Cabbage just got more interesting.
I have a huge crush on kimchi. If I see it on the menu, chances are you can find it in my mouth several minutes later. The spicy cultured treat is a Korean staple – it is served at almost every meal and Koreans are known to pack in 40 pounds of kimchi per person, each year!
The base of kimchi is cabbage. Cabbage lowers blood cholesterol, prevents cancer, and contributes to better digestion. In many cultures, cabbage juice has been used to relieve stomach ulcers. The vegetable is a great source of B vitamins and omega-3s and contains approximately seven times more vitamin C than an orange. Like garlic and onions, cabbage also boasts a high sulfur content, which helps to fight infection.
Aside from the benefits of cabbage itself, kimchi should be praised mostly for what it accumulates during preparation: healthy bacteria. The cabbage rests in salted and spiced water for a few days or weeks before it is served, contributing to the growth of lactobacilli, which are healthy probiotic bacteria that balance the intestinal tract and help to alleviate digestive problems. For this reason, kimchi is a great companion to every meal.
However, one of the downsides to ordering kimchi at a restaurant or purchasing it from a grocery store is the unknown factors – what kind of salt was used, how much sugar was added, and whether sneaky ingredients, like fish sauce, are in the mix. You can never really know. That’s why I decided to make my own kimchi, but in the most unintimidating and frills-free way possible. That way, I could enjoy it all the time knowing exactly what it contains and without the begrudged process to get there.
It’s a practice of patience, sure, but in the name of all the balance and restoration that kimchi provides my body, I vow to prepare it with similar gusto. Luckily enough, you can get on with your life for a few days while the kimchi does its magic. Do try this recipe out and you’ll have the most delicious and addictive digestive aid ever made.
Homemade Vegan Kimchi
Makes 1 quart
- 1 large Napa cabbage
- 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons sea salt
- 6 scallions
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1 two-inch nob of fresh ginger
- 3 tablespoons Korean chili powder (kochukaru)
- 2 tablespoons Nama Shoyu (soy sauce)
- 2-3 slices apple
In a glass quart, dissolve the salt in the water.
While the salt dissolves, core the cabbage and roughly chop the leaves. You can pull the leaves off so they remain full and intact, or you can do what I did and simple cut through the body of the cabbage.
Pull apart the individual pieces and place them in a large bowl. Pour the salted water over the cabbage and massage the leaves until they wilt and reduce slightly in volume.
Transfer the salted cabbage leaves into the glass quart, pushing down with your fist so that the leaves are tightly packed.
Pour the remaining salted water into the quart so that all the leaves are completely submerged. Seal the top of the glass jar and store at room temperature away from direct sunlight for 24 hours.
The next day, drain the cabbage leaves from the water and rinse, reserving the salted water for later use. Place the leaves in a large bowl.
In a food processor, mix the garlic, chili, scallions, ginger, and soy sauce until mushy.
Massage the spicy mixture into the leaves so that each one is evenly coated. Toss in a few slices of chopped apple. The sugars from the apple will help the fermentation process.
Tightly pack the leaves in the same quart-sized jar, making sure there are no air pockets.
Pour some of the reserved salted water over the spicy cabbage leaves so that they are completely submerged. It is important that there are no air pockets.
Seal the top with a lid and store at room temperature away from sunlight for at least 3 full days. During this time, the kimchi will ferment, developing healthy bacteria. As long as the leaves are submerged, they will not mold.
Enjoy with chopsticks aside a Korean-inspired meal, or any meal!
Aylin Erman currently resides in Istanbul and is creator of plant-based recipe website GlowKitchen.