napa cabbage

authentic Napa cabbage kimchi

by Heguiberto on January 11, 2013

This Napa cabbage kimchi turned out as authentic as the ones I eat at Korean restaurants here in San Francisco. It was fun to make and it took just 3 days before it was ready. (Three days might sound like a long time to some, but I’ve seen recipes where the kimchi had to ferment for a week or more.) I have made kimchi at home before but never used the traditional Korean gochugaru pepper. Instead I substituted jalapeño and poblano peppers, which resulted in an ultra-spicy version. This is milder.

authentic Napa cabbage kimchi

authentic Napa cabbage kimchi

This recipe, with some minor adaptations, comes from Insanity Theory written by Ellie Won, a South Korean who grew up in Australia.

Aside from the excellent recipe, she wowed me with a kimchi refrigerator! Pretty cool! It makes sense to me. My jar of kimchi only fit in the refrigerator after some serious reshuffling.

Steven served it for the first time with rice and beans cooked in the Brazilian way. I simply love mixing foods from different ethnic backgrounds. The results can be surprisingly good. I think that this is what they call fusion cuisine? A bit of this and a bit of that combined together? It certainly breaks the monotony of a meal that could otherwise be boring and monochromatic. A toast to globalization!

The recipe calls for Chinese pear, which I didn’t have. I added red radish to it and changed the proportions of chili powder, sugar and fish sauce. I also added a fresh red jalapeño pepper because… well why not?

authentic Napa cabbage kimchi

1 large head Napa Cabbage cut into wedges (~6Lbs)
~1½ cups non iodized sea salt
4 cups water (1 quart)
1 heaping tbsp sweet rice flour (sticky rice)
1 &1/3 cup Gochugaru chili powder
3 tbsp fish sauce (leave it out in case you want to make it vegan) use ~ 1 tbsp salt instead
1 tbsp sugar
6 whole scallions cut into 2’’ long segments
6 cloves garlic
1 2’’ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
½ white or sweet onion
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and ribs removed
5 small red radishes, thinly sliced
1/3 lb daikon, sliced

key ingredients for authentic kimchi

key ingredients for authentic kimchi

Dissolve ½ cup of salt in the water. Add cabbage bottom parts in first. Make sure all leaves and base receive a coat of this brine. Drain water.

Use part or all the remainder salt to sprinkle over each leaf, including the thick white parts at the base. Put the cabbage in a bowl and let the salt dehydrate it for about 3 hours (Ellie recommends 5-6 hours or until it is floppy). Mine became floppy within 3 hours.

Rinse cabbage thoroughly in running water to remove excess salt. Squeeze it to remove as much water as possible. Place it in a colander and allow it to drain for another 15 to 20 minutes.

During the cabbage dehydration process, make a ‘pudding’ or ‘glue’ by mixing rice powder with ½ cup of water and cooking it on low heat, whisking nonstop until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Towards the last 10 minutes before draining is complete, add jalapeño chili, onion, ginger, garlic, and daikon to your food processor. Whiz into a pulp. Mix this pulp with the rice ‘glue’ along with gochugaru pepper, sugar and fish sauce.

Using a spatula spread the kimichi paste uniformly on both sides of each of the leaves. Put the cabbage in and jar, cover and let it rest in a dark, cool place for about 3 days. Be careful when opening it as gases that build up during fermentation will be under pressure. When ready the flavors will have married and you will sense a slight fizzyness, At this point refrigerate and enjoy.

As your kimchi continues to age in the fridge the flavors become more pungent. If it gets too intense to eat by itself, you can turn the kimchi into soups or make a yummy kimchi fried rice.

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Korean ‘slaw

by Heguiberto on October 28, 2011

This is another delicious recipe I’ve adapted from Marja Vongerichten’s The Kimchi Chronicles. I never learned to appreciate coleslaw American-style. I think it tends to be too sweet, creamy bordering on slimy. And then, on top of that, sometimes it comes with another surprise flavor: pineapple. Ugh! More sweetness. I like the ingredients individually, but when mixed this way I just can’t take it.

Korean ‘slaw

Korean ‘slaw

So here is an alternative to the traditional kind: Korean style. Try this recipe. You won’t go back to the sweet type. Plus this one’s healthier.

