowd.  The basil-anise-Thai basily green flavor is exquisite, and again I urge you to grow your own, as the stuff in the market is rare, expensive, and fades quickly. I’ve grown two kinds of the green shiso: one that has a purple underleaf, and one that doesn’t.

It is also preserved, most successfully with salt, but sometimes with soy and a little garlic. One can also use the seeds fresh or salted, but I scatter them in my herb bed for another crop.

The Korean form of shiso (kkaenip, sometimes called ‘sesame leaf’, Perilla frutescens var. frutescens) is a different strain of the Japanese perilla (Perilla frutescens var. crispa) and the ornamental perilla (coleus).  See a good picture in the LA Times here.  If you can find it, use it for kimchi.

IMG_2339Salted Shiso Pickle

The recipe couldn’t be easier.  Pick the largest leaves of your fresh green shiso, then sprinkle a little sea salt on each leaf, stacking leaves in a container. You might weigh them down (as I did above, with ocean beach stones) or not.  Let cure in the refrigerator for a few days, then enjoy for months.

IMG_2340IMG_2336

Shiso Kim Chi

You will need to make a souse, but this recipe doesn’t ferment the kim chi like cabbage or radishes.  It’s milder and softer, perfect for summer.

  • 3 cups medium to large shiso leaves
  • 3 tablespoons very thinly sliced red onion
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 3 green onions
  • 3 tablespoons julienne carrot
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon powdered Korean red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Prepare the shiso leaves by rinsing them, if necessary.  Prepare the vegetables for the souse.  Thinly slice the red onion and mince the garlic; thinly slice the whites and greens of the green onion; julienne the carrot. Toss the vegetables with the sugar, fish sauce, red pepper, and sesame seeds.

Layer every two shiso leaves with a bit of the sauce, gently rubbing it into the leaves evenly.  Leave some souse for the top of the pile, press down gently, cover, and refrigerate for at least a week.

white kim chi and a visit from sandor katz

In honor of Sandor Katz’s visit to Eugene tomorrow (join us at 5:30 on the UO campus in Columbia 150!), I thought I’d post my latest kim chi recipe. I was looking for a “white” or no-chili-powder, garlicky, gingery version of the classic juicy winter kim chi made with napa cabbage.  And this one came out perfectly.  The Asian pear stays clean and white, and the cabbage turns a beautiful pale yellow.  See?

If you’re in Eugene, you can easily find Asian pears at the local farmers markets.  We had a great crop this year.  It’s worth it to head out to RiverBend Farm south of Eugene, where they’re still available for u-pick at the cut-rate price of $0.70/lb.  Asian pears can beautifully and bake into firm, bright pies.  Just remember you’ll need to follow canning instructions carefully in a tested book, as they are a low-acid fruit.

Welcome to Eugene, Sandor!  We’re so thankful for all that you’ve done to reform our food system, and can’t wait to hear your talk.  Thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Robert D. Clark Honors College, Oregon Humanities Center, and the UO Food Studies Program Initiative, this lecture is free and open to all. (Click poster above for all the details!)

White Kim Chi with Asian Pear

  • 1 (2 to 3-pound) napa cabbage, heavy for its size and unblemished
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 medium daikon radish, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 4 scallions, the green parts julienned and cut into 1-inch lengths, the white parts chopped
  • 1-2 Asian pears (also called nashi, ‘Hosui’ is a good variety but all work), cored and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 3-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small head fresh garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon Korean salted shrimp, minced (available at Sunrise and other Korean markets)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

You will also need a bowl or crock large enough to hold cabbage and 8 cups water, plus a weight to submerge the cabbage.  This could be as simple as a dinner plate with a jar full of water on top.

Prepare the cabbage for a 4 to 12-hour soak in salt water.  Mix water and salt, let sit while you wash and core the cabbage.  Slice the cabbage and cut into pieces about 2-inches square.  Place in a bowl or crock for the soak, pour the salted water and any salt that has not dissolved atop the cabbage and mix gently using your hands.  Weight the cabbage, cover the bowl with a towel, and let sit on the counter for 4 to 12 hours.

