The Basics IV: Kim Chi

Sunday, May 07, 2006
This post is not a recipe since I haven't been brave enough to attempt it, but the frugal budget can accomodate ready made kim chi. For Western palates, making friends with this strong character may take a few tries but its brightness, tang, and fire make the taste very worth acquiring. There are many varieties of kim chi in Korea, but by far the most common and most available locally is cabbage kimchi.

There are so many great things to do with kim chi. Scramble an egg, mix in kim chi, and eat with rice for a great, balanced meal any time of the day. (You can vary the same ingredients by making kim chi fried rice and topping with a fried egg.) I have also made pretty good veggie burgers with chopped kim chi for flavouring. Don't recommend putting it on nachos. Trust me on this one.

Kim chi chigae is kim chi with pork, tofu, and green onions in a stew like concoction; I love how the kim chi is the seasoning and the vegetable at the same time. You want to use older, sour kim chi for this - look for kim chi whose leaves have a krauty translucency without traces of green. Ratio of kim chi to proteins should be about equal. (I would do 1 part pork and 1 part tofu to 2 parts kim chi, but adjust to taste; can even do all pork or all tofu for vegan version.) Dark sesame oil is optional but is a very worthwhile investment due to its attractive flavour/cost value. Heat a small pool of oil (cooking or sesame) in a deep frying pan or sauce pan and brown the pork - you can use cubes, pork belly, ground pork, or even ribs. If you are using the fattier cuts you might want to drain them after browning since the fat doesn't add much to the dish. Add kim chi and stock/water for a soupy consistency and stew for about fifteen minutes; add diced tofu and a chopped green onion and cook for ten more minutes or until pork is tender. Eat with rice. To nutrition power up this meal, make brown rice instead of white and mix bean sprouts into the rice pot to cook at the same time.