We have a problem in our South Norfolk home. However much kimchi we make, it’s never enough. We made a 2 litre bucket a week ago and it has gone. Kimchi is a staple condiment, ingredient and side dish in Korea. It’s made with fermented cabbage (I know, there’s a theme emerging in the world of fermented food) and other vegetables, spices and flavourings. It’s delicious and spicy and tangy and salty and a tiny bit sweet too…
I talked about the benefits of fermented food before and I also promised you my inauthentic Norfolk Lockdown kimchi recipe. Why inauthentic? I’ve had to keep it vegan friendly and use ingredients I can get my hands on. (Gochugaru is the authentic Korean chilli powder used and I haven’t been able to get any…yet.) I haven’t left it to ferment in the ground over winter. I haven’t got the years of knowledge and experience of home cooks in Korea. This recipe is not kimchi, it’s Norfolk kimchi.
It tastes amazing, but if you want the real thing, seek out your local independent Korean restaurant (in Norwich, there’s a Korean restaurant actually called The Kimchi. They might be offering a takeaway service, and we could all support local at the moment…
Norfolk Lockdown Kimchi
1 Chinese leaf cabbage (sometimes called Napa cabbage)
2 large carrots
½ a red pepper
2 red chillies
1 tsp chilli flakes (I used chipotle chilli flakes)
3-4 cloves of garlic
5 cm piece of ginger, peeled
1 bunch of spring onions
2 tsp brown sugar
A few clean jars
Put the pepper and red chillies on a baking tray and put in the oven at 140˚c. We’re gently roasting them to get a bit of moisture out and increase the flavour intensity.
Chop the cabbage into roughly 2cm/1-inch pieces. Basically, so you can get it in your mouth, no need for a ruler. Wash it well, and leave to drain. Peel the carrots, then grate them either by hand or in a food processor.
Put the cabbage and carrots together in a bowl with 2 teaspoons of sea salt. Massage the salt into the cabbage and carrots then cover. They will lose some volume and gain some liquid. Leave this mixture, while you get on with the paste.
Take the peppers and chillies out of the oven and put into a food processor or blender, along with the spring onions, chilli flakes, garlic, ginger, 2 tsp salt, and sugar and blend until you have a reasonably smooth paste.
Whilst your paste is blending, pop your jars in the oven to sterilise.
Put a colander in a large bowl and drain the cabbage and carrot, and rinse with 300ml of spring water. Keep the liquid from the cabbage and carrot, you might need it in a minute.
Put the drained cabbage and carrot to a large bowl and add the paste you have made. Mix well. If I have disposable gloves, I use my hands, if not, use I two tablespoons.
When it is really well mixed, get your jars out of the oven and allow them to cool slightly. When the jars are cool enough to hold start to fill them with the kimchi mix. Make sure you pack the mixture in really well. If you press it down, liquid should cover it. If you need a bit more liquid, use some of the liquid you kept from earlier. Put the lids on loosely to allow any gas to escape as the fermentation takes place. Keep them on a tray out of direct sunlight.
I’m writing this in May in a south-facing kitchen in sunny Norfolk. The fermentation process kicks off quickly here (a couple of days). Keep checking, by smell, sight and taste. When fermentation has started it should be spicy and tangy. Keep in the fridge after a couple of days to slow the fermentation.
Norfolk Kimchi can be enjoyed on its own, with rice or as a side dish to anything you fancy.