Kimchi: The readymade ingredient that adds deliciousness to so many dishes

Lilly Higgins: I am a major fan of the versatile Korean dish of fermented vegetables

I’m such a major fan of kimchi and I know I’ve written about it a few times here in the past. It’s a Korean dish of fermented vegetables, mainly napa cabbage, daikon radish and spring onion. The vegetables are all massaged with a paste of garlic, ginger and a Korean chilli paste or powder called gochujang. Fish sauce is often added and plenty of salt to preserve. I usually use seaweed flakes in place of the fish sauce for that same sea-kissed flavour.

There are hundreds of different types of kimchi but the method is always the same: slicing the vegetables to increase their surface area then brining with salt to inhibit the growth of any unwanted microorganisms.

I was making sauerkraut for years before I plucked up the courage to try to make my own kimchi. In reality of course the two methods are much the same: salting a cabbage and fermenting it. Kimchi just seemed to have so many more ingredients. But the more I ate, the more I demystified it.

I love the fresh fizzy version from SensAsian Fare in Cork; it's very similar to the one I make at home. So incredibly alive and bubbling.

My Goodness Food also does an incredible kimchi along with its signature ban chi. For that, among other things, they use horseradish, locally grown smoked daikon, shiitake mushrooms and seaweed. It's so delicious. The Cultured Food Company also makes great kimchi that's widely available.

As far as ferments are concerned, I reach for my jar of kimchi far more often than sauerkraut. I just find it so incredibly useful to have in the fridge for all sorts of dishes. It’s a readymade probiotic-rich jar of delicious flavour that can be used in so many ways.

Apart from the usual adding to bowls of bibimbap and stir fries, it tastes really great with cheese. A mature cheddar and kimchi toasted sandwich is incredible, or try folding it into an omelette with plenty of grated cheese. It’s delicious with fish and can transform a tuna salad.

I love adding it to hot and sour soup or making kimchi soup with it. This quick noodle dish is another favourite weeknight standby. Add any extra vegetables you’d like. Green beans, a handful of spinach leaves or grated carrot. I love the texture of udon noodles, so satisfying and substantial. Topped with a fried egg and some kimchi, these noodles can be coated in a rich flavoured sauce with one flick of your wrist.

If you have access to good-quality eggs then fry them till the white is just set. Once combined, each noodle will be slicked in the luscious yolk, perfect with the sharp kimchi.

Recipe: Kimchi noodles

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