Before coming to culinary school, I had been planing a trip to South Korea for many months. I had actually saved up enough money to go in August but on impulse I took all the money I had saved up to go travel, and spent it on tuition in hopes the one day, I might travel around the world, making money instead of spending it.
During the months of research for my trip, I was binge eating Korean food (I still am), and I’d developed a taste for their staple food; kimchi. Now I’ll admit, to a Westerner, spicy, sour, fermented cabbage doesn’t sound too appealing, but if you’re planning on going to South Korea, you’re going to have to get used to it! I actually find the sharp acidity of it very nice when accompanying a hearty stew, or some fatty meats.
This month, I’ve been brewing something special for you guys to see! While you may be familiar with typical cabbage kimchi, this is 깍두기 (Kkakdugi) or cubed radish kimchi! I actually saw this on a TV show one time and have planned on making it for months. It feels very reminiscent of the cubed radish one might get at a Korean fried chicken restaurant (which I highly recommend trying out!).
This spicy cubed radish can accompany anything you would serve with kimchi or try it finely diced in a fried rice.
So without further ado, lets make 깍두기 together!
First we start with the ingredients. Typically you want to use a Korean radish but I used Daikon which is pretty similar. Green onion adds some nice colour to the finished product. Ginger, onion, garlic, and apple (you could use pear) will be blended into a paste to flavour the kimchi. Rice flour will be made into a paste with some water to help everything stick together.
This is 고추가루 (Gochugaru), or Korean red pepper flakes. A staple ingredient in many korean pickles, stews, soups, and sauces. The flakes themselves are not very hot and have a subtle smokey flavour to them. This will be the primary flavour for our radish kimchi.
First we start by covering the radish in salt and sugar and I don’t mean a sprinkle. COVER IT. This will help draw out some of the excess moisture from the radish as well as provide some flavour. Some people will let this sit for the whole day, others say let it sit for an hour. I let mine sit for about 4 hours.
After about 4 hours, all the salt and sugar had absorbed into the radish and they were waiting for me in a puddle.
Now you have to rinse these off pretty well. I would say no less than 5 minutes but 10 would be even better. If you skip this step, your kimchi is going to be way too salty.
Next we’re going to make the paste for our radish. First we’re going to mix about a spoonful of rice flour into about a quarter cup of water. Mix it up and microwave it for like 30 seconds. If you’ve ever made mochi before, you know the magic that happens when you microwave rice flour and water. It becomes this goopy, almost porridge like consistency. This is what’s going to make everything stick.
Next we’re going to blend the rest of the ingredients. A big splash of fish sauce, around half an apple, half an onion, 2-4 cloves of garlic, and a chunk of ginger.
After that’s blended into the consistency of baby food. Mix the gross sticky white sludge with the stinky, fishy, vegetable sludge. Add around 2 tablespoons of your Korean pepper flakes.
Now get some rubber gloves on an mix the kimchi paste with the radish and add the green onion. You can finely chop it, but I prefer to leave mine in big chunks.
NOW THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! You could eat this right now and it would be perfectly fine. Salty, spicy, sweet. But here’s the REAL fun. Kimchi is always fermented, meaning that bacteria in the air will react with the sugar in the kimchi and form lactic acid which gives kimchi its signature sour taste. The bacteria in the kimchi is also really good for your gut health and you’ll find your digestive system will thank you for eating this regularly.
So take your unfermented kimchi, and put it in a sterilized glass jar. Seal it and let it sit for a few days in a cool place. That’s it! Just don’t put it in the fridge as it really needs exposure to a natural environment to ferment. You’ll start to see bubbles forming in the jar after about 3 days. This is a natural reaction in fermentation where carbon dioxide is released, so be careful opening the jar as it might spray you! I let mine sit for about 2 weeks before putting it in the fridge. What you’re left with is a sour, spicy, tasty treat!
And you know I had to make some food to go with it…
Enjoy guys! Look forward to talking to you all next time!