My fondness for Korean food was developed profoundly during my student years in London. As an university student, I lived for a few year with couple of fellow students from Korea who then became my closest friends for many years. They introduced me to kimchi (fermented cabbage), and we often made it together. Gochujang (Korean hot chili paste), which would be added to most of the dishes, Budae Jjigae (spicy stew with various ingredients such as spam, meat, vegetables and noodles) which we would cook on gloomy winter nights; Pa Jun (Korean savory pan cake) which usually consists of homemade kimchi, eggs and flour, served with a soy vinegar dipping sauce. In most of the weekend evenings, we would prepare many different dishes/snacks, such as kimchi soup, rice, toasted nori, grilled dried squid etc. and then spend the rest of the night munching on those simple homemade food and sipping Soju (Korean liquor made with rice or wheat) into the wee small hours.
Another thing we loved to do was eating out in one of the best Korean restaurants where most of the customers were Korean (and students), and that was always a good sign. It was nothing fancy (we couldn’t afford dining in expensive restaurant anyway), just down to earth. Every time we push opened the wooden door, the redolence of garlic, chili and fish sauce (the three staples ingredients in Korean cuisine) rushed into our nostrils, made us feel even hungrier. The indoor temperature raised due to the steaming hot pot on nearly every table, ‘Jeongol’ – a Korean stew consists of various ingredients such as meat, seafood and vegetable, sometimes noodles will be added to the stew. Usually ‘Jeongol’ is served in a wide shallow stainless steel pot on a gas burner directly placed on the dining table (in winter, you could see the front windows of the restaurant dripping with condensation!), it was the best dish for sharing, diners would dig their chopsticks into the simmering broth to fish out their favorite pieces while engaging in their conversations. The sound of the chit-chatting in Korean filled the whole restaurant. I loved to eat there because not only did they served the best Korean food, but also the whole dining experience had somewhat made an impact on me; for me it was the most authentic and organic way to learn about a culture, to experience it through their food, the way people interact with each other over eating and drinking tells a lot about them. I was so lucky to have met these friends and to experience another similar yet very different culture in some of the most important years of my life.
Since then, I have totally fallen in love with Korean food, hence this post. Especially kimchi, it is spicy, salty, sharp to the taste buds. I love it in soup, on rice and all the other possible ways of cooking with it (which I also leant from my Korean friends in London). I was once (or twice) given some kimchi from a girl friend here in Berlin, whose mother sends her homemade kimchi from Korea every year! She told me her mother will make ridiculously large amount of kimchi once a year, for the family and relatives, and she is known for making delicious kimchi in her home town. I have no doubt, I love her kimchi, and I am very grateful to have tasted it.
I was craving for kimchi the other day, but I didn’t want to buy those ready-made one in the asian store, so I decided to make my own. I was feeling a bit adventurous that day and I wanted to try something different. I didn’t want to make a big batch nor to spend too much time making it. I wanted to create a recipe that is easy, quick, and really appetizing. So I use kohlrabi instead of the usual Napa cabbage (besides I can only found huge ones in Berlin). Kohlrabi is one of my favorite vegetables, it is sweet, crunchy and has a slight peppery taste to it, it is delicious both raw and cooked, and best of all it is available all year round. Therefore I think it would definitely make amazing kimchi! As for the seasoning, I did a bit research on the internet but most of the recipes are overly complicated and time consuming. That takes me back to the terrace house in North London, where I learnt how to make kimchi for the first time, a simple version that was equally appealing to one’s taste buds. I wrote down the ingredients for the seasoning just from my memory, and headed to the shop and hoping everything would work out at the end.
And, I am happy to say that the final result is delightful! I am flabbergasted when I tasted my kohlrabi kimchi after I left it to ferment for a day on the kitchen counter. It was delicious! It was spicy but not too over-powering, it got the right balance of saltiness and sweetness, love the crunchy texture of the kohlrabi and the whole combination was a success. The taste will deepen with time, so you can truly enjoy it throughout the whole week (if it even lasts that long!). And from now on, I will make sure there is always a jar of Kohlrabi kimchi in our fridge!
Note: The first time I made this I included the long thin stems and leaves of the kohlrabi, it turns out that they were too tough to be eaten raw. So this time, I have only used the root, peeled and cut into bite size pieces. If you are into very spicy kimchi, feel free to add a bit more chili powder, but I prefer a milder version which allows me to enjoy every single taste of this kimchi without my tongue being numbed by the chili. I let it ferment on the kitchen counter for a day only and keep it in the fridge for the rest of the time. It will last about 1-2 weeks in the fridge. Served with rice, or use it in a stir-fry, or in soup etc. The other day, I served it with quinoa, avocado and soft-boiled egg (see last picture) and it was delicious.
(makes about one 1-litre jar)
For the kimchi:
- 3 large kohlrabi, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
- 2 carrot, peeled and julienned
- 1.5 tbsp. of good quality sea salt
For the seasoning paste:
- 3 spring onion, trimmed and finely sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 (2cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 2.5 tbsp. Korean chili powder
- 2 tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 tsp. sugar
In a large mixing bowl, combine the kohlrabi and sea salt. Let it stand for about 30-45 minutes. When the time is up, drain the water from the mixing bowl and keep it for the seasoning. Rinse the kohlrabi once.
To prepare the paste, put all the ingredients plus the salt water that drained from the kohlrabi in a bowl, mix well until you get a paste.
Combine the salted kohlrabi and carrot in a large mixing bowl. Use your hand (with gloves) gently incorporate the paste to the kohlrabi and carrot, make sure all the vegetables are coated with the paste. About 5 minutes.
Transfer the mixture into a clean glass jar and really push all the vegetables down and allow some head space inside the jar. Seal with the lid, and leave it in a cool dry place (or kitchen counter) for 1 day.
After 1 day, you can enjoy the kimchi already and keep the jar in the fridge for the rest of the time.
For a step-by-step photo recipe at Kitchenbowl, please klick here.