When you are ready to make the kim chi, drain and rinse the cabbage, and return to the large bowl or another vessel suitable for fermentation with a weight to press down the kim chi.  Cut up the radish, scallions, and Asian pears. Prepare the souse:  combine the ginger, garlic, shrimp, and sugar in a food processor bowl, and process to a paste.  Scrape out the paste and combine with the cabbage, mixing well with your hands. Add the vegetables and pears, toss lightly.  Press mixture down in your fermenting vessel, then add weight and let sit on counter for 1-3 days, testing each day for a taste you like.  Refrigerate for 2-3 days for best taste.  It will last for at least a week in the refrigerator.  Makes about 2 quarts.

say no to teriyaki, eugene

I absolutely do not understand, and indeed, sharply denounce, our civic enthusiasm for teriyaki.  An achingly sweet, slightly salty brown sludge that drowns meat in any vaguely Asian restaurant in town, be it Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, and undoubtedly Thai, Americanized teriyaki sauce is a trend that must be stopped.

No, stirfries are not assisted by teriyaki sauce.  Neither are hamburgers.  Or shrimp. Or anything — for the love of god — containing broccoli.

Whenever I visit an establishment that has any ties to the mysterious Orient, I studiously avoid anything that might be served in that orientalist shorthand. But sometimes, like last night, I am tricked.

Imagine my dismay when this order of bulgogi arrives at my table at Sushi Seoul.  I’m singling them out because they were once one of the best places in town to get Korean food cooked well and served with a decent number of kimchi/banchan dishes.  But no more.  Bulgogi is already sweet enough with its soy-sugar-sesame oil-garlic marinade. But doused with teriyaki it is like eating meat candy.

I wiped it off with a napkin, but it was too late.  Even worse, it was served with a jam-like chili sauce instead of the usual chunky, salty, miso-like soybean paste you’ll get in Korean restaurants that aren’t bent on Americanizing their food.  The cabbage below the meat (also a Eugene trick) was saturated and soggy.  Instead of what you’d get at any neighborhood Korean restaurant in a big city — freshly grilled, nicely charred barbecued meat wrapped in lettuce leaves with a tiny bit of salty miso, fresh garlic slivers, and a salad of green onions and romaine lettuce dressed with sesame oil — I had an unappetizing pile of limp, sugary rubber over sweet steamed cabbage and some vaguely Thai pepper jam to put in my lettuce leaves.

Disgusting.

So here’s my plea to all Eugene Asian restaurants:  not all Americans like sweet flavors.  Stop serving teriyaki slop.  Reduce the sugar in ALL your recipes by at least half.  The growing health-conscious movement and high incidence of diabetes in our town make this an ethical choice. At the very least, serve teriyaki as they do it in Japan: as a thin glaze flavored with fresh ginger that colors and caramelizes on grilled meats.  Not a sauce.  Not glopped onto everything.  And a stronger salt and umami side than just a sweet, brown, curdled blandness.

We’ll get used to the new flavors, we promise you.  In fact, I will willingly and widely promote any traditional Asian restaurant that changes its American menu to one that is more authentic if it removes the sugary pap you’re currently serving.

And I’m hoping other people in Eugene will support this initiative by asking their favorite Asian restaurants to do the same.

Need more proof?

A Chowhounder found a recipe for commercial teriyaki sauce, evidently used in Seattle family restaurants:

Commercial/Institutional Recipe for Teriyaki Sauce

7 quarts Soy Sauce
9 quarts sugar (Measure with the same container you would measure liquid quarts with)
18 quarts water
3 three inch sections of ginger, peeled
3 heads garlic, peeled
3 heads lettuce
5 medium apples
2 stalks celery
1 bunch/bundle parsley
3 large white onions, peeled

A summary of the ensuing recipe: the sauce is made by grinding everything up in a blender, then boiling it down for two hours.  The author notes that “[t]here may well be variations like using a couple quarts of pineapple, pear, or apple juice as that is used in many restaurant teriyaki marinades (along with apple juice, black pepper, and light corn syrup).”  And I’ve seen additions like cornstarch, onion and garlic and ginger powder.

