Sunday, 17 May 2015

Kimchi-Making Sunday

My first attempt at making kimchi! Will find out how it tastes in about a week
A friend of mine invited me to attend a kimchi making class today and I jumped at the chance because I periodically like to do something with my hands other than type on the computer!

We went to a kitchen studio in Chai Wan where Korean American Mina Park is general counsel at an investment bank and off hours has Sook, a business where she cooks for friends and clients, and holds classes to teach people how to make kimchi.

Chives, garlic, ginger, red pepper powder, daikon in the bowl
Park has lived in London, France and around the United States, and through her mother gained a passion for cooking. When we came to her spacious studio, her aunt and uncle were there; Park has also learned family cooking from her aunt too, her mother's sister-in-law, who learned recipes from Park's grandmother.

There are many different kinds of kimchi, and Park said those who live in the south of Korea south generally use fish sauce, while those in the north may use beef broth; the recipe can also vary according to families and individually to what kinds of tastes they want to have in their kimchi.

She showed us how to make whole cabbage kimchi, which requires getting those thick oval-shaped napa cabbages, chopping them into quarters and soaking them in salted water overnight and squeezing out the excess water. We also had to do this with the daikon, as the ones in Hong Kong seem to hold more water than the Korean ones.

Mixing the rice paste into the sauce
Then we got to making the sauce, where we minced a head of garlic, same with ginger, roughly chopped garlic chives, and chopped the daikon into slices then julienne them.

The sauce is straight forward -- in a large bowl throw in all the garlic, ginger, chives, daikon, and about 1 1/4 cup of Korean red pepper -- the coarse kind -- otherwise it could turn out to be much spicier than you expect! 1/4 cup fish sauce and 2 tablespoons of fermented baby shrimp, and 1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds. Then we added some salt to taste. You could also add thinly sliced carrots for an extra crunch.

A rice paste also needs to be made, mixing sweet rice flour with hot water and constantly stirring it over high heat so that it will thicken. This needs to be cooled down before it is added to the spicy red mixture.

Once it is mixed in, then it's time to put on plastic gloves and take the cabbage that has been cut into quarters, squeeze out the excess water and then use your hands to slather the red spicy mixture onto each leaf.

Adding the spicy mixture to each cabbage leaf
After that's done, it's ready to be placed into the glass jar and Park advised we had to "be aggressive with your cabbage", by pushing it rather forcefully into the jar to ensure air bubbles are pushed out otherwise the fermentation process won't work well.

Squish squish squish.

Our jars were not large and so we were only able to squeeze in that one-quarter cabbage and maybe a few extra leaves. She warned us to leave some room at the top otherwise your jar of kimchi could explode! Park said it happened to her once and it was not a pretty sight...

So she suggested we could open our jars once a day as the kimchi fermented at room temperature to avoid the gas buildup at the top. Since it's relatively warm these days, the fermentation process will be quite fast, so Park advised we could leave the jars outside for about two days and then put it in the fridge. It will continue to ferment there, but not as fast. We have to wait about a week to be able to eat it.

It was lots of fun making it, and it's definitely one of those events where it's less of a task when a group of friends get together to prepare it, much like making jiaozi, or dumplings.

We'll see how my kimchi fares and if it works out I'd been keen to try making it again! Fermentation is the rage these days, and anything homemade taste even better... right?

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