When I lived in Brooklyn for a year, fuzzy perilla plants took over my building’s communal courtyard, so my husband washed and dried the overabundance of leaves and piled them up with a quick kimchi sauce he’d pureed in the mini food processor. It was so simple and so good that we made more every few weeks until the plants died.
There is a cosmic variety of kimchi types and styles, and making your own is a satisfying way to store the veggies you love — radishes, cabbage, cucumber, mustard greens, scallions, you name it — and then build upon them. countless meals. If you’re not in the habit, I recommend starting with Eric Kim’s tong baechu kimchi.
The recipe includes sweet, crunchy Napa cabbage. Quartered, salted and drained, the pieces are stuffed into a vibrant gochugaru-stained sauce made from apple, onion, ginger and garlic, and left to ferment for a few weeks (and up to six months). Making this kimchi vegetarian is easy: Swap the fish sauce for another salty, rich ingredient, such as vegan fish sauce, soy sauce, miso, or a mix of all three.
The juice itself—a mix of the sweet liquid released by the cabbage and the tangy, garlicky kimchi sauce—will be so delicious. Don’t waste it! In this kimchi and potato hash, it’s important not to drain the kimchi before adding it to the pan, as the liquid will flavor the potatoes and aid in cooking. And in this porridge recipe, a splash of kimchi juice works almost like a pinch of seasoned salt.
The kimchi is on its own timeline. And if you taste it every few days, as Eric suggests in his recipe, you’ll really tune in to its progress. Some weeks it may seem like things are speeding up or slowing down, or the kimchi’s personality is changing (it is!). Like a piece of fruit, it ripens and races to a beautiful, unavoidable and deep sourness.
Six months from now, it may seem too far off, but the kimchi still has something to offer you. Just like you could bake overripe strawberries into a crumble, turning super sour kimchi into a stew, like this vegetarian version of soondubu jjigae, will reward you with more nuanced depth, intensity, and flavor.
If you make or tinker with the dish, please let me know how it goes. I would consider the salad component on top, dressed with vinegared shallots and capers, to be completely flexible – one day it could be radicchio and roasted mushrooms instead of potatoes, and another day it could be sliced radishes and snow peas, lettuce leaves, roasted baby artichokes or a bunch of shredded herbs.
Thanks for reading The Veggie, see you next week!
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