Instead of dressing it with buttermilk, mayo or another store bought cream sauce, the bright flavors here get enlightened by the sourness of rice vinegar as well as lime and lemon juices. Okay, I’ll admit that there is a touch of sweetness, too, but only a touch. This sort of reminded me of fattoush or Thai som tam salad.

Note: Because this salad does not use any oil, it needs to sit room temperature for about 15 minutes for flavors to meld: a must.

Korean ‘slaw

6 cups Napa cabbage, julienned
1 cup white daikon, julienned
1 carrot, julienned
½ medium red onion cut into thin half-moon slices
2 scallions, green and white parts, cut into thin rounds
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 small Asian pear, julienned
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp coarse salt
2 tbsp rice vinegar
Juice of a juicy lime
Juice of a juicy lemon

Place cut vegetables in a non reactive bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients. Toss to coat. Let it rest for 15 minutes. Toss occasionally. Serve as a side dish.


seafood vegetable nabe

by Heguiberto on January 7, 2011

Nabe (sometimes called nabemono) is a brothy soup made with a hodgepodge of vegetables, seafood and meat that is prepared with all of the aforementioned items combined into endless “weirdcombinations.” If you have not tried classic nabes such as Oden, Sukiaki, Shabu-Shabu or Chanko Nabe you are definitely missing out! They are all delicious and perfect for the kind of weather that we’ve been having across the U.S. lately, and in the case of San Francisco, the chilly City by the Bay, I would say anytime of the year.

seafood vegetable nabe

seafood vegetable nabe

serving seafood vegetable nabe

serving seafood vegetable nabe on a dark and chilly night

My neighbor in Brazil, Aidê, is married to a lovely man, Shibahara, who happens to be a native of Japan. From time to time the couple would invite my sister, Tinha, and I for beautiful Japanese inspired dinners at their place. It was such a treat! Aidê took some Japanese cooking classes when she lived there and she became quite accomplished. Her sukiakis were incredible.

I really enjoy this kind of soup: a relatively clear but aromatic broth with lots of exciting things to discover under the surface. I’ve tried my hand at Thai Tom-Yum, and South Indian Rasam. Nabe is superficially similar to these yet completely different in taste and flavor. Perhaps sometime soon I’ll try to make a vegetarian version of a traditional French consomé.

Another thing that all these soup recipes have in common is that they’re relatively labor-intensive, what with all the ingredients and the importance of making a clear broth with a subtle yet distinctly memorable flavor. Nevertheless, you will not be disappointed when you sit down to this hearty delightful dish.

I made this in homage to my friend, Aidê. The recipe itself is adapted from rasamalaysia.

Look here for more about nabe.

seafood vegetable nabe

for Dashi broth:

12 cups water
1 12inch piece of kombu (dried kelp)
1 cup dried smoked bonito flakes

for seafood vegetable nabe:

8 cups dashi broth
1 cup mirin
4 tbsp sake
1 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
8 leaves of Napa cabbage
12 manila clams
4 head-on shrimp
4 sea scallops
1 whole red snapper (about 1½ lbs), cleaned and cut into a few chunks
a small bunch spinach
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 small package fresh enoki mushrooms
1 re-hydrated tremella mushroom quartered (learn more here)
1 lb firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into thin pieces
2 giant Japanese scallions (negi)
1 tbsp butter
Kosher salt
shichimi togarashi (Japanese chili pepper mix)

to prepare Dashi broth:

Place water in a large pot. Add kelp, cover and let it re-hydrate for two hours. Move pot to stove. Bring temperature to high and cook kelp for one minute after water reaches boiling stage. Discard kelp. Turn temperature to low. Add ½ cup of cold water to bring temperature down a bit. Add bonito flakes to broth and simmer for a couple of minutes. When the flakes sink to the bottom of the pan, it is time to remove them. Place a large strainer over a large bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Pour broth through towel and strainer. Discard bonito flakes.

