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The Ken of Kimchi


Brine Pickling Monthly




Fermented Vegetables

Are at the Crossroads of Art & Science

© 2012, Bill Hettig. All Rights Reserved



Note: We now offer Korean chile flakes to make kimchi)

Kimchi: Once and Future Food

Kimchi is so vital a cultural tradition it has its own character in the Chinese napa-cabbage.jpgalphabet. First known as chimchae, it translates as “pickled vegetables with salt.” A Korean meal without kimchi is not a meal. These vegetables are mankind’s earliest cultivars—cabbage, onion, radish, garlic, and has been fermented for over 2,000 years. It costs just pennies to make, but once you get to know it as a powerhouse of enhanced vitamins, probiotic bacteria in the trillions, an embarrassment of riches in digestive enzymes—you now realize that it is a once and future food.

My first meet up with kimchi was with F-U-D; fear, uncertainty, and doubt. As a self-trained cooking instructor in the late 80's, I decided early in my schooling to visit this small mom ‘n’ pop Korean restaurant. My intention; to know more about this ancient cuisine. I sat at the bar and watched a gent eating kimchi. He was sweating, his eyes were fixed and dilated, and there was an in-the-moment aura about him. I sensed he was a Korean war vet revisiting another time and place. With F-U-D I ordered a bowl. Unfortunately for me I didn’t have years of overseas duty to break into this dish. It was swim or sink—and I sunk like a rock. My sweating, dilated, fixated eyes were screaming “Uncle!” 

So, I filed this experience away and left the Korean peninsula for the milder climes of the Mediterranean and acquainted myself with a very teachable cuisine. I did not forsake Korea, but returned a few years later, when visiting world cuisines with my new invention, the Perfect Pickler®. I intended to dilate and fixate my eyes on my terms. Here’s my ken of kimchi... don’t let spice overrule your palate. There is nothing so un-mojo or non-macho than trying to find your tolerance with chiles. You will find this a delicious recipe using five common ingredients with a different style of preparation I am introducing to you. Called wet kimchi, it eliminates many hours of work and wait time. You’ll be “all in” with the simplicity and ease of making a major class of brine fermented veggie. 

Let’s deconstruct kimchi and build a pronto recipe that will be a great mainstay in your kitchen, both as pickled cabbage and as a key ingredient in making a variety of quick meals.

kimchi-ingred..jpgKimchi is so embedded in the Korean diet that there are over 2,000 books about it to be found in the Korean national library. I’ll bet each home has its own kimchi twist. The core ingredient for our starter recipe is Chinese or Napa cabbage. Its supporting actors are: daikon or icicle radish, scallions, fresh garlic and ginger. From there you can exchange cabbage for cucumbers, dried seafoods, fruits— like apple or Asian pear can add a sweet note. The chili used, “gochugaru” is actually found in flake form and is not high-level heat in itself, except that so much of it is used in the traditional recipes that it can overwhelm the tasting experience. The traditional method to make kimchi is to form a paste with these chili flakes and smear it generously over salted, whole cabbage leaves and left to ferment. This can be an all-day process. We tweaked it into about a half-hour process. It is one of the easiest recipes you will find. 

Instead, we are going to chop the cabbage into 1-inch squares, finely slice chopped-napa.jpgthe daikon and scallions, and mince the garlic and ginger. The chile flakes get tossed in the dry mix and packed into a clean jar and a salt and water brine is poured to cover. Done!!! And it is delicious.

After four days at about 70 degrees you can add two optional components to gild the lily: a teaspoon of honey, agave nectar, or sugar, and a teaspoon of fish sauce. I just made a half-gallon of kimchi using this wet method and it took a little over thirty minutes including set up and clean up. It cost me under $3.00 for ingredients. From that I will show you how to make a lasting menu of dishes and condiments.

Here is a comment from a recent kimchi pickler:  "I tasted the first batch yesterday and was blown away with how good it is. The little bits of ginger just explode in my mouth!" - Paul Busman

For our video on making kimchi click here

Everyday Kimchi - Makes 2 Quarts

This is the basic recipe and a good place to start in your kimchi quest. 

