I can feel summer inching toward me, beckoning me to get bikini-body ready, and as I've gotten older, I find that I have to pay more attention to what I eat and how I treat my body. In my '20s, I could rebound from practically anything—pizza at 3 a.m., partying ‘til dawn, and excessive drinking. Now, in my ripe '30s, I am privy to the 48-hour hangover, the condition of my skin directly reflects how much sleep I’ve had, and I go into a mental and physical food coma if I eat poorly.
In order to combat nature, I turn to the almighty superfoods. Luckily a lot of them are things that I enjoy eating anyway, such as blueberries, salmon, green tea, tomatoes, and soy. One lesser-known but still powerful superfood is kimchi, which hails from my ancestral Korea. Similar to sauerkraut, kimchi is fermented cabbage, but with a serious kick of red chilies. It packs a healthy punch of good bacteria, which aids in digestion and immunity, and it's rich in vitamins A, B, and C, low in calories, and considered by native Koreans to be anti-aging. Most importantly, though, it tastes awesome.
In the interest of full disclosure, kimchi can smell seriously foul and you may not like it at first taste. The garlic, chilies, and fermentation can be a bit much for some palates. But the evidence is clear: Kimchi is showing up on menus across the country, even across the pond in the U.K. It has a strangely addictive quality about it: It hits all of the right flavors of salty, sweet, spicy, sour, and bitterness with a glorious crunchy texture.
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Making kimchi requires a commitment, and it's important to remember not to leave it to ferment for too long, as forgetting about it in the back of your fridge could lead to a kimchi explosion (I’m not kidding)—which could be entertaining for the true kimchi enthusiast (Let’s eat kimchi with everything in the fridge!), but a pain in the arse to clean up. Consider yourself warned. Still, have fun, eat superfoods, and make kimchi!
Watch the video to learn how to make kimchi and get the recipe below.
Yields: About 1 gallon
For the kimchi:
1 head napa cabbage
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 quarts water
For the spice paste:
2 heads garlic, peeled and chopped
1 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup fish sauce
1 1/2 cups Korean dried red chili flakes
1 1/2 tablespoon brined shrimp (not drained)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
1. To prepare the kimchi, cut the napa lengthways into quarters. Put it into a very large bowl and sprinkle with salt and sugar. Pour in water and weigh the cabbage down with a plate to keep it submerged. Refrigerate overnight.
2. To prepare spice paste, combine garlic, ginger, fish sauce, chili flakes, shrimp, and sugar in food processor and blend until smooth, adding water as necessary to make a loose paste, about 1 minute. Stir in scallions and carrot.
3. Remove lettuce from fridge and drain well, squeezing out as much water as possible. Rinse with cold running water once and drain again. Rub spice paste over cabbage and in between each leaf. Place in a large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Store in a cool place at 35 degrees farenheit for 2 weeks, then move to a standard refrigerator. Serve for up to 1 month.