So if you haven’t gathered by now, I’m a mixed chick. I’m Blasian, Black and Asian, blackandyellowblackandyellow, #kb4life. I’m Korean and Black. My mother is Korean and my father is black and from them came ME!
I was born in Seoul in the Ewha Women’s University Hospital near what used to be the Great West Gate, Seodamun (서대문) torn down during Japanese invasion and occupation in 1915. You’ll have to ask my dad why I wasn’t born in the military hosptial on base in Incheon like all the other Army babies. #trustissues?
One of the (countless!) benefits of growing up bicultural is that I get to learn about and experience FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD from two worlds! Thanksgiving tables always had collards & ham hocks and always a side of kimchi. My father’s mother taught my little Korean mom how to make chitlins, how to make neck bone and green beans, and of course, the recipe for collards & ham hocks. It’s the same recipe I use today (thanks Granma Viv!). I know that other KBs can relate to that one!
When I was 15, my mother thought it high time to pass down the kimchi recipe used by her mother and her mother’s mother and her mother’s mother’s mother. I was reluctant to learn considering I’d grown up watching my mom and some friends gather either in the kitchen of our tiny apartment or the garage of a friend’s home, doing the kimchi squat over GIANT rubber and stainless steel bowls of julienned radish, scallions, and quartered heads of napa cabbage, quarts of minced garlic, gallons of red pepper powder. The process from the soaking of the cabbage in sea salted water to actually being able to eat the ‘red crunchy gold’ was about a week. No seriously!. What 15 year old you know wants to do the kimchi squat for days? I sure didn’t.
*side note, what is the kimchi squat? Also known as the Asian squat, it’s the classic stance taken by women while making kimchi. See here.
Fast foward 18 years (do the math, figure out my age) and now I get paid to make kimchi for people, ain’t that grand? I’m thinking of starting kimchi parties as one of the services in my personal chef service but I have to figure out how much to charge and what would have to be included, prepped ahead, etc. They would end the way any kimjangwould end: boiled pork belly cabbage wraps and some fresh unfrermented kimchi. YUM.
A good deal of garlic, maybe and entire handful (that’s like maybe 5 whole HEADS, not cloves)
2 things of scallions
2 handfuls of red pepper powder
About 20 jiggers of fish sauce (maybe ½ cup?)
Half handful of baby shrimp paste (they sell it in small jars)
An asian pear and honey crisp apple if you want (put through the food processor)
A whole bunch of coarse sea salt, I’d say a cup per head of cabbage you use)
A thumb sized piece of ginger
A good 5 second squeeze of honey
Cut the napa cabbage head into 4 pieces the long way down starting at the bottom going towards the top
Soak those 4 pieces in salt water overnight, using about ½ cup of the sea salt and just enough water to cover the cabbage by about an inch. Drain the cabbage in the morning
Julienne the radish using a mandolin or some seriously kick-ass knife techniques and a lot of patience. Also julienne or chop the scallions into about 1-2 inch pieces
Put the ginger, about ½ of the rest of the salt, garlic, red pepper powder( and the pear and apple if you’re using it) into the food processor and let ‘er rip.
USE GLOVES FOR THIS STEP!! Add this processed spicy mix to the juliened radish and scallions and mix mix mix! Some people make a paste that’s like a ‘glue’ for all this with a few TBS of sweet rice flour and water, but I don’t like the gel-like consistency it gets after fermentation. Can’t stand the consistency, actually, so I don’t use it. Doesn’t really affect the kimchi much in terms of flavor to omit this step.
Now grab a ¼ head of the cabbage, and take a bit of the red veggie mix and between each layer of cabbage, add the mix little by little. When you’ve spread a bit of the mix between each leaf layer, take the mix and rub it all on the sides and outside of that long ¼ of cabbage.
Then find the longest outside piece of cabbage, pull that aside (NOT OFF) while you roll up the rest of the cabbage from the head down to its base. Use the piece you put aside to kind of wrap around the little roll you’ve made.
Stuff this complete roll into the jar and grab a larger punch of coarse sea salt and sprinkle it over the head in the jar.
Repeat steps 6-8 for the remaining 3 pieces of cabbage. This should be enough to fill about 2 mayo sized jars or 3-4 drinking mason jars with freshly made kimchi.
Leave the jars out at room temp for about 2 days in the summer and 3-4 days in colder months to allow it to ripen (*it will NOT smell good in your house this week), then store in the fridge. The kimchi will stay good for about 2 months.