I have a long history with kimchi, and two distinct memories come to mind when I think of it. The first memory is from when I was around nine years old. That is when kimchi became a regular part of my life due to my new Vietnamese stepmother.She had a lot of Korean friends and we all loved to eat at a local Korean restaurant. I immediately loved the stuff. It was crunchy and spicy and I ate it even though it smelled funny.
My mom would also buy bottles of kimchi at the supermarket. I’m not sure if she already ate it, or if I begged her to buy some. But if my kid begged me to buy bottled cabbage, I’d buy it too! I was around thirteen when my second distinct kimchi memory occurred.
It was Halloween, and my best friend and I wanted to make a “scary sounds” cassette recording (that’s what we used back in the olden-days). We had a long walkway up to the house which was under lit, and completely surrounded by lush tropical plants packed so tight, not a blade of grass would grow. The palm fronds overhead formed a dark tunnel up to the doorway, which was decorated in the appropriate Halloween assortment of cobwebs, paper witches and fabric ghosts.
That night, we placed a boom box in the open window, blasting out into the street our homemade recording of strange and spooky sounds. First there was the sound of witch-y teenage giggling, followed by some moaning. Then rattling chains, more giggling and finally…the gross sound of me chomping open-mouthed on kimchi into the microphone.
Now that I’m all grown up, I make my own kimchi every few months at home. It’s delicious to snack on, and despite the amount of red pepper, it’s really good for your digestion. Kimchi is usually made with cabbage, but I decided to try some daikon and carrot sticks instead. Fermented for a few days in the closet, the sticks come out perfectly crunchy, delicious and fun to eat.
- 1 1/2 pounds daikon radish, peeled and cut into 1/4” thick strips
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into strips
- Salt, about ¼ cup
- ½ cup scallions, chopped into 1” long pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ cup Korean red chili powder (kochukaru, available at Asian markets. It’s not as spicy as it looks!)
Place the daikon, carrot and salt in a strainer in the sink. Toss the vegetables in the salt to coat. Let sit for 3-4 hours. Wash thoroughly to remove the salt and allow to dry.
Place the daikon, carrot, scallions, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce and chili powder in a bowl. Mix thoroughly.
Transfer the mixture to a container with a tight lid, leaving a few inches of room at the top. You can let this ferment for 2-3 days in a closet or eat right away. If you allow it to ferment, turn the bottle upside-down a few times to distribute the moisture. Gas will build up as it ferments, so take care when opening.