Pickling is a hot trend these days, and plenty of cuisines have traditionally featured some form of pickled food, but few cultures revere pickling the way Koreans do.
There's a Korean saying, chef EJ Jeong tells us, that roughly translates to: you can live without your wife but not without kimchi. That's some serious cultural weight for pickled cabbage. Another saying: you have to kill Napa cabbage seven times to make proper kimchi.
On Saturday, November 20th, chef Jeong of Cham Korean Bistro (which makes one of Jonathan Gold's fave versions of dolsot bibimbap) will show people how to do just that, hosting a kimchi-making demo at the restaurant's R&D kitchen near Vernon. (Details at the end of the post.) We got a preview of her pickling technique -- and a taste of her kimchi.
Step-by-step guide with loads of pictures after the jump:
Cut and prep all your basic ingredients: chile peppers, garlic, very small dried shrimps, Asian pears, green onions and chile powder.
Take a whole Napa cabbage and make a cut at the base, but don't use "too much knife," Jeong emphasizes. This is to avoid giving it a subtle metallic taste. Just a small cut will get you started, then separate the rest of the cabbage with your hands. (If you know you want to save a batch of kimchi for a long time, you might use more salt and tougher cabbage.)
Spread sea salt between the cabbage leaves. Jeong says it needs to be mineral-rich sea salt because it "has naturalness level of flavor and it helps with preservation." Let the salted cabbage sit for 6-12 hours (no more than 16 hours), which allows the salt to soak in and the water to drain out.
During this process, rotate the cabbage every two hours by placing the bunches at the bottom of the pile on top. When you do this, always keep the cut side up, so it retains water. When you're done, rinse the cabbage at least three times in the sink to get rid of the salt.
Throw the garlic, chile peppers, pears and onions in food processor, and chop it very fine.