Dabbling in vegan? Get Kimching! Kimchi is a wonderful Korean tradition and though the original recipe isn’t vegan, the vegan version is just as delicious and salutary. Yep, salutary! Kimchi is low in calories and high in dietary fiber, which is great news if you’re either starting on a vegan diet or working on losing some weight as fiber helps you manage the decrease of energy from low caloric intake without feeling hungry. Win-win! Even if you aren’t on a diet, kimchi is a highly recommended addition to your table as its fermentation produces lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and is therefore an effective pro-biotic for a healthy gut, reduced inflammation, and improved digestion. So vegans and meat eaters alike should join hands in kimchi and live long, healthy, and delicious lives together. One serving provides over 50% of daily recommended amount of vitamin C and carotene. Also rich in vitamin A, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), calcium, and iron.
But don’t take it from me. South Koreans consume 40 pounds of kimchi per person annually, and some credit Korea’s industrious energy as a people, and their nation’s rapid economic growth, in part to eating the dish. Kimchi foods have been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by both South and North Korea. Furthermore, Kimjang, the tradition of making and sharing kimchi, usually takes place in autumn and is central to Korean identity and family cooperation and it is a reminder that communities need to live in harmony with nature. So this is the time to make and share kimchi with your friends and family!
I discovred kimchi in Korean BBQ restaurants in Korea Town Los Angeles and was blown away by the blast of flavor. The spicy, along the salty, sweet-sour combination makes want to go for more after the first bite. As a north eastern Italian from the city of Trieste whose culinary culture owes so much to the Austro-Hungarian tradition, I immediately connected kimchi to sour kraut which we eat copious amounts along sausages and boiled meats. We call sour kraut “capuzi garbi” (triestin for sour kraut) so I immediately re-baptized kimchi as capuzi garbi koreani! So there’s a link to my dear native citizens to put things in prospective and begin digesting them – though kimchi really doesn’t need any help being digested.
I had to make my own version. I kept thinking about it at night before falling asleep. Kimchi. Capuzi garbi koreani. I’ve gotta make some with my own hands.
So I began researching and finally picked this recipe from seriouseats.com and found it works great. It doesn’t address the lack of animal ingredients simply because it doesn’t take anything away from the fermentation process but if you really want to be picky about that, try Minimalist Baker’s version which adds a vegan substitute for fish sauce (from Vegan Miam) to the recipe; and if you’re just vegan-ish, then add 2 tablespoons of fish sauce along the paste ingredients of this recipe or, if you’re not vegan and unconcerned with animal welfare today and are interested in the great flavor of the real Korean thing, check out this awesome recipe from Lauryn Chun’s The Kimchi Cookbook and her company Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi also available on the Serious Eats blog, which calls for salted shrimp, anchovies sauce, and beef stock.
1 whole napa cabbage cored and separated in individual leaves OR 1 whole daikon radish cubed or spiralized
6 green onions – white and green parts separated
2 Tbsp kosher sea salt
8 cloves garlic
1 two inch knob ginger, peeled
1/2 cup kochukaru (Korean chili powder)
2 Tbsp white or red miso paste
1 Tbsp sugar
Start with the vegetables:
Place the cabbage and/or the daikon radish in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt (double the amount of salt if using both one whole cabbage and one whole daikon radish). Toss to combine, cover and let sit at room temperature for at least one hour and up to 12 hours. It should release about 1/4 – 1/2 cup liquid.
Meantime make the paste:
Combine white scallions, garlic, ginger, kochukaru, miso paste, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until a rough paste is formed – about thirty seconds.
Finish up the kimchi:
Once the cabbage and/or daikon are wilted, add chili mixture and turn to coat. Add one cup of water. Taste the liquid and add more salt if necessary (it should have the saltiness of sea water).
Pack, seal, ferment, and store your kimchi:
Pack kimchi into mason jars, pressing down firmly to pack tightly and using a chopstick to release any air bubbles trapped in the bottom of the jar. Cover the kimchi with its liquid. Seal the jars tightly and allow them to sit at cool room temperature for 24 hours, then transfer to the refrigerator. Allow to ferment at least 1 week before eating (see note). Kimchi will last for up to 1 month after opening. Alternatively, place directly in fridge after parking and taste daily starting after the first week until it’s as sour as you like it. Consume within 1 month.