There are quite a few vessels bubbling away in our kitchen right now: miso, sourdough starter, and a newly fermenting beer (more on that in another post). But, after that first batch, I just couldn’t wait any longer to get another kimchi fix. I wanted to try a few new ingredients for round two just to see what happened.
Enter baby bok choy. There is usually one week every summer when we are overloaded with baby bok choy from our wonderful CSA and I am at a loss for what to do. Most uses of bok choy seem a little hum drum – so the idea of having a go-to kimchi recipe to use them up is pretty exciting.
I kept most of the other ingredients the same, except for the seaweed. I loved the briny, umami note (and slightly chewy bits) hijiki contributed in the last batch so I knew I wanted a seaweed component in this one. I happened to have a tangle of dulse in the cupboard. Compared to hijiki, it’s a deep purple-red, more supple, perhaps a bit more funky, and definitely more salty.
One other difference, I meant to get these in a brine overnight but didn’t manage to get my act together. Sandor Katz notes that it is common for kimchi to brine in a 5-7% solution for 12 hours (which is what I did last time) or a 15% solution for 3-6 hours, so I tried the higher salt brine for this ferment.
On with the show.
- 5 baby bok choy, well rinsed and cut cross-wise into 1-2 inch pieces (with the leaf ends larger)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
- 1 bunch radishes (no daikons at the market this week, so I used the regular round red kind), peeled and quartered
- 15 percent salt water solution (roughly 260 g kosher salt dissolved in 1735 g cold water)
- 4 medium sized cloves garlic, roughly minced (about 1 heaping tbsp)
- 1 1/2 inch knob ginger, peeled and grated on a microplane
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp Mochiko sweet rice flour
- 2 tbsp gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
- 1 tbsp sweet pimenton
- 1 anaheim chile, de-stemmed mostly seeded, diced
- 1 granny smith apple, peeled, julienned
- 4 scallions, white and tender green parts finely sliced
- 2 tbsp (approx) dulse seaweed, snipped into bits
Same drill as before – I mixed together the baby bok choy, carrots and radishes in my Le Creuset pot (still have not managed to find a glass bowl or better brining vessel), poured the brine over and weighted the top down with two small plates. I let this sit for four hours while I finished up my work and went for a run.
Once the vegetables had finished their saline soak, I drained them in a colander set over a bowl to save the brine and rinsed them lightly.
While the bok choy, carrots and radishes were draining, I brought 1 cup of water to a gentle simmer in a small saucepan, added the rice flour, stirred until I had a thin gruel, and took the mix off the heat. I mixed four tablespoons of this with the garlic, ginger, gochugaru and pimenton.
Finally, the chile paste, the brined vegetables, and all the rest of the ingredients got a little massage so they could relax and get to know each other. The boy choy wilted down quite a bit more than the Napa cabbage, so I packed everything into two clean mason jars instead of one big jug.
This batch has been fermenting for a little more than a week (I put the second jar in the fridge at 5 days) and I’ve been tasting along the way. It is salty. Not inedibly so, but quite a bit saltier than the last batch. My takeaway – for more delicate vegetables like bok choy, it’s worth it to brine in a lower percent salt solution for more time. If using the saltier solution for the next batch of kimchi, I would not use any of the reserved brine to thin out and rinse the chile paste from the bowl. Other tasting notes – the dulse lends a much more subtle taste of the sea (and probably a bit more salt) than the hijiki, the regular round radishes added crunch but a lot less peppery funk than the daikon (I prefer daikon), and the sourness on the fifth day was a better counterpoint to the chile and salt than on the third. The insistent salt also pushed out most of the more subtle and sweet smoky notes from the pimenton.
This is a much more aggressively flavored kimchi than my first batch, and I think I’ll use it more as a condiment than a side. Yesterday I tried a bit with a bowl of steamed rice and a pat of butter (sacrilege, perhaps?) and it made for a lovely lunch – pretty enough for tea time but with some salty-sour swagger.