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Video: Momofuku master makes kimchi

  1. Closed captioning of: Momofuku master makes kimchi

    >>> hottest chefs.

    >>> this morning on "today's kitchen back to basics," one of new york's top chefs, david chang , is known as the radical chef because he always puts a new twist on traditional food. he is co-author of "momofuku," named after his new york city restaurants. pleasure having you here.

    >> my pleasure.

    >> i got through the name, career-ending there, i appreciate that. we're making kimchi, what is that?

    >> it's a formatted pickled cabbage, and it's by far and away the national dish of korea.

    >> and there are different ways to make it? is there a regional take on this?

    >> throughout korea, just like american barbecue, there's different ways of making it. so, this is our way, and my mother would be very, very upset about how i make it, but --

    >> but that's okay. mom's --

    >> this is very easy for the home cook to make.

    >> all right. first thing we've got to go to the asian food store and get the ingredients. what are the things we're going to need?

    >> well, you're going to need napa cabbage , or you could use any cabbage, for instance. you can make kimchi out of anything, literally. but first and foremost, this is probably the easiest way is napa cabbage . and you're going to want to cure it with salt.

    >> lots of salt.

    >> lots of salt, because it's really important in the fermentation process for ph levels and stuff, which is going to keep it --

    >> fresh.

    >> fresh.

    >> what are some of the other things we have here.

    >> these are some of the ingredients that you're going to need to find at an asian supermarket or go online. you have some salted shrimp here. this is called kochugaru, and that's dried red chili peppers. and koreans eat everything, and it's very spicy. so, what we're making -- we're not using any heat, but it has a very spicy, spicy taste. and different types of proteins in terms of fish sauce .

    >> and we'll put all these ingredients on our website. you've got to get over the fact that you're dealing with things that most people don't normally do. just be daring. take a chance on this.

    >> and make a mistake.

    >> okay, we've got the ingredients here. we pure it?

    >> yes. after we have the cabbage cured, we're going to add all of these ingredients, the salted shrimp, garlic, ginger, sugar and some soy, and we have some squid sauce in there as well.

    >> okay. you're going to pure this. and the amazing thing, this lasts for a long time, doesn't it? if it's does not correctly.

    >> yeah. the idea being pure it so it's --

    >> come on back here and take a look at what we have. so, this is what it's going to look like when it's all done.

    >> right. and this is the cabbage now after it's been salted and cured.

    >> how long did that take?

    >> an hour. but you could do it up to 24 hours or even less.

    >> okay.

    >> take some of that water out. and a couple tablespoons of this. some onions. green onions .

    >> all right. and the best way to store this, you found, is in these good, old-fashioned glass jars?

    >> because this is a very, how should i say, aromatic process --

    >> yeah, believe me. all right? you want to keep it sealed tightly.

    >> right, right.

    >> is this the one i should taste?

    >> that's the pure. so, you put this into here and you want to let it sit in the refrigerator for two minutes --

    >> okay.

    >> not two minutes, two weeks.

    >> two weeks.

    >> and then you'll have something like this, which is spicy, garlicky, a little fermented. there is a little on your tongue.

    >> it is delicious. it is spicy, though.

    >> yes.

    >> good, though. david, you have a lot of fans around here. you're amazing. thank you so much.

    >> appreciate you having me.

TODAY recipes
updated 10/27/2009 9:39:30 AM ET 2009-10-27T13:39:30

Recipe: Napa cabbage kimchi (aka Paechu kimchi)

Kimchi is a fermented pickle, like sauerkraut, and the fermentation process is key to its flavor. It's elemental in Korean food and in Momofuku food, and you can make it with almost anything. In northern Virginia, where I grew up, my mom and my grandmother made it with blue crabs (which was totally gross, in case you're wondering). But some kind of seafood is often added to kimchi to help kick-start the fermentation process. Raw oysters are common as are squid, shrimp, or yellow croaker. We use the jarred salted shrimp that look like krill and have a strong but still appealing and sweet shrimp aroma. A little goes a long way, and a 500-gram jar will last even an avid kimchi maker a while, so take the time and hunt one down.

The amount of salt in kimchi stops almost every kind of food-borne nastiness from working except for lactic acid bacteria, and once that bacteria starts to produce lactic acid, the pH of the whole thing drops, and nothing grows that's going to cause spoilage. My friend Dave Arnold, The Smartest Person Alive and a food-science genius, explained that to me, and he also says that using sea salt or any naturally evaporated salt will help the pickles keep and stay firmer longer because of the trace amounts of impurities you can't taste, like magnesium and calcium.

At Momofuku, we make three types of kimchi: Napa cabbage (paechu), radish (from long white Korean radishes or, failing that, Japanese daikon), and Kirby cucumber (oi). Our recipe has changed some since I learned it from my mom, who learned it from her mom. I add more sugar than they would. We let the fermentation happen in the refrigerator instead of starting the kimchi at room temperature and then moving it into the fridge when it starts to get funky. At the restaurant, we let the kimchi ferment for only a couple of weeks, instead of allowing it to get really stinky and soft. There's a point, after about two weeks, where the bacteria that are fermenting the kimchi start producing CO2 and the kimchi takes on a prickly mouthfeel, like the feeling of letting the bubbles in a soft drink pop on your tongue. It's right around then that I like it best.

  • 1 small to medium head Napa cabbage, discolored or loose outer leaves discarded
  • 2 tablespoons kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 20 garlic cloves, minced
  • 20 slices peeled fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 cup kochukaru (Korean chile powder)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup usukuchi (light soy sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons jarred salted shrimp
  • 1/2 cup 1-inch pieces scallions (greens and whites)
  • 1/2 cup julienned carrots

Cut the cabbage lengthwise in half, then cut the halves crosswise into 1-inch-wide pieces. Toss the cabbage with the salt and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a bowl. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

Combine the garlic, ginger, kochukaru, fish sauce, soy sauce, shrimp, and remaining ½ cup sugar in a large bowl. If it is very thick, add water 1/3 cup at a time until the brine is just thicker than a creamy salad dressing but no longer a sludge. Stir in the scallions and carrots.

Drain the cabbage and add it to the brine. Cover and refrigerate. Though the kimchi will be tasty after 24 hours, it will be better in a week and at its prime in 2 weeks. It will still be good for another couple weeks after that, though it will grow stronger and funkier.

Serving Size

Makes 1 to 1½ quarts


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