Freestyle Kimchi

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Good news for kimchi fans - it's easy to make kimchi on a boat!

Kimchi in a jar with a fermenting lid.

Kimchi in a jar with a fermenting lid.

Why Make Kimchi on a Boat?

  • We love having a bottle of kimchi on hand. It is versatile and good for your gut health. As a topping, it goes great with almost anything where you can use a salty, spicy, and tart kick of flavour - over rice bowls, noodles, pasta, eggs, or in sandwiches. As a main, our faves are kimchi stew and kimchi pancakes.
  • It's difficult to buy fresh kimchi while travelling by sea. The canned variety is pasteurized and has lost all probiotic benefits. I keep an eye out for "live" kimchi in the fridge section of health food shops. Luckily, kimchi is surprisingly easy to make and you can adjust the spice level and flavour to your taste.
  • You can find or substitute ingredients easily. No Korean spice powder (gochugaru)? Use red pepper flakes and paprika. This recipe focuses on Napa cabbage as the main ingredient, but you can substitute regular cabbage, or another type of crunchy vegetable entirely, like cucumber, green beans, or even brussels sprouts. It's a good opportunity to use up your leftover bits of vegetables. This recipe is plant-based, using optional kombu seaweed for a little umami instead of fish sauce - go ahead and add fish sauce or soy sauce if you like.
  • It keeps for months in the fridge - if you don't eat it all first!
Before brining

Before brining

Ingredients for approx. 1L of Kimchi

* Optional Ingredients

  • 1 medium head of Napa Cabbage (roughly 1 Kg) [Sub: Cabbage, or see above]
  • * 3-cm piece of Daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks [Sub: White Turnip]
  • * 1/2 medium Carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • A bunch of Scallions or Chives, trimmed and cut into 2cm pieces
  • 1/2 cup Sea Salt

For the Spice Paste:

  • 1 Tbsp grated Ginger
  • 2 cloves grated Garlic
  • 1/2 cup of Korean spice powder (Gochujaru) [Sub: Red pepper flakes and Paprika] - This is medium spicy, so adjust to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Maple Syrup [Sub: sugar]
  • * 1/4 Apple, grated
  • * 10cm strip of Kombu seaweed
  • * 2 Tbsp Mochi flour / grated Potato / cooked Rice as a thickening agent
  • * 2 Tbsp ground Sesame

You'll also need:

  • 1-2 clean jars or containers. I use a glass mason jar and sterilize in hot water before use.
  • A fermentation lid is handy to let out the bubbles. Alternatively, place a plate under the jar during fermentation to catch spillover.
  • A large bowl, a plate that fits inside the bowl, and a weight to put on top of the plate e.g. canned food.
  • Consider gloves for mixing the kimchi with the spice paste, as the smells don't come off easily!

In the first stage, we brine the cabbage to start the lacto-fermentation process, killing off harmful bacteria and leaving behind the good bacteria. Also, water is drawn out of the vegetables to allow them to soak up the seasonings.

Brine and Squeeze [10 mins + 2-3 hours waiting time]

  1. Prep the carrots, daikon and scallions as listed above. Slice the cabbage lengthwise into quarters, remove the core, and cut them into bitesize pieces.
  2. Place the chopped vegetables into a large bowl.
  3. Mix in 2/3 of the salt and massage with your hands to spread the salt evenly. When the cabbage softens, add the rest of the salt and massage again.
  4. Cover the cabbage mixture with a plate and put a weight on it. After an hour or so, massage again, squeezing the water out. Drain the excess water. Cover, wait another hour, then repeat. After 2-3 hours total, the cabbage should have reduced in size and be bendy but not snap. Squeeze, drain and let it stand in a colander.
After brining

After brining

Prep the Spice Paste [10 min]

While you're waiting for the vegetables to brine, you can assemble the spice paste.

  1. Put a cup of water in a pot. If using kombu, add it now. Bring to boil under low heat and then remove the kombu.
  2. If using mochi flour: Dissolve the flour with 6 Tbsp of water so it becomes a gooey mixture. If using the grated potato or cooked rice, mix/blend with a little hot water. Add the thickening agent to the pot.
  3. Add the spice powder (or red pepper flakes + paprika), starting with less if you're concerned about spiciness. Add the maple syrup and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool down.
  4. Add the grated apple, grated garlic, grated ginger and sesame seeds.
  5. Taste and adjust for spiciness / sweetness.

Put Everything Together [5 min prep and 1+ days fermenting]

  1. In a large bowl, mix the sauce thoroughly with the brined cabbage, daikon, scallions and carrots, making sure the vegetables are thoroughly coated.
  2. At this step, it's a good idea to taste and add salt, spice or sweetness to your liking.
  3. Pack the kimchi tightly into the container of choice. Leave some space at the top and close the jar. Put a plate or bowl below if not using a fermenting lid to catch any spillover liquid.
  4. Store at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.
  5. Wait 1-5 days for it to ferment, opening the jar daily to stir (with a clean utensil) and taste. I normally leave it for 3-5 days until it's as tangy as I like, then put it into the fridge where it keeps for months.

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