Friday, May 14, 2010

Grandma's Cabbage Kimchi

I feel like I am giving away my family secret by divulging my grandmother's kimchi recipe, but I feel like even with all this knowledge, no one in the family can quite make it as good as my grandma. It's a gift I tell you. She was telling us about how one time, she had to make kimchi in the dead of winter after she came back home after giving birth to one of our aunts. Can you imagine? The last thing I'd want to do after giving birth is wash mounds of cabbage and makekimchi. No wonder she's so good at it, she's had to do this for years and years. I guess we reap the benefits of all her hard work. So just to give you a glimpse of the final product, here is the seasoned kimchi filling.

My favorite part of making kimchi is being the taste tester for my grandma. I pick up some of the kimchi filling, roll it up with the salted cabbage and stuff it in my mouth. Then if the seasonings are all set, I give my grandma the OK to start stuffing the cabbage halves. It's a tough job but someone needs to do it. =) Eating fresh kimchi this way, like a wrap, is such a rare treat. You can only get it when you are making kimchi from scratch.

Napa cabbage (lots of it - My grandma is of the belief that kimchi tastes better when you are making large quantities of it)
Korean radish
coarse sea salt
sweet rice powder
Korean chives
raw shrimp
salted shrimp
Korean red pepper flake
fish or anchovy sauce
green onions
Asian pear

First, you need to prepare the cabbage. Take off any blemished leaves from the cabbage and cut the cabbage in half. Wash and rinse the cabbages and very lightly sprinkle coarse sea salt in between the layers. My grandma is adamant about not salting the cabbages too much. She says it should still taste bland. She says that the thing she doesn't like about store bought kimchi is how salty they are. So she says be very conservative with the salt. Leave the cabbages overnight.

When you wake up the cabbages, they should look like this, slightly wilted.

It is important to taste the cabbage. If it's too salty, you can wash off some of the salt before you start stuffing and mitigate some of the saltiness.

The next steps involve a lot of prep work of cleaning and chopping up all the vegetables. Julienne the radishes and cut the asian pears into thicker slices since they will disintegrate over time. Cut up the green onions, onions and chives into long slices. Add in red pepper flakes, garlic and sugar. Instead of adding additional salt, my grandmother mashed up the salted shrimp into pieces with her hands. Add in some fish sauce as well.

Grab a glove and mix together.

Heat the mixture of sweet rice powder with water until you make a thin paste. Let it cool and add to the mixture.

Here's what it should look like.

If you are going to eat it fresh, it is at this point that you put some filing aside and eat with some salted cabbage leaves. I highly recommend you do this.

Now for the rest of the kimchi, which you will store, you bring out the secret ingredient. Raw shrimp ... who knew??? My grandmother claims that slices of raw fish are delicious in this as well.

Rinse the raw shrimp in water and blend with some water until smooth.

Add to the kimchi mixture. You can see how the filling becomes thicker and has a glossy sheen to it.

Now it's time to stuff the cabbage.

The trick is to fan out the outer layers of the cabbage as follows.

Lightly smear the mixture across the cabbage leaves. Don't worry about getting too much filing into each layer.

Here's my grandmother in action. She does this so fast!

You do this to every layer until you get to the top. Be sure to get some seasoning on the outside of the cabbage too.

Put the cabbages into a container. The other trick is that you have to squish the cabbages together and push it down. Not sure why but my grandma said to do it so I followed orders.

Cut up some flat pieces of radishes and add it to the container. You will get a lot of kimchi juice as it ferments and the radishes will absorb some of the saltiness. It's nice to bite into the radishes as you eat the kimchi as well.

Here's what it looks like when the container is full.

Cover with saran wrap and push down the saran wrap unto the surface of the cabbage. Close the container tightly and place in the fridge.

My grandmother insisted I take some home to Chicago with me. I was sure it was going to get confiscated during security check but it made it safe and sound and I have been enjoying it since. Thank you grandma!

No comments:

Post a Comment