Conflict has always been a part of Korean culture. Stuck on the precipice between Japan and China, Koreans have been constantly under threat of attack from both sides, and, more recently, from within. Korean food, to me, has always reflected that internalized clash: using seemingly incompatible ingredients to create flavors strangely new yet deliciously memorable that can appeal to Sun Tzu and Buddha alike. Kimchi is one of these dishes.
To the layman, kimchi is that red pickled veggie that you put on top of that piece of meat to make it taste really good. But to Koreans, it is our lembas bread, our way of showing hospitality by bringing fermented culinary warmth from our family to you. I’ve heard of families ending their feuds after kimchi was offered as tribute. I’ve also heard of feuds starting for the opposite reason.
As humid Houston descends into the dog days of summer, chill with a fat bowl of something different: dongchimi, a Korean clear-water kimchi with sour-sweet notes and a refreshing savory pop. Don’t forget to pick up some patience at H-Mart, because the kimchi will take about a week to ferment.
- 1 head of napa cabbage, quartered
- 5 pounds of Korean radishes, peeled and quartered
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 red apple, quartered
- 2 Korean pears, quartered
- 1 ounce ginger
- 1 bunch green onions
- 1 head of garlic
- 4 Korean red peppers, deseeded and sliced
- 3 tablespoons of sugar
- 10 tablespoons Korean sea salt
- 2 ounces of soju
- 12 ounce can of Sprite
- 20 cups of water
- Cover the radish and cabbage with the mixture of sugar and sea salt. Make sure to get some salt under every leaf of the cabbage. Place in airtight container at room temp for a day.
- Put the onion, apple, pear, garlic, ginger, scallions, peppers and water. Make sure the fermenting juice (including the extracted water from the radish and the cabbage) covers the vegetables. Cover and leave in an air tight container for 5-7 days.
- Taste and check the kimchi daily, trying a little bit of the cabbage and slurping some of the broth. It should have the kimchi fermented funk combined with a salty and umami pop, along with a slight kick from the peppers.
- Once it has fermented to your liking, add Sprite as needed. Make sure not to over-do it; the salty pop of the dongchimi should be the dominant flavor. But then again, America is a free country.
- Eat kimchi (in a bowl with ice for maximum relief). It pairs well with Korean grilled meats as well as with a bowl of beef and noodles. Chase with soju. Pass out on lawn chair. Smile.