Perhaps the most iconic dish in the Korean cuisine is kimchi. This spicy ferment of various vegetables (most often bok choy) is eaten at every meal, with the average Korean consuming 40 pounds per year. Kimchi often reflects the season at which it is produced. In the spring, kimchi is made of fresh potherbs and vegetables and tends to not be fermented. In the summer, kimchi is made with radishes, cucumbers and other summer vegetables. Autumn and winter kimchi is made from cabbage and a variety of other vegetables such as radish, parsley, pine nuts, pears, chestnuts, shredded red pepper, garlic, and ginger. These were traditionally allowed to ferment in large ceramic pots that were kept at a constant temperature by being buried underground. While red chili pepper is the main seasoning in kimchi, it is only a recent addition, having been introduced to Korea only following Japanese invasions from 1592–1598.
We developed the following vegan kimchi using as a starting point recipes provided by Copeland Marks in his 1999 The Korean Kitchen and Sandor Katz in his 2003Wild Fermentation. In traditional kimchi fish sauce is used; here we use white miso which imparts a similar savory/salty flavor and more importantly also adds live microbial cultures into the mixture to assist in fermentation. This replacement is really nothing more than applying the Japanese concept of pickling vegetables with miso (misozuke) to kimchi production. We were quite pleased with the result.
1½ pounds bok choy, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons salt
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ginger paste
8 green onions, cut into 3-inch pieces
¼ pound daikon radish, cut into julienne strips
3 tablespoons white miso
3 tablespoons red chili powder
3 tablespoons hot water
Toss the bok choy with the salt. Place in a bowl and let stand at room temperature for 3 hours. Drain, rinse in cold water, drain again, and squeeze out remaining water.
Mix together garlic, ginger, green onion, daikon, miso, chili, and water to make a thick, chunky paste.
Combine chili-garlic paste with wilted bok choy and mix well. Pack tightly into a quart jar. Cap the jar, but do not tighten. Put jar into a bowl, and let ferment at room temperature for 3 (70° F) to 5 days (60° F) days. After about 3 days the mixture will being bubbling, and will leak water and spice mix out of the top. Don't worry, this is what is supposed to happen and the reason that you've put the jar into a bowl. Once you can taste a bit of sour in the pickle, firmly cap the jar, wash the outside, and place in the refrigerator. Your kimchi should keep for at least 3-4 weeks.
Hot & Sour Bok Choy
This is a quick and easy way to cook any Chinese ‘cabbage’, a vegetable which is actually more closely related to turnip. It is as good cold as it is hot. Szechwan peppercorns are the aromatic fruits of a bush in citrus family, and are available at any oriental market. Grind them using a clean coffee or spice mill, or in a mortal and pestle. If you can’t find any, you can substitute coarsely ground white or black peppercorns; the dish will be just as authentic (some versions actually call for pepper), though the flavor will be a little different.
5 tablespoons oil
3 dried small hot chiles
½ teaspoon Szechwan peppercorns, coarsely ground
1 Chinese cabbage, cut into 1 inch dice
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
¼ teaspoon sesame oil
Heat wok; add oil and let come to a moderate temperature. Add chiles, stir for a few seconds, then add ground peppercorns. Increase heat to high; add cabbage; stir fry for 3 minutes. Add rest of ingredients, toss together, and serve.