Napa Cabbage Kimchi

I suppose it would have made the most sense for me to post this at the beginning of my time in Korea, especially since I used cabbage kimchi for the kimchi fried rice.  Unfortunately, it took me a long time to create a recipe I thought was blog-worthy.  I tried a bunch that were either too salty, too boring, or too fermented.  I can find better kimchi than that around here in the refrigerator section of the drug store.

I’m hardly a kimchi expert- I’d never had even tried the stuff until a couple years ago.  But I like my kimchi to taste fresh while still having the requisite funk.  I finally found one that fit the bill- and it doesn’t require much fermentation time.  You just soak some chopped cabbage in salt water for a couple hours, drain, mix in a kimchi paste and let sit for another couple hours.  That’s it.  Easy.

The fish sauce and oyster sauce help give this kimchi it’s depth of flavor.  Many kimchi recipes don’t use them, but I found they made the kimchi so much more interesting than the recipes that relied on salt only.  Most fish sauces are gluten-free, but finding gluten-free oyster sauce can be more challenging.  Below is the kind that I’ve used for the past couple years in case you’d like a visual to help look at your grocery store.

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Napa Cabbage Kimchi

Ingredients:

* 1 medium to large Napa Cabbage, halved, cored and cut into 1-2-inch strips
* 1 cup water
* 3 Tablespoons kosher or sea salt
* 1/4 cup Korean coarse red pepper flakes
* 2 Tablespoons water
* 1 Tablespoon garlic paste
* 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
* 2 teaspoons sugar
* 2 teaspoons gluten-free oyster sauce
* 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
* 4 green onions, chopped into 1-inch pieces

Directions:

Dissolve the salt into 1 cup of water. Place the cabbage in a large bowl or container and pour the salt water over it. Toss quickly and then let sit, without any additional stirring, for 2 hours.

While the cabbage is soaking, make the kimchi paste by combining the red pepper flakes, 2 Tablespoons of water, garlic paste, ginger, sugar, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and green onions.

Drain the cabbage in a colander or in a piece of cheesecloth and give the cabbage a quick rinse under cold water. Gently squeeze out any excess liquid. Place the cabbage in a large bowl or jar and stir the kimchi paste into the cabbage. Mix thoroughly to ensure that each piece of cabbage is coated. Let sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours. Cover and refrigerate.

Shiitake Mushroom Namool with Enoki and Green Pepper Variations

Traditionally, Korean meals have a large variety of dishes.  Normally I’m partial to one-dish meals because of their ease and clean-up.  Thankfully, many of these namools, or seasoned vegetable side dishes, come together in a flash, use the exact same flavorings, making it possible to reuse the pans.

I experimented with a couple different vegetables, like shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms and green peppers, but the possibilities are endless.  I think this would also work really well with cubes of roasted eggplant or even spinach or bok choy.

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Shiitake Mushroom Namool

Ingredients:

* 1-1/2 cups dried, sliced shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water for at least 30 minutes
* 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* pinch of salt
* 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
* 2 teaspoons sesame oil
* 1 green onion, thinly sliced

Directions:

Drain the soaking liquid from the shiitake mushrooms and gently squeeze out the water from the mushrooms. Combine mushrooms with the sesame seeds, minced garlic and a pinch of salt and mix together.

Coat a large skillet with the vegetable oil and heat over high heat. Add the seasoned mushrooms to the pan and stir fry for a minute or two, until the mushrooms begin to soften slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil and green onion.

Serves two to four, depending on number of sides.

Green pepper variation: substitute one green pepper, washed, seeded and cut into thin strips in place of the shiitake mushrooms. No soaking required. Follow other directions in the same manner.

Enoki Mushroom variation: substitute two packages, approximately 4 ounces each, of enoki mushrooms, rinsed and stems removed. No soaking required. Follow other directions in the same manner.

 

Ginger Jelly with Honey Molasses Syrup

Another country, another ginger-centric recipe.  I suppose you could consider this a grown up version of jello: it has a more sophisticated flavor and a softer, more pleasant texture.

The recipe that inspired this one was drizzled with brown corn syrup.  Had I thought that was the right flavor match for the ginger, I would have risked angering the pitchfork-wielding anti-corn syrup mob.  But the truth is, I just thought a honey and molasses mixture was more interesting way to finish off the dessert.

Molasses is such a strong flavor that it can quickly overwhelm the honey.  Start with the 3 to 1 honey to molasses ratio, although you’re welcome to make adjustments from there to make the molasses flavor more pronounced.

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Ginger Jelly with Honey Molasses Syrup

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

* One 6-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into 10-12 sliced
* 3 1/4 cups water, divided
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 2 teaspoons gelatin
* 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
* 2 Tablespoons honey
* 2 teaspoons molasses

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, combine the ginger with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, set the cover on slightly askew and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the ginger slices and discard, or set aside to re-use. The should be about 2 1/2 cups ginger water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.

Pour 1/4 cup of water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top and let soften. Stir the gelatin water and the lemon juice into the ginger water and stir until the gelatin is dissolved.

Divide the mixture between four dessert bowls or glasses. Chill for several hours in the refrigerator until set. Just before serving combine the honey and molasses in a small bowl or ramekin. Drizzle on top of the jelly.

Note: If you'd like small squares or pieces of jelly instead of a solid mass, pour the hot ginger mixture into a wide, shallow serving bowl or dish. Chill for several hours or until firm and cut into small cubes or pieces. Divide among the bowls or glasses and drizzle with honey molasses syrup.

Oi Naengguk – Chilled Cucumber Soup

I have a friend whose mother makes the most amazing pickled vegetables.  Seriously, if you put them next to a tray of peanut butter brownies, I might still reach for the pickled veggies.  She’s given me the recipe but I’ve yet to actually make them.  I guess I get nervous because you have to pre-salt all of the vegetables and the amount of salt needed isn’t specified.  I’m worried that I’ll overdo it with the salt and, even after rinsing them, will end up with a several pounds of ruined, salty produce.  Hey, it’s happened.  Daikon kimchi, I’m talking to you.

But when I saw this soup recipe, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to mess it up.  It’s quick, easy, refreshing and as pretty as a picture.  Sweet, salty, sour with just a little bit of heat, it’s a really nice way to balance out a spicy Korean meal.  If you have a love of sour foods like me (any other Traditional Chinese Medicine Wood element folks out there?), I think you’ll enjoy this one.

I also wanted to let you guys know about a cool Foodgawker/Photograzing-like site specifically for Korean food.  It’s called Korean Food Gallery and it’s a great place to find inspiration for your next Korean meal.  For you food bloggers, it’s another place to post photos of your favorite Korean recipes.  Thanks to Jenny for letting me know about it!

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Chilled Cucumber Soup

Yield: 3-4 servings

Ingredients:

* 4 mini cucumbers or 1 regular cucumber, seeded and cut into matchstick strips
* 2 shallots, cut into matchstick strips
* 2 teaspoons sea salt
* 4 Tablespoons rice vinegar
* 3 Tablespoons sugar
* 1 Tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce
* 3 cups cold water
* 1 green onion, sliced into thin rings
* 1 hot red chili pepper, seeded and cut into thin rings (I used a red Jalapeno pepper)
* ice cubes, optional

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, shallots and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and water. Add this mixture to the cucumber.

Add the green onions and mix well. Place in the refrigerator until well chilled. Garnish with red pepper rings. Add an ice cube or two in each bowl to keep the soup extra cold, if desired.