1-1/2 pounds Napa cabbage, halved through the length, root section removed, 1-inch squares

1/2 pound daikon radish (or mix of daikon and carrot) peeled, julienne or matchstick slices

3 large scallions, trimmed and cut into thin, slanted slices

fresh garlic, 2 TBS. minced

fresh ginger, 2 TBS. peeled and minced

Korean chile flakes, 1-1/2 to 3 TBS - to taste. (You can adjust after kimchi-15.jpgfermenting. Or after fermenting, divide into jars and bump up the heat for the chile heads). Find Korean chile flakes (gochugaru) at Asian markets. It’s not very expensive. 

BRINE: 2 TBS. sea salt dissolved in 4 cups filtered water


Note: We now offer Korean chile flakes to make kimchi)




kimchi.jpgTex-Mex Version - For a little fusion pickling of your own, substitute the Korean chile flakes with your favorite chili blend. Once fermentation is complete you can taste and adjust the heat level.

To complete the recipe, prep the ingredients and toss well in a large bowl.
Make the brine. Pack a two-quart jar with the mixed veggies, packing firmly along the way up to 2-inches from the jar lip. Pour in the brine to 1/2-inch from the jar lip and add the brine overflow cup.


Seal the lid down according to the booklet instructions or watch our video.                               





Pronto and Meal-Maker Recipes - Putting Your Pickles to Work

My partner, Wendy, has a family that needs three square meals a day. Her focus has been on ways to use fermented vegetables to quickly flavor up a main course dish. So she created what we call, Meal-Maker recipes. They are more complex recipes in the making, but once fermented and refrigerated, you have a powerful flavor and condiment agent to dress up simple basics—like rice, salads, and sandwiches. A big jar of Meal-Maker pickle is concentrated and just a little is used to create a side or main course dish.

I am a cook for one, and over the years I have come to simplify my cuisine by using just a few ingredients to impart maximum flavor. I developed the Pronto Pickle formula—one vegetable, one spice blend, and brine to produce a quart of pickles in under 10 minutes. Pronto pickles are great as a finger food snack or a side pickle condiment, straight up. These and future recipes are being developed so you can have both in the fridge ready to serve you. For dozens of Pronto Pickle recipes consider adding the Mastery of Brine Pickling ($4.99), to your library.

Here is an excellent way of building Meal-Maker dishes using kimchi. And we are inviting a world-class chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, to show us how to take kimchi and finesse it into a variety of marvelous meal-maker recipes. 


Ever the foodie, I found an intriguing series on television, called The Kimchi Chronicles. It is a blur of fantastic, other worldly ingredients put together in dizzying ways. I was sweating and my eyes were dilating just watching the series. I learned why Korean cuisine is now making its way around the globe. It is vibrant and versatile. They adapt Western ingredients into their foods and now Western chefs are making use of Korean foods to create a new range of common dishes made new -- hence another meaning of ... once and future food. To further illustrate: let’s make plain, leftover rice into a quick meal in a bowl, and we'll also create a kimchi tartar sauce and a kimchi sweet-sour-spicy relish at-the-ready to fashion fusion meals in minutes.

 We now offer Korean Chile Flakes on in our web store

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokumbap)- Serves 4  korean-cuisine-kimchi-bokkeumbap.jpg

This can be two-ingredient simple, but also loves a few extras if you have the time.

I just finished my first-time attempt as written, THERE IS A NEW COMFORT MEAL ON MY MENU!!!!


2 TBS. toasted sesame oil

1-1/2 cups finely chopped onion

pinch of coarse salt

2 cups kimchi (the older the better), coarsely chopped

1/4 cup kimchi brine

4 cups day-old cooked rice at room temperature

Garnish options: minced scallion or chives, ground sesame seeds, or a fried egg (over easy to create runny yolks).

Main course meal options: 1/4 - 1/2 pound of chicken, pork, bacon, seafood, tofu that is chopped and sautéed with the onion


Sauté the onion with salt in the oil for a few minutes to soften. Add the kimchi and juice and cook another minute. Add the rice and mix well, cook about 5 minutes. - This recipe and the following two condiments are by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the Kimchi Chronicles. 


Kimchi Tartar Sauce 

Here is East-West fusion in a wink. Blend all together. Use on fish, tofu, eggs, chicken, portobello mushrooms. This has become my major mayo topper for just about anything!