I had some leftover broth, which I froze to make another kind of soup later. I’m thinking soba noodle.

to prepare nabe:

Combine dashi, mirin, shoyu and sake in a large pot or bowl. This is the broth for the nabe. Using another large pot, lay Napa cabbage leaves at the bottom. Interchangeably arrange vegetables and red snapper in the pot. Pour broth over stacked fish and vegetables. Cover and bring to boil. Taste broth and if necessary adjust flavors with more shoyu or salt. Add shrimp, clams, scallops and cook long enough for the clams to open. Remove from heat, add butter and serve. Sprinkle some shichimi togarashi on top. This is delicious!

my bowl of seafood vegetable nabe

my bowl of seafood vegetable nabe

I found this quote about nabemono that really went to the heart of the recipe:

Eating together from a shared pot is considered as an important feature of nabemono; East Asian people believe that eating from one pot makes for closer relationships. The Japanese thus say, Nabe (w)o kakomu (鍋を囲む、”sitting around the pot”), implying that sharing nabemono will create warm relations between the diners who eat together from the shared pot.

We shared this soup with our friend, Juanita. It warmed our bellies, and since our friendship is already warm, I guess then it made it warmer still!


homemade baechu kimchi

by Heguiberto on October 12, 2009

homemade baechu kimchi

homemade baechu kimchi

I have always been fascinated by kimchi. And I’ve been curious about making it at home but never got around doing it till last week. The reason I didn’t try it before is that I was afraid I was going to mess something up in the process of making it, thereby poisoning myself and the entire household. But then I read this inspiring book, Wild Fermentation, and decided that it was about time for me to overcome my phobia!

Some foods are preserved with salt or sugar, vinegar or dried by the Sun or with cold air. Well, fermentation is just another way of preservation. Think wine! It breaks down enzymes your body would not otherwise digest from certain foods(e.g soy beans); it lends additional layers of flavors and texture to foods; it adds nutritious elements to the food; and it helps you get through periods where fresh food might be scarce (well not so much nowadays as food keeps traveling across oceans).

I was surprised as to how easy it was to make kimchi. Now I’ve got a big jar of it in the fridge, waiting. Last Friday Steven made a beautiful sautéed tofu dish with my homemade kimchi. That was good.

Because it is Fall, I opted to make the traditional baechu kimchi. Baechu is the name for Napa Cabbage in Korean but the word is also related to the way this particular kimchi is made.

I am a bit sensitive to smells and kimchi has this pungent aroma that rings bells in my brain signaling me to ‘chuck this thing away immediately!’ It’s spoiled! I am sure everybody has issues with certain food smells here and there… think of anchovies, fish sauce, shrimp paste or preserved tofu, all stinky but extremely healthy. My sister-in-law hates the smell of alcohol so abstains from all wine, beer and spirits. Poor girl! I have to admit, that I struggle with the smell of certain wines. I could not conceive the idea of living without so many dishes that you can make with these amazing legacy ingredients left to us from our ancestors. Don’t be shy, give it a try!

Here’s my recipe adapted from the book:

Homemade Baechu Kimchi

1 medium Napa cabbage, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 carrots cut into fine strips
1 bunch of red radishes rinsed and sliced
6 tbsp of sea salt
1 large onion cut into chunks
8 cloves of garlic (or more)
1 (or more) red Poblano pepper, seeds removed
3 (or more) red Jalapeño peppers, seeds partially removed
5 tbsp fresh grated ginger

How to:
Fill two deep salad bowls with cold water. Add equal amounts of salt to them and mix till dissolved. Add Napa cabbage, carrots and radishes and cover with a plate to soak for 4-6 hours making sure veggies are submerged at all times. Drain vegetables (do not discard the brine). Taste. The Napa cabbage should already be slightly tender at this point. It should be salty but not too salty. If too salty rinse some with cold water.

fresh ingredients for kimchi

fresh ingredients for kimchi

Add peppers, garlic and grated ginger to food processor and pulse to form a smooth paste. Add onion and pulse till smooth. Transfer pepper paste to vegetables and mix well. Stuff veggies into a clean 2 liter glass jar. Press them down to add as much as possible. Veggies must be completely submerged at all times. If needed, add a bit of brine just to top off. Using a small zip lock bag, fill it with some brine and place it on top of the veggies as a weight.

Let jar stand at room temperature till ready for use. San Francisco is not that warm so it took about six days. If you live somewhere warm, taste it every day for doneness as it’s likely to be ready sooner. When it’s sufficiently ripened, move jar to the fridge for longer term storage.

Eat your kimchi as a side dish with your meals. Mine turned out fairly mild so I’ll add more pepper next time. I am super proud of my first kimchi! I will definitely experiment with different veggies and roots in the future.

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