Can fermenting be fun? Yes with this quick homemade kimchi
Serve it on a bowl of rice topped with a fried egg and toasted sesame seeds
I’ve been making sauerkraut for about a decade now. It’s so incredibly simple and only needs salt, cabbage and a big bowl for mixing. It can be quite cathartic having to work the salt into the shredded leaves and then packing it all into jars.
It’s almost magic how it develops and changes over a few days when left to ferment. It’s a little bit of alchemy working with good bacteria in a world of clean and processed everything that I happily welcome into my home.
The same goes for my kombucha that brews away, bubbling and fizzing, delighted with this slightly warmer weather. I love having something alive in the kitchen and fermented food has a transformative quality that makes you feel good just eating it.
So while I’m confident with some fermenting, I will admit that kimchi took a while longer to master. That was mainly because fish sauce was involved – it just threw me – and I couldn’t find an essential ingredient: gochujang paste. It’s a Korean red chilli paste that can now be found in Asian food markets. Over the years when I couldn’t source it, I tried chilli flakes, sauces and various different things but the key was to use the real paste.
I had developed a €10-a-week kimchi habit, so am grateful that I learned how to make it myself
I used an Alison Roman recipe for quick kimchi as it was an instant, no-need-to-ferment formula that sounded more like a regular cooking recipe. I built up from there, eventually owning it and creating tweaks and making additions so that I achieved the funky fermented jar of deliciousness that I was used to buying.
I discovered that kimchi is good on most things. Quality kimchi can be expensive and I had developed a €10-a-week kimchi habit, so am grateful that I learned how to make it myself. The quick kimchi recipe originally called for a splash of rice wine vinegar, to introduce the fermented flavour, but if you leave it to sit on your countertop for a few days its flavour will develop itself.
One of my favourite fast-food dinners is to serve lots of kimchi on a bowl of rice, topped with a fried egg and toasted sesame seeds. Or fold it into an omelette as Roman does, with plenty of sharp cheddar cheese.
I love miso soup and have sachets of organic miso with sea vegetables for quick-fix lunches; simply pour the boiling water on and serve with a generous amount of kimchi for delicious and healthy kimchi soup.
Quick homemade kimchi
Makes 2 large jars
1 tsp finely grated ginger
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp gochujang paste
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp salt
2 heads of napa (Chinese) cabbage or 1 napa and 1 daikon radish
1. Mix the grated ginger, garlic, gochujang paste and fish sauce in a large bowl with the salt.
2. Cut the napa cabbage leaves in half lengthways and then into large bitesize pieces. Add to the bowl.
3. Peel and roughly grate the carrots and add these to the bowl too.
4. Massage everything really well together. The more you mix and fold everything together the more liquid is released from the vegetables.
5. Place a plate on top and weigh it down so it’s pressing on the kimchi. Leave for a few hours at room temperature for more liquid to be released and for the flavours to develop.
6. Pack the kimchi tightly into jars and seal with a lid. You can leave it out on the countertop for a few days to ferment or store in the fridge right away. Either way the flavours will deepen and intensify. Keep in the fridge once you’re happy with how it tastes.