1-1/2 cups mayonnaise

3 scallions thinly sliced

3/4 cup finely chopped kimchi

1/2 cup kimchi brine


Kimchi Relish - Sweet-Sour Spicy Condiment

Use as a ready made fermented relish like you would use for catchup, relish or taco topper.

I watched this sweet-sour condiment made on the Kimchi Chronicles, where a simple grilled hot dog was dressed with a scant squeeze of spicy mustard and topped with this relish. Actor Hugh Jackman, a chile wimp, was so surprised and very enthused when he downed his dog.

1 cup kimchi, finely chopped

2 TBS. honey

2 TBS. brown rice vinegar (or rice vinegar) 


Korean Tacos - Serves 4

 This is ground zero for all those food trucks motoring around America. Let's sashay into the kitchen, leave the truck in the driveway and make us some goooood street food!

Take marinated, grilled protein to a new level. If you like Tex-Mex slow-cooked barbecue, serve shredded barbecue on warmed tortillas and top with the kimchi relish.

... For something quick and light and altogether new and creatively piquant, join me for a citrus marinated fish taco with the kimchi tartar sauce.

I love to search the internet for like-minded foodies who are directed towards simple, elegant recipes for the weeknight table. You’ll love this recipe for taking you on a world tour in so short a notice!

This recipe is featured on the Fujimoto family kitchen blog. Fish tacos combine New World and Old World ingredients and is shorthand for delicious! In this version white meaty fish like fresh cod, haddock, mahi-mahi is marinated in a citrus mix, then grilled or fried. Goya brand Mojo Criollo is found in the international section of supermarkets. 

Fish Tacos - Serves 4goya.jpg

1-1/2 pounds white fish fillets 

1 cup Mojo Criollo

1 cup fresh cilantro

Marinate the fish for about an hour with the marinade and cilantro. Grill or pan fry until just flaky.

Serve with warmed flour or corn tortillas, kimchi tartar sauce or kimchi relish and then anointed with classic Mexican toppings of choice: cilantro, shredded lettuce or cabbage, queso fresco (or feta cheese), or sour cream. In a fast food version, just the kimchi topping hits the spot.








 You can make this Korean fish taco into just a couple ingredient fast meal, or add it to a full scale Mexican themed meal. 






Left-Brain Section:

The Ken of Kimchi

Here are some additional health notes to absorb about this iconic food:

Kimchi and other brine fermented vegetables balance cooked foods. They are found at the table of most long-lived societies. A bite of cooked food with a chew of pickle. Flavor + digestive enzymes + probiotics + cooked food = tasty and healthy balance...   

• Has Cholesterol-lowering properties

• Helps increase appetite

• Reduces constipation; stimulates peristalsis

• Helps maintain proper intestinal flora

• Reported to have anticancer and anti-aging effects

• Decreases body fat

• Increases immune function


Here is a story written after the bird flu epidemic that hit Asia in 2005. Although there is no tested result or proof of the preventative benefits of kimchi with the flu, this story reveals one small test that is encouraging for wider testing. - B.H. 



Scientists Find Kimchi May Cure Avian Flu.

Publication: Business Wire 

FREMONT, Ohio -- A cure in a meal: U.S. sauerkraut sales are expected to skyrocket in yet another indication that sauerkraut is the super food of the 21st century, scientists at Seoul National University have successfully used kimchi to treat chickens infected with avian flu. Kimchi is a seasoned variety of fermented cabbage that shares Lactobacillus bacteria with traditional sauerkraut, which may be the critical element in preventing avian flu. Both kimchi and traditional sauerkraut are made by fermenting sliced cabbage, producing a high level of lactic acid.

According to an October, 2005 BBC report, Kimchi was fed to 13 infected chickens and 11 of them started recovering within a week. "We found that the chickens recovered from bird flu, Newcastle disease, and bronchitis. The birds' death rate fell, they were livelier..." said Professor Kang Sa-ouk

There has been no further testing or follow-up research to report, but the underlying import is that regularly eating fermented vegetables and other ferments are a first-line resource for building and protecting your immune system. 

Let's make a resolution to ferment this powerhouse and put some kimchi into the new year. That's a wrap!


Bill Hettig   © 2012, All Rights Reserved



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