Tickle Me With Pickles

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I never thought I had it in me. I buy kimchi. I eat kimchi. But I never imagined I would one day make kimchi. Not only did I make kimchi, I made 2 different types of kimchi-this one with Chinese cabbage and another with oysters (recipe coming)!

If you’re a kimchi novice just like I was, I highly recommend trying this simple recipe courtesy of Yangja Im. All it takes is patience and a love of kimchi–yes, you have to want to eat it.

Korean Pickled Vegetables a.k.a. Kimchi

Sour-sweet and spicy with nutty overtones, kimchi is a delightful explosion of tastes and textures in the mouth. The methods of making are just as varied as the ingredients that go into them–Chinese cabbage is the most common. Kimchi isn’t all that difficult to make as Yangja Im’s recipe demonstrates. In fact, Yangja makes it almost every week. She calls it a “not so traditional” kimchi recipe but to non-connoisseurs (like me), it tastes pretty authentic. For those who are interested, she does tack on some optional ingredients to make it more traditional.

Time: 30 minutes, plus salting and fermenting time
Makes: 1 gallon of kimchi

1 (about 3 pounds) firm Chinese cabbage
3 Kirby cucumbers, or 2 lean Korean cucumbers, trimmed and quartered lengthwise (or cut into bite-sized pieces, if you prefer)
1 small (about 2 to 3 cups) Asian radish (daikon), peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces (1-inch cubes or similarly-sized half moons are fine)
2 tablespoons coarse sea or kosher salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 one-inch knob fresh ginger, grated
1 green onion, white and green parts, cut into 1/2 inch lengths
2 long hot green or red peppers, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick rings
2 tablespoons Korean red pepper powder (koch’u karu)
1 tablespoon sugar

Optional ingredients:
1 large red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon Korean salted shrimp or fish sauce
2 tablespoons water

Wash the cabbage thoroughly and cut the stem out with a V-notch. Halve the cabbage lengthwise and then cut into 1- by 1 1/2-inch pieces.

In a 6-quart non-reactive bowl, combine the cabbage, cucumber, and radish and sprinkle evenly with salt. Let the salted vegetables sit for 3 hours and toss every half hour. The salt will draw out water from the vegetables and they will shrink.

Add the garlic, ginger, green onion, hot peppers, red pepper powder and sugar to the salted vegetables. Mix well with your hands (be sure to wear rubber gloves to avoid chili burn).

OR

In a blender, combine the ginger, green onion, hot peppers, red pepper powder, and sugar with optional ingredients (bell pepper, onion, salted shrimp, and water) and purée until it becomes a thick liquid. Add to the salted vegetables and mix well with your hands (be sure to wear rubber gloves to avoid chili burn).

Transfer pickled vegetables into a 1-gallon jar or divide among 4 one-quart jars, pressing down firmly to remove any air bubbles and so the vegetables are covered with as much juice as possible. Leave about 2 inches at the top to give vegetables room to breathe.

Wrap the mouth of the jar with plastic wrap before screwing on the lid to prevent odors. Let stand at room temperature overnight, then refrigerate for up to one week.

Serve well-chilled as a side dish or in Bi-bim-bap.

Pat’s notes:

Use non-reactive materials (glass, stainless steel or ceramic) for all cooking utensils, measuring spoons, bowls and containers. Don’t use plastic as it picks up color. To store, use sterilized wide mouth glass or ceramic jars with screw-top lids.

Eggy Stir-Fried Cabbage

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I’ve been eating this dish for as long as I can remember. My mum made it, my aunts made it and now I make it–it’s so simple I can churn it out in 10 minutes. I definitely consider it a comfort food. More often than not, I’ll just pile a mound of crunchy sweet greens strewn with eggy bits over rice for a simple meal. At dinner, it makes a great side dish served with meat and rice. This method works with nappa cabbage and bok choy too but cook the ribs for about two minutes first before adding the leaves. You can add some tiny shrimp after the garlic is done for a little “meat.”

Makes: 2 servings as a single dish with rice or 4 as a side dish

1/2 head medium cabbage, cored and cut into shreds
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons canola oil

2 eggs
1 tablespoon fish sauce (or soy sauce if you prefer)
1/8 teaspoon white pepper powder
Salt to taste

In a wok or large skillet, stir fry garlic in oil over medium heat until fragrant and golden brown. About 2 minutes.

Add cabbage. Turn up heat to medium high and stir fry until cabbage turns bright green and translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Keep things moving in the wok.

Turn down heat to low. Make a well in the center of the wok by moving cabbage to the edges. Crack eggs into the well.

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Stir eggs with spatula until yolks are broken, trying to keep cabbage out of egg mixture. Let eggs cook for about 2 minutes until almost set but still a little runny (like soggy scrambled eggs).

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Turn up heat to medium. Mix up entire contents of wok. Add two tablespoons water, fish sauce, white pepper and salt. Keep stir-frying for another minute. Take off the stove and serve immediately.