Good Problems to Have, and Kim Chi: Round 2, Part 1

I started writing this post after making another round of Kim Chi with friends last weekend, but it seems that by the time I’ve uploaded the photo and had time to finish it, it’s readily ripening! My life has been overflowing with fun and interesting outings and projects, to the point that it has gotten in the way of documenting them. This is a good problem to have.

Since I also find the documentation process to be fun, interesting, and useful, though, I hope to catch up a bit in the next week or so. Stay tuned for more Mt. Hood adventures, the start of Spring, an update on my corned beef, and all the other things likely to happen by the time I finish writing about those.

Seaweed Kim chi

It didn’t take long to get through the last round of Kim Chi I made, which is an indicator of how much I liked having a crunchy, spicy vegetable snack always waiting for me in the door of the fridge. To make it a social event, I had a small kim chi making party with my favorite co-chefs, Susan and Janette.

They had done quite a bit of research, and I did a lot, too, my first time around, to try to find the best method or recipe. I found dozens of dramatically different recipes with dramatically different methodology. Soak the cabbage in brine for 8 hours, or for 15 minutes; salt each leaf individually with sea salt, or just mix salt and cabbage in a bowl. Once you’ve mixed in chili and other things, the kim chi will be ready in anywhere from 8 hours to two weeks or more, depending on how it’s stored, and more importantly, who you ask.

From all of this, I drew the following lesson: this is something you can’t possibly screw up. At some point, I’ll make enough kim chi that I can start paring some of these strategies with the results I’m looking for, but I’m still very much in the exploratory process here, and anything I produce will be tasty inspiration for the next round.

With that attitude, I made two batches, still mostly following this approach. For the veggies, I did half Napa cabbage, because that’s classic, and half regular green cabbage, because it’s half the price and worked fine last time. I added daikon radish cubes, which I enjoyed last time, carrots, and some scallions, which added good color. (Susan put bok choy in hers, which also gave some good color variety to it.) One batch used a classic chili paste, with more dried red chili than fresh red chili last time, and with less garlic, because I forgot to buy enough garlic.

For the other, I  started with the same basic chili-garlic-ginger paste, and added kelp granules that caught my eye in the bulk spice section, for a seaweedy flavor that seemed interesting. Preliminary tasting suggests that the seaweed one will be pleasantly flavorful, but I can already tell I should have soaked the granules in water before adding them — they ended up soaking up a lot of the brine that the cabbage produced. Once I realized this was going on, I added some water to try to mitigate the situation.

Last time I waited about 10 days before eating it, and this time I did my first taste test at 5 days — it wasn’t done. I’m fermenting it in a cooler on the porch to save space indoors, and I think that the cooler temperatures will slow the process. I’ll keep you posted! Again, though, I’m pretty sure I can’t screw this up — Susan, Janette and I had some of their daikon and boy choy kim chi with rice noodles and tempeh for dinner, after it had been sitting for all of 45 minutes. With a spot of sesame oil on top, it was extra-delicious.

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