There does seem to be a tendency in Asian countries to overuse MSG. I remember cooking lunch with all natural ingredients over an oven pit fire in a tribal village in the high mountain plains of Vietnam with an indigenous family Suddenly the mother reached for a bag of “salt” to add to the meal – of course, it was a bag of MSG. Even walking through the Kimchi section at the local Asian store, it is tough to find Kimchi without MSG. Easy solution – make your own – it is actually quite easy and doesn’t take nearly as much time as it seems.
Kimchi, of course, is the national food of Korea. There are over 200 types of Kimchi; however, the basic ingredients are something like Cabbage, Radish, Ginger, Onions, Garlic, Salt and, of course, red pepper powder – all fermented for a few days to give it a slightly sour note. It’s best to use the red pepper powder specifically for kimchi instead of substituting, or you may end up with an inedible spicy hot mess. Fermentation is between 1-5 days at room temperature depending on your liking and continues in the fridge indefinitely.
For my kimchi, I use the following steps.
1) Buy some Napa Cabbage and Daikon radish if you would like a more traditional kimchi. Western cabbage and radish can be substituted depending on taste and availability.
- Red Pepper Powder
- Other veggies: Carrots, Onions and Scallions
- Tapioca or sweet rice flower
- Fish sauce and/or shrimp paste for additional flavor
- Fermentation Container
7) Time to make the Kimchi base. Use 1 cup water and bring to boil. Slowly add in 1 tablespoon starch (sweet rice or tapioca in my case) and 1 tablespoon sugar. Mix well and allow to cool down to room temperature.
8) Shred the radish and any other veggies such as carrots, onions and scallions and put aside. Go ahead and shred the ginger and garlic also, but put away separately. If you are lazy like me, use a food processor.
If you would like some traditional flavors, also add in some fish sauce and maybe even some shrimp paste.
10) The very last step is to mix the cabbage, radish and any other veggies with the kimchi paste. You can then pack the mix into fermentation containers. I suggest using gloves – this last part can be quite messy. A fermentation air lock is not absolutely necessary. You will generally only ferment 1-5 days so you can also just release the CO2 gases on a regular basis. After that put the containers in the fridge to continue to ferment. Kimchi is ready to be eaten immediately, after room temperature fermentation or after refrigeration – anytime in other words.
Below is a video of the process: