About once a month I get together with a group of friends and we explore the wonderful world of Korean barbecue.  Living in Seattle has many culinary benefits, one of them being an ample supply of authentic and delicious Asian cuisine. On the search for the best Korean barbecue we’ve made our way from Lynnwood to Federal Way, from downtown to the International District and finally graduated to just hosting our own.  The last one, hosted at my house, turned into a free-for-all, with our kitchen table pulled out into the living room and a swarm of famished carnivores swirling around it grabbing lettuce, grilled meat and layering on spoonfuls of bean paste and kimchi.

In preparation for the next barbecue, hopefully not at my house – the clean-up took me hours and I still have fermented bean paste in my fridge – I’ve decided to take a swing at making my own kimchi. In researching this dish I found an extraordinary level of health benefits associated with this ancient, spicy and fermented cabbage based dish.  Not only is cabbage an excellent source of vitamins, the garlic, ginger, chili pepper  and onions create a super blend of antioxidant power. For more information on kimchi’s amazing health benefits go here.

I’ve always had a soft spot for all things spicy, and though kimchi has a fair amount of red pepper in it, the spice is somehow easily muted by the vinegar, resulting in a flavorful yet palatable combination. The recipe I followed was a mixture of David Lebovitz’s kimchi recipe and Seoulful Cooking’s banchan recipe. I have seen other methods that involve making a paste of rice flour and then adding the garlic, peppers, ginger and daikon, but it seemed unnecessary, maybe designed for long storage and additional fermentation.

Since my favorite farm cabbage is the savoy, that’s what I decided to use, though generally, napa or any other large cabbage works well.  I supplemented this with the korean radish, or banchan, though if you don’t have a good Asian market in your neighborhood, you could easily use any other type of radish.

1 medium head of savoy cabbage, napa cabbage or other cabbage

1 large korean radish

1 cup coarse sea salt

1 medium daikon radish, or 2 cups smaller radishes, shredded

8 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup ginger, minced

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/8 cup vinegar

1/2 cup korean chili powder

1 bunch green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 t sugar or honey

Cut the cabbage in half and remove the hard core.  Slice each half into three equal parts lengthwise. Cut the banchan lengthwise and then cut into 1 inch cubes.  You can do this by cutting into 1 inch lengthwise strips or cross-wise rounds first, then stack and cut a couple at a time. Place the cabbage and banchan in a large bowl, rinse then mix with 1 cup salt.  Let sit for 2 hours.  This will draw the moisture out of the cabbage and banchan and tenderize it.

In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. When cabbage and banchan have sat and are now tender, remove from bowl and rinse thoroughly in a colander.  Add  cabbage and banchan to chili, garlic, ginger, daikon mixture and combine thoroughly.  You might want to wear gloves as the chili powder is both hot and may stain your hands.

Once incorporated, place kimchi in glass jars with tight lids. Let sit for two days in a cool dry place, not refrigerated. After two days, open and taste. If you want more fermentation leave out for another couple days, but not too much longer, then refrigerate.  Kimchi will store refrigerated up to 3 months.  Invite some friends over, barbecue some chicken, beef or pork, make a big batch of rice and enjoy!

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