Kimchi's convenience: what to buy, where to get it and how to make the Korean staple at home
If you’re wondering where you can find the right ingredients and what dish to start with, we’ve got you covered
Watching a K-drama starts innocently, but before you know it, you're craving kimchi, ramyeon, bibimbap and soju. Just like Alice in Wonderland, who once fell down a rabbit hole and wandered deeper into a world that gripped her imagination.
While there's a growing number of restaurants and delivery services to order Korean food in India, what about those who want to cook from scratch? There are some fundamental ingredients you'd need like fish sauce, miso (fermented soybean) and gochujang (fermented red chilli paste). All of these ingredients are available in India if you care to look hard enough. And to make things less scary, we're taking you on a journey into the Korean world of food, with what is ostensibly the easiest to whip up: kimchi.
What do you need?
First things first, just like Indian food, there are a lot of ways to make the same dish and that applies to kimchi too. The traditional method of making kimchi needs you to quarter and brine cabbage, then carefully stuff it with a spice mixture. There are other kinds, ranging from oi sobagi (stuffed cucumber kimchi) to baek kimchi (white kimchi). For the purposes of a simple first step, we went with mak kimchi. Mak literally translates to 'rough' or 'haphazard' and it's an everyday staple.
- 2 medium-sized Chinese or Napa cabbages
- 1 to 1/4 cups coarse sea salt
- 6 cups water
- 1 large radish
- 5-7 scallions (or spring onions, if you can't find scallions)
- 1/2 cup gochujang
- 4 tbsp fish sauce
- 1/4 cup minced garlic
- 2 tsp finely grated ginger
Usually, a recipe like this would need ingredients like salted shrimp too, but we've tried and tested this in a way that you can make it without having to buy ingredients that you may not need for other recipes.
Where can you find the ingredients?
Korikart: If you're looking for gochujang, then Korikart (which delivers across India) is the site you need.
Big Basket: All the vegetables you need are available at local vegetable stores, but if you need to order online, check Big Basket and you'll find them.
Amazon: If you usually rely on Amazon, then you'll find gochujang and many varieties of fish sauce here, often at cheaper price points too.
Here's what you do
- Cut the cabbage into quarters, remove the core from each quarter, then cut each quarter into 1-1/2 inch sizes
- Mix the salt and water in a bowl, then toss the cabbage in the water and let it sit for about 2 hours, till the white parts are malleable
- Cut the radish into 1-1/2 inch sizes, sprinkle with a tablespoon of salt and let it sit for half an hour
- Cut the scallions into bite-sized pieces and keep aside
- Mix the gochujang, ginger, garlic and fish sauce along with one cup of water
- Rinse the salted cabbage thrice, then drain
- In a large bowl, add the radish, scallions, seasoning mixture and cabbage. It gets messy here—mix everything by hand until all the radish and cabbage pieces are coated
- Put the kimchi into an airtight jar, then add a half cup of water in the bowl to get the last of the seasoning mixture and pour this into the kimchi
- Leave the kimchi outside at room temperature for about two to three days. You'll see bubbles inside the jar as the kimchi ferments. Check the kimchi once a day to release the gases.
- Ensure the vegetables stay submerged in the liquid and check on the taste. When it tastes as tart and ripe as you like, refrigerate it. If you're not sure what taste to look for, wait for three days and then refrigerate.
That's it! You can use your finished kimchi however you'd like; either as a side dish (like koshimbir), or to cook stews that go with your next K-drama binge session. (This writer is also a fan of sneaking pieces of kimchi out of the jar just for a snack.)
What are you waiting for? It's time to set the table for the Mad-Hatter's tea party with your own jar of kimchi as the centrepiece. Let us know how it goes.