Fermenting vegetables is like magic. Turning an unassuming cabbage into a fizzing, tangy flavour fest is something cultures from across the globe have been doing for centuries. The fermenting process works by intentionally spoiling foods which not only preserves them but also turns them into something tummy pleasingly wonderful.
Known for being excellent at restoring gut health, increasing vitamin levels in veggies, having cancer fighting properties as well as helping to remove toxins from the body, the benefits of fermentation to food is an impressively long list. Once you get a taste for the funky ferment fizz your body will naturally keep craving the goodness.
This tasty little kim chi recipe is truly maximum reward for almost next to no effort. Wait patiently for a few days for the ferment to take place and you’ll have your taste buds buzzing contentedly and your body will bloody love you for it. Traditionally a fermented fish sauce is used, however as this version is vegan friendly I have opted for miso. Red miso is ideal as it’ll bump up the umami flavours similar to fish sauce and also help give viscosity to the paste helping it stick to the cabbage leaves.
What You Need
Your choice of glass jars or crock sterolised
2 large wombok (Chinese cabbage)
1/2 – 1 cup of unrefined quality salt flakes
1 small daikon, julienned
2 small carrots, julienned
4 spring onions, chopped finely
Kim Chi Paste
1 cup water
1-2 garlic bulbs, peeled and crushed
2 cm of fresh ginger peeled and finely grated
1 1/2 cups Gochugaru (Korean chili powder)
2 tbs red miso paste (one with no added colours or flavours)
1 1/2 tbs sugar
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
What To Do
Sterolise and dry your chosen crock or jar and lid before getting started.
1. Thoroughly wash the wombok. Quarter large cabbages, or halve smaller ones, trim up any roots, hard or brown ends.
For this recipe we are using the dry brining method. It uses less salt and takes a shorter amount of time.
2. Rinse the cabbages in cold clean water. Sprinkle the salt flakes between each of the cabbage leaves. Be careful to ensure you evenly salt the leaves to get an even brining result. Pile cabbages together on an oven tray and leave them for a minimum of 2-3 hours, longer on a very cold day or overnight if you have time. Turn the cabbages ever half an hour or so. You’ll begin to notice they start to soften and lose liquid, they’ll begin to shrink down in size too, this is what you’re after.
3. Rinse and drain cabbages well. Have a little taste, the leaves should taste quite salty, however if the salt is overpowering they might need a second wash.
4. While your cabbages are brining prepare your kim chi paste.
Blitz water, garlic, ginger, chilli powder, onion, miso paste, and sugar into a relatively smooth paste. I like mine to still have a few lumps and bumps. Mix the carrot, daikon and spring onions into the kim chi paste.
5. Use your hands or a pastry brush to cover each of the leaves thoroughly and evenly. Pack the cabbage tightly into your prepared jars. Be sure to press down and remove and air bubbles. Inserting a chopstick can help release bubbles. You might need to break down your cabbage quarters/halves to get a tight fit.
6. Cover your jar with a tea towel and let your kim chi sit on a bench top for around 2-3 days. You’ll notice at this time the kimchi will have created more liquid (you can test by pressing down on the cabbages) and it should have started bubbling, this is the ferment starting to take action. Leave the jars out for a few more days to get a stronger ferment if you desire, then transfer your jars to the fridge to slow down the ferment. Your fermented kim chi will deepen in flavour, get tangier and more sour the longer you leave it to ferment. It can last up to 6 months in the fridge, however best consumed within a month. If you notice an unpleasant sour smell or signs of mold, do not consume your kim chi, it has turned and must be discarded.
Please do try and use Gochugaru (Korean chilli) in this recipe. The flavour is more mild than other chillis and adds a authentic smokey spice to the kim chi. You’ll be able to get your hands on it at most Chinese supermarkets.