Kimchi goes back 3000 years with the Korean people, and they eat it with every meal to the tune of about 40 pounds per person, per year. It is used much like the people of India use chutney. Each batch is tailored to compliment other foods eaten. The kimchi museum reports 178 official recipes, though there are, no doubt, infinite numbers of family combinations. Basically kimchi is a regional and seasonal combination of salted-down cabbage, hot pepper, garlic, gingerroot, onion, small amount of sugar and soy or fish sauce.
This Korean condiment has also been named one of five of the healthiest foods in the world by U.S. Health Magazine. Its health benefits are in its fiber, phosphate, vitamins A, B and C, iron, carotene, calcium and friendly bacteria resulting from its fermentation processing.
I think kimchi is an exciting condiment for experimentation in North American cuisine, however I have been hesitant to purchase it ready-made. My solution was to make my own, and Mark Bittman’s recipe seemed the most adaptive. He uses less salt and goes along with using the more affordable savoy cabbage.
Kimchi Rice with Beef
From The Food Matters Cookbook, by Mark Bittman (4 servings)
For the kimchi:
1 small head (about 12 ounces) green, Savoy, or Napa cabbage, cored and shredded
2 tablespoons salt
6 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic, or to taste
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon red chile flakes
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
For the final dish:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces beef flank or skirt steak, very thinly sliced
2 cups cooked short- or long-grain brown rice
1. Make the kimchi: Put the shredded cabbage in a colander and toss it well with the salt. Let it sit over a bowl until it wilts, at least 2 hours. Rinse the cabbage and pat it dry.
2. Combine the scallions, garlic, ginger, red chile flakes, sugar and soy sauce in a bowl or large jar. Toss the mixture with the cabbage. Let the kimchi marinate for a minimum of 2 hours in the fridge.*
3. Make the kimchi rice with beef: When the kimchi is ready, put a large, deep skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke, 3 to 4 minutes. Swirl in 2 tablespoons of the oil, add the beef and cook until it is seared on the outside, but still pink inside, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the beef from the skillet.
4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet, swirl it around and begin to add the rice, a bit at a time, breaking up any clumps with your fingers as you add it, and stirring it into the oil. When all the rice is added, cook, stirring frequently, until the rice becomes nice and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Return the beef to the pan and stir in the kimchi. Serve hot or at room temperature.
* The kimchi can be made up to a week in advance. But be aware that it becomes more potent with age.
Some kimchi recipes by other people include daikon radish, grated carrot, fish sauce instead of soy sauce, sesame oil, honey instead of sugar, cider vinegar, tamari and Thai Chili instead of pepper flakes. Like Korean cooks, or with your own potato salad, experiment!
Use kimchi these ways:
Add to pancakes
Cook with rice
In tofu soup
Cook in soybeans
As a side dish
As an appetizer
In fried rice