In case you haven't heard, there is a food craze going on at the moment, and it is growing by the jar!
That food craze is all about one dish: Kim Chi.
Kim chi (김치), pronounced kim chee, is a staple food in Korean cuisine and is served together with other banchan (반찬), or side dishes, at nearly every meal. On average, a Korean person consumes about 40 pounds of kim chi each year! There are various types of kim chi that can be found throughout the year made from all kinds of vegetables including radishes, cabbage, scallions, cucumbers, and many others. Each of these types of kim chi usually require different ingredients to create specific tastes and consistencies in addition to a long fermentation process. It truly is an art form that has been mastered by the Koreans.
Perhaps you have already tried this famous food. But if you haven't, then you probably don't quite grasp the popularity and importance of kim chi and its place in Korean culture. Don't worry, it's okay. Think "ice water" in the United States. At nearly every restaurant you eat at in the U.S., your server almost always brings you a cup of ice water before you eat, whether you want to drink it or not. (Why we all need ice water is beyond me...) This is just a comparison of how common kim chi is at mealtime for Koreans. The difference is that kim chi actually has numerous health benefits as opposed to ice water. Also, kim chi is a great accompaniment to whatever main dish you are enjoying, again, unlike ice water. Many people also enjoy it with rice alone. (These people are hard core Koreans usually!)
So, why is it that kim chi is so popular? What benefits does it actually provide?
Aside from its distinct taste and smell, like yogurt, kim chi contains a TON of probiotics, such as lactobacilli, that keep your digestive system functioning at its best. It is also filled with antioxidants and carries a little kick from all the ground red pepper flakes it is made with, which contain lots of vitamin A and vitamin C. These are just a few health benefits from a list that goes on and on. In fact, there are even research studies about the effects of kim chi on cancer and other diseases.
So, if you want to eat this delicious food, you don't need to travel to Korea to enjoy an authentic version. Visit any of the fantastic Korean restaurants in Northern Virginia, and you can get a little taste of home/Korea. Then you will understand why people love kim chi so much that they even say "Kim Chi" instead of "Smile" when they take pictures!
How to Make Your Own Traditional Kim Chi:
If you're interested in braving the process and making your own traditional Kim Chi at home, here's a great place to start. (Recipe courtesy of Korean Bapsang)
1 large napa cabbage (about 5 to 6 pounds), or 2 small (about 3 pounds each)
1 cup Korean coarse sea salt for making kimchi
5 cups of water
1 pound Korean radish
1/4 Asian pear
3 - 4 scallions
1 tablespoon glutinous rice powder*
(*Mix it with 1/2 cup water, simmer over low heat until it thickens to a thin paste and cool. Yields about 3 - 4 tablespoons.)
1/2 cup Korean red chili pepper flakes, (adjust to your taste)
1/4 cup salted (mini) shrimp, finely minced
3 - 4 raw shrimp (about 2 ounces), finely minced or ground
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
1/2 cup water
2 large bowls or pots (7 - 8 quarts)
1 large colander
3/4 - 1 gallon airtight container or jar
1. Cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters by cutting the stem end in half only about 3 - 4 inches in and then slowly pulling apart to separate into two pieces by hand. Do the same for each half to make quarters. Running the knife through all the way would unnecessarily cut off the cabbage leaves.)
2. In a large bowl, dissolve 1/2 cup of salt in 5 cups of water. Thoroughly bathe each cabbage quarter in the saltwater one at a time, shake off excess water back into the bowl, and then transfer to another bowl.
3. Using the other half cup of salt and starting from the outermost leaf, generously sprinkle salt over the thick white part of each leaf (similar to salting a piece of meat). Try to salt all the cabbage quarters with 1/2 cup salt, but you can use a little more if needed. Repeat with the rest of the cabbage quarters. Pour the remaining salt water from the first bowl over the cabbage. Set aside for about 6 - 8 hours, rotating the bottom ones to the top every 2 - 3 hours.
4. The cabbages should be ready to be washed when the white parts are easily bendable. Rinse thoroughly 3 times, especially between the white parts of the leaves. Drain well, cut side down.
5. Meanwhile, make the glutinous rice paste and cool. Prepare the other seasoning ingredients. Mix all the seasoning ingredients, including the rice paste and water, well. Set aside while preparing the other ingredients in order for the red pepper flakes to dissolve slightly and become pasty.
