We all have those moments where an idea strikes us from out of the blue. Or out of the green, in this instance. At first my idea was simply: “Why is Kimchi always red? There’s so many different colors and flavors of pepper.” And then I thought about how kimchi was originally fermented vegetables without the use of spicy peppers (which originated in the Americas and were only introduced to Asian countries in the 1500s). Ancient kimchi was more like what we call ‘white kimchi” today. And there you have it… kimchi is not always red, and once upon a time it was never red.
I quickly looked online and could see I wasn’t the first to have these thoughts.
I didn’t look too closely though. Certainly no link clicks! There may be a recipe just like mine but I didn’t want to know. I frequently make and love green salsa and I already knew the spicy-cool flavors of lime, cilantro, jalapeno, and green onion were going to be a match made in heaven for kimchi.
I have some other ideas too and I’m pretty confident there’s going to be some sparks of originality. I hope I inspire you to try your hand at this as well. As with all my recipes, these are templates and (hopefully) sources of inspiration, not strict rules (unless that’s what you want and need from them, then that will work too). This will be the first in a series of “color kimchis” I’m going to be posting, and I’m super excited about it.
You will need:
- Knife and cutting board
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Large non-reactive bowl (and smaller bowl for retaining brine)
- Half-gallon fermenting vessel (with or without an airlock) or two quart jars
- Fermentation weight (recommended)
- Carrot/vegetable peeler (optional, for the radish)
- Kitchen/latex gloves (when handling hot peppers)
- 1 head of Napa cabbage (mine was 3.65 lbs. before removing exterior leaves and coring)
- 1 lb. Korean radish or daikon, matchstick cut
- 1/2 cup (or just shy) of non-iodized salt
- 1/2 cup green “gochugaru” pepper powder (**see below for discussion**)
- 1 bunch green onions, sliced into 1/2″ pieces
- 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- 1/2 to 1 whole jalapeno, minced, if you like a hotter kimchi (I used 20g, no seeds or ribs)
- 1/2 cup brine reserved from the cabbage
- 1 TBS garlic, finely minced (I used 4 cloves, about 20g)
- 1 TBS sugar
- 1 TBS fish sauce (a good vegan alternative for green Kimchi is kelp powder)
- 2 tsp ginger, finely grated or minced (~7-8g)
- Juice of 1/2 a lime
- 1 tsp lime zest
Before you make this kimchi, you’ll need to get the gochugaru powder ready, which could be purchased or you can make it, requiring 24 hours or more in a food dehydrator. Kimchi normally utilizes the iconic red Korean pepper powder to give it that deep red color and impart some heat. I usually amp up that heat with added minced hot peppers of one sort or another. Since this is a green Kimchi, I needed a green gochugaru. I ordered this New Mexico Green Hatch Chili Powder and I can recommend it for this dish. It’s really quite delicious and not crazy spicy (though it’s at least as spicy as red Korean pepper powder, which is pretty tame).
However, I wanted to hold out for a brighter green powder, so I dehydrated 8 green bell peppers, 4 cubanelles (which were hardly spicy), and one very hot jalapeno. (I had several tablespoons of leftover powder too, FYI.) Then I ground all of it in my spice grinder, and was super pleased with the flavor and appearance.
But lo and behold, the next day I was at an international grocer and saw some beautiful green Korean peppers, so I naturally purchased a couple pounds and turned them to powder too. The color was more akin to the Hatch powder so in the end I went with my own blend. The flavor really popped with sweet and spicy notes. But I felt compelled to have some real Korean pepper in my kimchi, so I added a heaping tablespoon of that one to my 1/2 cup homemade pepper powder.
The point of my story is, use whatever green powder you want. If you want a very mild kimchi, you could even just use this green bell pepper powder; this one is clearly the best priced on all of Amazon and has great reviews (I’d recommend grinding it to a powder with a rolling pin or in a spice grinder or coffee grinder).
Here’s a photo of some of my efforts:
1.) Wash all produce and prepare as directed above; peel radish if desired before matchstick cutting
2.) Remove dry/blemished exterior leaves of the cabbage. Cut the cabbage length-wise, then repeat process, cutting the cabbage into quarters or eighths. Discard the core. (I cut into eighths to produce smaller, more bite-size pieces.) Make cuts every 1” perpendicular to the strips of cabbage. The process is shown here:
3.) Place the cut cabbage into the large bowl and thoroughly massage with the salt. If possible, top cabbage with a weighted object, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for at least 1.5 hours. The salt will pull out the water from the cabbage, forming a salt brine.
4.) After the allotted time, strain the brine that forms into a separate bowl (you will use some of the brine later). Then rinse the cabbage thoroughly two to three times, then let sit in a colander for 15-20 minutes to fully drain.
5.) In the large bowl, add and thoroughly mix all the other ingredients (veggies and seasonings), plus the 1/2 cup of reserved brine.
6.) Place the mix into the fermenting jar. Add a fermenting weight if available. If any extra brine remained, add around a 1/2″ to top up the kimchi. Apply the airlock lid.
This is always a matter of personal preference. Normally I enjoy long ferment times of weeks to months, whereas many ferment their kimchi just for a few days. In this case, a short ferment seems like the best match for this kimchi. For one thing, cilantro has a tendency to lose its distinctive flavor in a ferment very quickly. Further, although the ferment stays green, it loses its fresh green look in a pretty short timespan. This kimchi tastes great just fermented for around 36-48 hours and is my recommendation. However, I’ve fermented it for weeks and enjoyed the very “green” flavor, if not the color change. Depending on how much you make, you may have enough that you can see how it changes over time and what you like best.
Happy fermenting! Let us know what you think of the flavor and please stay tuned for more!