I love fermented food! The tastes are so unique and it helps me a lot with my digestive system. Here is a kimchi recipe by experienced kimchi maker and former cook at Instock Iines Råmark, a wonderful person I got in contact with on my journey in search for fermented foods in Amsterdam. She was willing to share the recipe she created by using the basic ingredients and method and adjusting it to her taste. If you do not want to make it yourself, but want to try some really good kimchi and other fermented foods, check out this list of my favourite fermented food hotspots in Amsterdam. If you do not live in Amsterdam, some products can be ordered to your home too.
Iines’ Back story
“My fermentation journey started like many others’ have: I fell in love with kimchi. When I was working as a cook at Instock, a circular food-waste restaurant in Amsterdam, we started experimenting with fermentation, including kimchi. From then on, I’ve made my own. Over the past five years, I’ve tried different recipes, and I’ve settled to this basic recipe, that I still tweak every now and again. However, note that I’m not an expert in traditional kimchi, and I have no Korean heritage, thus I’m definitely not a voice of authority. I have taken the basic flavors and method, and adjusted it to my taste. You can learn how to make traditional kimchi on, for example, the Korean Bapsang blog.”
How does fermentation work?
“There are lots of different types of fermentations, but in essence it is the process of bacteria, yeasts, mold, or fungi transforming carbs, like starch or sugar, into acids, gas, or alcohol. When making kimchi or any other vegetable pickles, we are lacto-fermenting. Lacto-fermentation uses lactic-acid-producing bacteria (mainly bacteria of the Lactobacillus genus) that break down the sugars in food to form lactic acid as well as sometimes alcohol or carbon dioxide. Because lactobacillus bacteria are naturally present in vegetables, all we need to do is to create favorable conditions for them to grow, while making unfavorable conditions for bacteria that are unhealthy for us. To do this, we first submerge the vegetable in salt brine – the salt and anaerobic environment inhibits the growth of unwanted bacteria. Once the lactobacillus bacteria starts multiplying, it gradually makes the food more acidic, keeping out the unwanted bacteria. This process preserves our food, and makes it funky and delicious!”
A word on ingredients
“I have adjusted the recipe to what is available in the Netherlands, and to be entirely plant-based (emitting fermented shrimp paste and fish sauce). There is one key ingredient, which will require you a trip to an Asian supermarket, the gochugaru chilli flakes. This is something that you should not skip – trust me, I have tried the recipe with chillies which are available in the regular supermarkets, it’s just not the same. Gochugaru chilli is sweet, smokey and relatively mild chilli. You can put in a lot of it – resulting in the intense red color of the kimchi. The good thing is that gochugaru is sold in big quantities and is very affordable.”
- 2 medium Chinese cabbages (around 800g-1kg)
- 80g sea salt (or any other non-iodized salt)
- 6 cloves of garlic
- Around 3 cm long piece of ginger
- 1 bunch of spring onions (you can reserve the green parts to add at the end) / 1 medium onion
- 2,5 tbsp miso paste
- 3-4 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 sweet apple / 1 doyenne du comice pear
- 20-30g gochugaru chilli flakes (you can adjust to milder or spicier, but note that the spice will get a bit milder with fermentation)
- 2-3 sheets of nori seaweed (optional)
Optional to add in with you kimchi:
- 1 carrot cut in sticks
- Green parts of spring onion sliced
- 1 small kohlrabi or handful of radishes cut in sticks
- Cut the cabbage into rough squares (around 5 x 5 cm, can be bigger too). Massage cabbage with salt until wilted. Cover with cold water for at least 1 hour. Place a plate on top to weigh the cabbage down.
- In the meanwhile, prepare the kimchi paste. Mix the paste ingredients into a smooth paste with a hand blender or in a food processor.
- After the cabbage is brined, drain it and squeeze out most of the water.
- In a bowl, mix the paste in so that all the cabbage is coated. (If there is too much paste, you can put it in a separate jar, and ferment it too!)
- Fill a jar with cabbage, push down with your fist in order to remove most of the air bubbles, add another layer and push it down. Add layers until you have 5 cm space from the top of the jar. You need to leave some space, because the kimchi will bubble up during the fermentation.
- Let the kimchi ferment out of direct sunlight at room temperature for around 3-6 days until the taste is to your liking (whenever you taste the kimchi, use clean utensils, and don’t double dip).
- Open the jar lid every day to let out gases that the fermentation process creates.
- Once the taste is to your liking, store the jars in the fridge. You can keep kimchi in the fridge for a couple of months, but it’s best eaten in the first 3 weeks. This is because the fermentation process will slowly continue even in the fridge making the kimchi gradually sour and the structure softer.
“Enjoy! And if you need inspiration on how to eat your kimchi, check out recipes of kimchi pancakes or bibimbap. My personal favorites are bean burgers topped with kimchi and wild rice risotto with mushrooms, roasted cabbage and kimchi.”