Posts Tagged ‘kimchi’

Every now and then you make a meal, not expecting much, and you end up really suprising yourself. I had one of those tonight and figured I’d better blog about it before I forget what I did. And since I’m still trying to get into that dress for my niece’s wedding, I decided to keep the meal low-carb. Asian without rice. It is kind of wrong…

Braised bok choy and kale, marinated chili flank steak, asian style green beans and kimchi

I found this recipe for Asian Barbecued Steak a while back. It sat around until I thought, hey, I should try it. I obtained a flank steak specifically for this purpose. I marinated it in the chili sauce mix for about four hours or so. The recipe is for grilling, but I pan fried. My grill is still rigged for bacon smoking. I hit it for maybe four minutes or so per side (I didn’t really time, just felt the steak with tongs for doneness) then covered and let it rest for five or ten minutes. When it came out, I cut it on the diagonal, against the grain, and wow! It was tender, juicy and flavorful. Test subject Bill went back for seconds!

To accompany the steak, I braised up some bok choy and some kind of purple kale I got in my CSA box. Let me just say, I don’t really like kale. Or at least I’ve never had it in a way that I enjoyed. This time I sauteed it with garlic and ginger (the worst ginger in the world, thanks Publix), fish sauce, a little white wine and duck fat. I thought that by using some leftover duck fat from my very last duck (*sniff*) it would do something for it. It really didn’t. I even threw in a few teaspoons of sugar trying to do ANYTHING to make it enjoyable for me…but alas…nope. However, when I mixed it with a side of kimchi it was palatable.

The wilted greens may have been a bust, but the green beans were a hit! I got a bag of beans in my last CSA box so I cleaned and cut them and made a sauce of soy sauce, fish sauce, worchestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper and powdered mustard. I poured the sauce over the beans and roasted at 400 degrees for ten minutes or so. Very yummy! I’ll have to remember this because test subject Bill actually ate the beans, then made sure that I wasn’t thinking about tossing the leftovers. Success!

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In Korea, kimchi is a passion. Back in the day, Korean women would fill giant pots with kimchi and bury them up to their necks and eat the kimchi over the winter. Today, special refrigerators are sold for the sole purpose of keeping kimchi. Koreans are just wild about their kimchi, and for good reason. It helped keep them alive over long winters in years past. Being a fermented vegetable, it’s filled with nutrition. And hey, it’s darn tasty. Kimchi, gim chi, kim chee however you want to spell it in English, it’s a worthy endeavor.

Kimchi to go kit: napa cabbage, green onions, daikon, sample kim chi, garlic and ginger, starch mix, red pepper, fish sauce

My Korean tutor Tess and I have been discussing kimchi as I shared with her some of my pickling experiments. When she asked me again if I was going to try to make it, I said absolutely. The next thing I knew I was up to my ears in a veritable kimchi to go kit. Tess gave me just the right kind of cabbage, daikon, hot pepper powder, fish sauce, green onion, salt and a starch (flour and water mix) that she likes to use to thicken the sauce. Along with a loose set of instructions, she gave me a sample of her own kimchi which I prompty ate.

I had no more excuses. I was going to become master of my kimchi.

My Joy of Pickling book has a recipe for kimchi in it. As I sorted through my ingredients and tried to figure out my head from my tail, I ended up doing a bit of a combination between Tess’s instructions and the ones from my book. The first step is to brine the cabbage. I cut the head of cabbage in half and mixed the salt with the water. The amount of water Tess told me was no where near enough to cover the cabbage in the vessel I had (a giant steel mixing bowl). The book instructions used a lot less salt, so decided to split the difference and just poured more water over the cabbage. I weighted the cabbage down with a plate and a water-filled jar. There it sat for about six hours.

When the cabbage was done brining, I pulled it out, washed it and squeezed the water out of it. I then cut it in quarters. Tess says that good kimchi has to have the proper shape – long quarters of cabbage with the sauce stuffed in between the leaves. Since I didn’t want to disappoint her, I would do it the proper way!

Julienne of daikon

I assembled the sauce: the starch mixture, slightly heated, a huge amount of the red pepper powder, the fish sauce and a little bit of sugar. I sliced and diced the daikon as per Tess’s instructions. I mixed everything together and was ready to stuff. Tess recommended using gloves to handle the kimchi because of the heat of the peppers. Recalling the time I put in contact lens with a jalapeno-laced finger, I put on some gloves.

Stuffing was actually easier than I expected. The brine made the leaves pliable so I could pull back a leaf, rub the vegetable-sauce mix on the leaf and move onto the next. The real challenge came once the cabbage quarter was stuffed – getting it into the jar. All I had to use was a gallon jar, so I had to maneuver the piece through the relatively small opening and position it in the jar. Since it’s glass and therefore you can see through it, I also wanted it not to look like poo.

Stuffed quarter of cabbage

Once all four quarters were stuffed and positioned, I filled in some of the spare space with daikon cubes and pressed down on the whole thing to get it compacted a little. It sure seemed like there was a lot of empty space. I know oxygen is an enemy of fermentation so that made me nervous. So I made up a quick brine and poured in enough to fill most of the gaping holes. Bad form? Maybe. I won’t tell if you won’t.

Tess told me to leave it at room temperature for 24 hours. The book said 3 to 6 days. So I left it for 2 1/2 days. It was very cool. I could see bubbles coming up as the fermentation started. Sometimes I could hear the bubbles. I don’t know if that’s supposed to happen, but it was awesome.

Kimchi ready to ferment!

When I finally gave it a taste-test, I was pleasantly suprised. It didn’t suck. It wasn’t as good as Tess’s, that much I could tell, but it wasn’t bad at all. But it didn’t matter what I thought. The real test would come a few days later when I gave Tess the taste test on our weekly sushi trip.

First of all, most of the employees at the sushi/hibachi place test subject Bill and I go to every week are Korean. So they know their kimchi. Tess was very excited when I showed up with my sample. She finished making her sushi roll and grabbed the container. She announced that it looked good. Her husband laughed, as he usually does whenever I attempt anything Korean. (I get laughed at a lot…) But I made a believer out of them both. Tess tried it and said, “It’s good! It’s amazing!” Her husband tried it and he, too, was amazed. Then one of the waitresses tried it so she could share in the amazement. I heard Tess saying something about she’d never seen an American be able to make good kimchi.

And that’s why they call me The Kung Fu!

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