Late last month I had the chance to visit New York City’s Mokbar nestled in the heart of the bustling Chelsea Market, to learn art of making kimchi from Chef Esther Cho.
Esther grew up cooking with her grandma, who taught her everything about food, including how to love every ingredient, and how to appreciate and respect the process behind every dish. Esther believes that the essence of Korean food is: dedication and passing and passing your love through food to those who eat it.
So you may be wondering, what exactly is kimchi? Kimchi is a fermented side dish usually made of napa cabbage, garlic, ginger, scallions, daikon radishes, and a variety of seasonings. Kimchi is rich in vitamin A, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), calcium, iron, and contains lactic acid bacteria. Health magazine even named kimchi one of the top five “World’s Healthiest Foods”.
Koreans loves kimchi so much that they have made their national dish. South Koreans consume about 40 pounds of kimchi per person every year. During South Korea’s involvement in the Vietnam War its government wanted America’s help to ensure that its troops received their kimchi supplies—that’s how important kimchi is to Koreans!
1 head of napa cabbage, cut lengthwise, quartered
5 tablespoons of rock salt
3 oz of Korean dried cod, shredded (bugeochae)
1 medium daikon radish, about 1 pound, cut into 2-inch matchsticks
1 bunch of scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
½ of apple, pureed
1 tablespoon of ginger, minced
2 tablespoons of garlic, minced
½ of onion, pureed
1/4 cup of salted shrimp (saewoo juht)
1/4 cup of anchovy fish sauce
1/4 cup of lance fish sauce
1/4 cup of plum extract
2 tablespoons of sweet rice flour
1 1/2 to 2 cups of Korean red chili pepper flakes (gochugaru)
1.Rice glue: in a small saucepan, add the rice flour and 2 cups of water over high heat. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes, whisking constantly, until the liquid is thickened to a ribbon-like consistency and you can see the bottom of the pan while whisking. Set aside to cool.
2.Add 1 cup of water inside a big bowl, dissolve 2 tablespoons of rock salt, put the Napa cabbages inside the bowl and rub rock salt on every leaf. Leave them there for five hours, then flip them and leave them there for another five hours. After ten hours, drain all the excess water.
3.Soften the dried cod with half cup of warm water. Put it aside for the kimchi paste.
4.Kimchi paste: In a big bowl, combine the daikon radish, scallions, ginger, garlic, salt shrimps, anchovy fish sauce, lance fish sauce, plum extract, rice glue, dried fish, Korean red chili pepper flakes, and mix everything well until it’s become a paste.
5.Bring the cabbages into this bowl, and rub the paste onto every single leaf.
6.Tightly pack the kimchi into jars or containers with tightly fitting lids, or cover tightly with plastic, making sure it is not exposed to the air. Allow the kimchi to sit at room temperature for at least 2 days, or longer if you desire a stronger flavor. Then put it in the refrigerator for another 5 days.