How does this translate for the consumer?  Well, there are eight quarts in two gallons, sixteen in four gallons.  So the sauce is a simple syrup of 1:0.8 ratio sugar to soy, cut with over double the amount of water.  The vegetables (and/or canned fruit juices and corn syrup surely used in Eugene to cut costs) mute or sweeten the flavor even more.   Adding onions and parsley and onions would somewhat replace the umami flavor that more soy sauce would add.  The lettuce would add body, plus it’s an excellent way to get rid of aging heads of iceberg.

Say no to commercial/institutional teriyaki.

And if you MUST eat teriyaki, make it at home instead.

Teriyaki Glaze for a Couple Pounds of Grilled Salmon

  • 1/4 cup each Japanese low-salt or light color (usukuchi) soy sauce, sake, water, and sugar. If you only have dark or regular or American soy sauce, add another 1/4 cup of water.
  • A small knob of fresh ginger, grated to make about a tablespoon.

On medium heat in a small saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil.  Watch it carefully. When sauce begins to reduce and thicken into a glaze, remove from heat.  When salmon is finished, remove from grill and brush on finished teriyaki sauce lightly just before serving.  Also good with grilled tofu.

fun with fermentation

What’s that smell?  It’s not you, it’s me.  I’m working on kim chi, sauerkraut, and fermented pepper samples for my live demo at the Fun with Fermentation festival tomorrow, Saturday, January 14.  The festival, a fundraiser for Food for Lane County and the Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance, runs from 11-4 p.m., and it’s a good one, with hour-long demos all day and many opportunities to taste fermented foods and beverages made with pride in Eugene, Oregon, and the surrounding area.  Fancy some tempeh, sourdough, kombucha, yogurt, or beer?

I’m particularly excited to share the stage with my fellow Master Food Preservers Elyse and Katya, and meet Aaron of Eugene’s latest, greatest microbrewery, Falling Sky. Check out the full schedule below, from the WVSFA website:

The Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance is pleased to announce the third annual “Fun with Fermentation” Festival. Join us January 14th, 2012 from 11 AM to 4 PM at the WOW hall.

Over 25 local natural foods businesses will be showcasing, demoing, and sampling locally produced cheeses, chocolates, coffees, wines, beers, kombuchas, breads, tempeh, pickles, and many other local fermented delicacies. Devour will be on hand serving a menu which will highlight fermented ingredients. The event has an educational focus centered on discovering the many ways that fermentation is practiced with many foods. There will also be a kids zone, raffle prizes, and beer/wine bottle sales downstairs.

Join us on the stage for educational lectures and demonstrations!
11-12: Yaakov Levine: “Fermented Foods: A Key to Healthy Digestion”
12-1:   Jennifer Burns Levin from Culinaria Eugenius & OSU Master Food Preserver:”The Fermentation Basics”
1-2:     Eight Nine Tempeh: “Live Quinoa Tempeh Demo”
2-3:    Elyse Grau & Katya Davis of OSU Master Food Preservers: “Fermenting with Dairy”
3-4:    Aaron Brussat of Falling Sky Brewery: “The Gifts of Honey: Mead & T’ej”

The event is a fundraiser for Food for Lane County and WVSFA. Admission is on a sliding scale of $10-20 per person, or $5 with 2 cans of food. Children 12 and under are free.

she thinks of all the lips that she licks

Mmm… grilled halibut in a kimchi juice marinade and sesame oil reduction, served with gingery bok choi.  The ne plus ultra best way to use up the dregs of your homemade kimchi.  Think about it.  Spicy sour souse studded with garlic, ginger and green onion ?  No brainer.

My husband is crafty.  He calls from the kitchen, “hey, I’ve got some fish!” and waits.

