According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology, “Health functionality of kimchi, based upon our research and that of other, includes anticancer, antiobesity, anticonstipation, colorectal health promotion, probiotic properties, cholesterol reduction, fibrolytic effect, antioxidative and antiaging properties, brain health promotion, immune promotion, and skin health promotion.” Plus it’s effervescent, tangy and lights your mouth on fire!
1 head napa cabbage
2 tablespoons fine sea salt
7 tablespoons Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
3 grated garlic cloves
1 tablespoon grated ginger
4 teaspoons agave nectar
1 bunch green onions
3 shredded carrots
1. Begin by removing the top and bottom and wilty outer leaves, then slice the cabbage lengthwise. Cut lengthwise again into fourths. Next make perpendicular cuts every inch or so.
2. Toss the chunks in a pot, then add salt. Use your hands to mix and massage the salt into the cabbage. Set aside for an hour as the crystals draw water out of the leaves. Liquid is key later. While prepping the rest, return to the briny mix about every ten minutes. Grab fistfulls and squeeeeze.
3. Now the heat. Finely grate the garlic and ginger, then mix with agave nectar and pepper flakes into a dangerously addictive sweet and spicy paste.
4. Remove the ends of the green onions, but don’t throw them into the compost bin. When half submerged roots-down, the verdant shoots slowly (or quickly depending on your sense of time) begin to regenerate like lizards’ tails. By the time you’ve consumed this batch of kimchi, the next bunch of green onions will be ready for round two. Cut the onions into one inch pieces, then place them in a mixing bowl.
5. Trim the ends off, then shred the carrots. Multi-colored ones create a curious aesthetic.
6. After squeezing the liquid from the cabbage one last time, the leaves are wilted and faded. Stir the spice paste into the soupy mixture, then add the rest of the vegetables. Mix well.
7. Use a spoon or small ladle to pack down the solids until submerged in liquid. Store in a cool, dark spot (between sixty and seventy degrees) for around a week. Stir the kimchi and pack it down every other day.
Experiment with process and product. Adjust the amount of onions, carrots and spice according to taste. The longer kimchi ferments under tight-fitting lids, the more effervescent it becomes (similar to a carbonated beverage). Some recommend loose-fitting lids, which allow carbon dioxide to escape throughout fermentation, but occasionally opening and the stirring the batch achieves the same result. Horror stories on the interwebs depict exploding jars inflicting near mortal wounds, but you’ll probably survive unscathed while honing Korea’s official national dish.