Friday, August 5, 2011

Quick (and hot!) Kim Chee

This site's been up for more than a year now, and I have yet to post a kim chee recipe!

Let me explain.

Kim chi (kimchee, kimchi, etc.) is traditionally a fermented product. It was packed into pots like this and buried in the ground.

After a few months, the pots were dug up and voila! Kim chee.

Today they have much more modern methods--you can even buy a kim chee fridge that will keep your fermenting cabbage at just the right temperature.

I'm just beginning my foray into preserving foods (some food preserving recipes to come!) and sadly, nobody in my house is that thrilled with kim chee. However, Mr. Kim Chee planted some cucumbers this year, and we find ourselves drowning in garden-fresh cucumbers. In an attempt to do something other than the typical cucumber preparations, I decided to try making a fresh kim chee from the cukes.

Here are the lucky cukes, fresh out of the garden.

Fresh cucumbers smell so much better than the ones they sell at the grocery store! And you don't have to worry about wax.

So, I washed the outsides of the cukes, and then cut them in half.

I had to cut them in half again, so they would fit in my colander.

They got a healthy sprinkling of salt, and then I left them on the counter (with a towel underneath) so some of the excess moisture could wick out. This will help the cucumbers be as crisp as possible.

See how much water leaks out? The towel underneath smelled great, like cucumber water.

The cucumbers should be allowed to weep for at least an hour, preferably two. After time is up, give each cuke a really good rinse to remove all the salt.
So, while the cucumbers were losing some water weight, I got the rest of the ingredients out.

Including the World's Biggest Garlic Clove.

Here's another deviation. Traditional kim chee is made with Korean red chiles. I can't get those locally. And strangely, there are no Asian grocery stores here. I went with what I hoped was the next best thing--Thai Chili Garlic Paste.

Basically, it's thai chili paste, with some garlic and vinegar and a couple other things. Not exactly the right ingredient, but it was as close as I could get.

Okay. To start, I peeled about an inch-long piece of ginger.

A regular spoon is a great ginger-peeling tool.

Then I minced the ginger and garlic into super fine little tiny itty bitty bits.

Next was a big spoonful of the Thai chili sauce.

You should maybe taste it before adding it. It's pretty spicy! One tablespoon-ish should probably be enough. Just a warning.

Some rice wine vinegar adds the bite these quick pickles need, as well as thin everything out so it's more like a sauce.

A dash or two of fish sauce adds a light fermented flavor, as well as that extra bite of umami that Asian people so love.

Finally, a little sprinkle of sugar and salt will add another depth of flavor. You've got hot (chili sauce), sweet (sugar), salty (salt), bitter (vinegar) and umami (fish sauce.) All the right flavors for the perfect Asian dish.

Stir everything together to make sure your ingredients are evenly distributed.

Slice your cucumbers (and half an onion) very thinly and throw them in the bowl.

Toss the cucumbers in, and you've got yourself quick kim chee! You can eat it right away, but if you wait a few hours, the flavors will meld together into a bowl of spicy, pickled cucumber deliciousness.

And don't feel limited to cucumbers! You could do this with any vegetable--cabbage, carrots, zucchini, bean sprouts--whatever you like! It's a great new (and healthy!) way to get some veggies and spice into your diet!

Recipe: Quick (and hot!) Kim Chee

2 cucumbers, halved
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece of garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. Thai chili garlic paste
1/2 tsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. sugar
light sprinkle of salt 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced  

Halve the cucumbers. Sprinkle cut sides liberally with salt; leave in a bowl or colander to drain for 1-2 hours.

In a large bowl, combine garlic, ginger, rice wine vinegar, Thai chili paste, fish sauce, sugar, and salt. Stir well to combine.

Add red onion and thinly sliced cucumbers. Toss well. Let sit for at least several hours for the best flavor.

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