I am laid out in bed with my feline sidekick, watching old Elvis Costello clips on YouTube, as I do when I’m utterly exhausted and searching the internet for reasons to endure.

Then I think, hmmm, he’s going to ruin that fish by underseasoning it.

I holler out, “what are you putting on it?”

He usually mutters something noncommittal about lemon juice.  Then, with all the will in the world, I usually roll out of bed and straggle into the kitchen in a foul mood.

Ah, but a mood that is elevated immediately by cooking.

See, crafty!

But I’m too tired and it doesn’t work this time.

He comes into the bedroom and shakes a bag of mini bok choi at me.  “Is this still good?”

Another deft ploy.  I am faced with the choice: Elvis Costello live in 1978 or decomposing bok choi that might meet a poor end in 2011.

There is no choice.  They call her Natasha when she looks like Elsie.

Dinner is served!

fermentation nation: radish kim chi

For the upcoming fermented foods class, hosted by your very own Lane County Master Food Preserver Alliance on April 13, 6-8:30, I’ll be demo-ing radish kimchi, among other things. Isn’t it beautiful?

My favorite type of kimchi, when it’s good, is the radish cube kimchi left to ferment on the counter for a few days.  The Koreans call it “kkak ttu gi” or “ggak du gi,” and when it is properly juicy and bubbly, it will have almost a fizzy, live quality when you bite into a cube.

All that fermentation provides kim chi with all the health benefits of sauerkraut; the stuff is teeming with probiotics, vitamins A, B and C, iron and calcium.

But that’s not why we eat it.  We eat it because it’s delicious.

In Eugene, there aren’t many Korean restaurants that serve cubed radish kimchi, but they’re pretty standard in the ban chan collection of kimchi and pickles you see in big city Korean restaurants.  (They do sell radish kimchi at Sunrise Market, fyi.)  But it’s much better when you can make it at home.

All you need is a gallon or larger glass jar (the red pepper will stain plastic) and a trip to the local Korean market, where you will buy Korean red pepper (much milder than our ubiquitous chili flakes), a Korean radish (a.k.a. “moo”), tiny salted shrimp, garlic, ginger, and green onions.  I used garlic chives from the farmer’s market, too.  The Korean radishes vary in size, but most approximate an elongated cantaloupe, or a small football.

If you can’t make it to the class — where I’ll be providing my recipe and tips and samples — and you’d like a step-by-step illustrated recipe, this is a good, simple one.

Radish Cube Kim Chi

  • 1 large Korean radish (“moo”) or enough daikon for 6-8 cups cubes
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic (or throw into food processor with ginger)
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup fine (vs. coarse) Korean red pepper powder (“gochu karu”)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup Korean salted shrimp, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces

Peel and cube the radish into 1-inch (no larger) pieces.  Salt and let sit in bowl on counter for 1-2 hours.  Drain the cubes and rinse in cold water.

Prepare the kimchi souse.  You can either make a paste in a food processor with the garlic, ginger, sugar and shrimp, or just finely mince everything and combine with the drained radish cubes.  Mix well with your hands (you might want to use gloves if your hands are sensitive to spice), massaging spices into the cubes.  Add a little bit of water to ensure everything is nice and pasty, and the souse covers the cubes.  Add the sesame seeds and scallions and mix well.

Place the kim chi in a gallon or larger-sized glass jar that has been thoroughly cleaned and sterilized.  I use a 3L hinged jar without the rubber ring, so I can close the jar but not seal it.  It helps to use a canning funnel to get the cubes into the jar — you’ll get red pepper paste everywhere.

Let sit on the counter for about 2 days, mixing and pushing down the radish cubes into the souse.  After it starts to bubble, let rest in the refrigerator for 5 days before eating.  If you can wait that long.  The fermented kim chi is the best, in my opinion, but you can actually eat the stuff at any point from right after you make it onward.  It will keep in the refrigerator for a few months, but the flavor will change over time.  Keep tasting, and eat it when it tastes best to you.  (The photo above is after a day of sitting on the counter, and the first two shots are immediately after being made.)