6. Cut the radish and optional pear into match sticks (use a mandoline if available). Cut scallions into 1-inch long pieces. Transfer to a large bowl and combine with the seasoning mix. Mix well by hand. Taste a little bit. It should be a little too salty to eat as is. Add salt, more salted shrimp or fish sauce, if necessary. If possible, let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the flavors meld nicely.
7. Cut off the tough stem part from each cabbage quarter, leaving enough to hold the leaves together. Place one cabbage quarter in the bowl with the radish mix. Spread the radish mix over each leaf, one to two tablespoons for large leaves. (Eyeball the stuffing into 4 parts and use one part for each cabbage quarter.)
8. Fold the leaf part of the cabbage over toward the stem and nicely wrap with the outermost leaf before placing it, cut side up, in a jar or airtight container. Repeat with the remaining cabbages.Once all the cabbages are in the jar or airtight container, press down hard to remove air pockets. Rinse the bowl that contained the radish mix with 1/2 cup of water and pour over the kimchi.
9. Leave it out at room temperature for a full day or two, depending on how fast you want your kimchi to ripe. Then, store in the fridge. Although you can start eating it any time, kimchi needs about two weeks in the fridge to fully develop the flavors. It maintains great flavor and texture for several weeks.
During the recent blasts of cold weather in the Northeast, we thought it would be a great idea to share with you some of our favorite winter, warming foods for cold winter days. Be sure to click the links under each one if you’re not sure how to find it or make it! Enjoy and stay extra warm!!!
1. Turkey Chili (or another meat of your choice)
This is one of my favorite go-to foods during the cold winter months. It is SO EASY to put together in the early morning and prepare in a slow cooker. Let it cook in there for a good 6-8 hours, and you’re good to go…with a little cheese on top. We usually forego the sour cream, but we certainly can’t stop you! When it comes to meat, we never go home without it! Sorry vegans and vegetarians…we have some great teeth for chomping on those delicious muscle fibers, and we would hate to see those 4-leggeds perish without a delicious purpose! Bring on the MEAT!
Here’s an easy recipe that we absolutely LOVE
2. Korean Honey-Citron Tea
There are many types of teas out there that provide countless benefits and vary widely in taste. If you’re like most and you are preparing herbal tea, be careful not to steep it for too long as a bitter tea will quickly dry out your mucous membranes leading to dry airways, which is essentially an invitation to cold viruses and other nasty things that could put you out of commission. If you prefer a “moisturizing” tea, you could try Korean Honey-Citron Tea. Essentially, it’s a whole load of honey mixed with other delicious ingredients, including citron, which is packed full of Vitamin C and is perfect for strengthening you immune system. Just scoop a couple spoonfuls into your favorite mug, add hot water, and enjoy! You’ll feel the delicious tea coat your mouth and throat like a warm internal blanket. Yum! This can be found at almost any Asian supermarket, although we prefer the Korean style sold at your local HMart.
Find your nearest HMart here
Learn more about Korean Honey-Citron Tea here
3. Korean Ddeok Bokk Gi
This is a sensational Korean dish that is a very common street food which people quickly turn to when outside on a cold winter day (or night, which is happily accompanied by a bottle or two of Korean Soju!). It is very easy to whip up in your home kitchen, and trust me when I say the dish is much tastier than my loose English translation: something along the lines of…spicy rice cake with fish cake and red pepper sauce. (The picture does more justice…) Here’s a quick recipe you can follow. Any local Asian grocery store should have all the ingredients you need.
Find your nearest HMart here
Here’s a great Ddeok Bokk Gi recipe
4. Korean Style Ox Bone Soup
Here’s another Korean dish that is fabulous this time of year. The broth is usually prepared in a gigantic pot that fills the restaurant with a thin layer of steam (great for keeping your sinuses moist) and a distinct, delicious smell. The soup is then combined with additional ingredients, typically beef and long scrumptious noodles. You can then add seasoning yourself at the table and chives for color and taste. I prefer to enjoy this with a side of radish kim chi. You can even order a spicy version of this soup, which is perfect if you need a little extra warmth. I guarantee you will leave the restaurant with a full, warm belly and a smile on your face!
Here’s one restaurant in NOVA you can try
5. Hot Chocolate
Need I say more? Well, maybe a few words...there are so many recipes for doing this on your own, in addition to all the mixes available on the shelves. It’s worth it, though, to give it a shot and make a nice homemade cup of hot cocoa.
Here’s one recipe we plan on trying
Please share us your favorite recipe(s) in the comments below (if it’s not a secret)!
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