Spicy, sour, crunchy, with a strong, funky taste - Kimchi is definitely an acquired taste. The fermented dish is a staple in Korean kitchens and even those of Korean food fans across the world. Korean drama fans can't deny that a generous helping of Korean kimchi on a bowl of warm ramen is the perfect accompaniment for the next episode of your favourite K-drama series.
Kimchi is not difficult to make at home but its flavour depends on the ingredients, the right fermentation conditions, and the LAB (Lactic acid bacteria) involved in the fermentation process, says Chef Carlos Frunze, of Teible, a restaurant in Al Jaddaf waterfront, Dubai, which recieved a Bib Gourmand distinction in the MICHELIN Guide Dubai 2022.
Passionate about his Kimchi recipe adapted to suit the weather in the Middle East, Chef Carlos explained the right way to ferment Kimchi.
He uses local ingredients like Omani chillies to make his own version of the traditionally used Gochugaru paste, and raw honey produced in Sharjah instead of fruits for sweetness.
1 kg napa cabbage or Omani cabbage
32 gms or 6 pieces of garlic cloves
250 gms red chillies
75 gms ginger
30 ml fish sauce (available in Asian sections at supermarkets) or mushroom sauce for vegans
30 ml Bread Shoyu/Soy sauce
45/50 gms of spring onion (white parts only)
120 gms daikon radish
125 gms white onion
22 gms of kosher salt
15 gms cane sugar
1. Cut cabbage into quarters then cut into squares and remove the woody part of the stem while keeping leaves intact.
2. Generously spread salt between the leaves, working layer by layer, all the way down to its core.
3. Place the cabbage in a shallow bowl and let sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. This process is called 'sweating', it removes all the moisture from vegetables. The extracted liquid will be used as starter brine for fermentation.
4. In a food processor fitted with a chopping blade, pulse radish, sugar, white onion, spring onion, ginger, garlic, chilli powder, fish sauce and soy sauce until it forms a smooth paste.
5. Spread paste and chopped green onions onto all leaves, making sure to cover them all the way to the core.
6. Place the seasoned cabbage up to quarter of a 3 litre jar and press it down to release any trapped air. This ensures that no air bubbles are formed in the kimchi, eliminating any formation of spores due to bad bacteria. Some people even use fermentation crock weights for this. Pour any remaining paste on top of the cabbage pile, and tighten the lid all the way, just before loosening it slightly (1/8 of a full turn).
7. Keep out of direct sunlight and let it ferment at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks. Once the desired level of fermentation is achieved, refrigerate and chop to smaller pieces for serving. Kimchi can age for several months while refrigerated.
Chef Carlos Frunze, is the Executive Chef of Teible, a restaurant in Al Jaddaf waterfront, Dubai, which recieved a Bib Gourmand distinction in the MICHELIN Guide Dubai 2022.
This article was first published in July, 2022.