One kimchi that has stood out to me for years for its unique & floral flavor is kkaennip kimchi, or kimchi of perilla leaf. This can also be called sesame leaf (though it’s not in the same family as the sesame plant that makes sesame seeds). In fact, perilla leaf is in the mint family and has a certain likeness to basil, with notes of anise.
If you don’t know where to find it, it is frequently sold at Asian or international grocers. I have never seen it in a conventional supermarket.
After years enjoying this kimchi, this summer I decided to grow it. I got my seeds from HoltGarden and I’ve grown many other Korean vegetables with seeds from this company. The quality and germination rate of all their products has been stellar and I highly recommend them. Perilla leaf is a summer crop and I advise starting in spring, or late summer for regions with a mild fall like I have in Zone 7b/8a. I think in most places in the US, trying to start it in mid-summer will be too hot, though it is quite heat tolerant once established.
This kimchi is absolutely delicious, unique, and full of flavor. It is excellent as banchan (one of several small sides served with a main dish) or as a light meal using the leaves to wrap rice. Place a leaf over some rice and use chopstcks to press down and inwards, trapping some rice inside like a roll.
You can halve all ingredients in this recipe to make a smaller quantity. Because I grew it, I had a lot to turn into kimchi, but I’ll easily finish this all within the 2-3 weeks it stays nice and crispy.
You will need:
- Standard square snapware such as this (can opt to ferment in a mason jar or other airtight container but snapware is better suited to this particular ferment)
- Paper towels
- Small saucepan with cover
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Knife & cutting board
- Suggested: small blender or processor (or can mix kimchi paste by hand; will need to finely mince garlic and ginger)
- 100 perilla leaves (about 2 store bushels worth)
- 1 cup anchovy/kombu broth (I like using this broth sachet)
- 1 carrot, matchstick cut (75-85g), lightly salted to encourage softening
- 1/2 to 2/3 small onion, thin-sliced (100g)
- 2 green onions, thin-sliced
- 1/3 cup gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
- 3 TBSP fish sauce or use a good vegan alternative
- 2 TBSP organic soy sauce (or tamari)
- 4-6 garlic cloves, 35g (mince or use press if blending kimchi paste by hand)
- 1 finger ginger, 15g (mince if blending kimchi paste by hand)
- 2 TBSP Korean plum syrup
- Optional: 1-2 red jalapenos to taste (finely mince if blending paste by hand)
- Garnish: when serving, garnish the top perilla leaves with toasted sesame seeds
1.) Optional but recommended, especially for limp leaves: Bathe the perilla leaves in a bath of ice water for around an hour or two. Replace the ice or transfer to fridge to keep cold. This will help clean the leaves and firm them up.
2.) At the same time, place the broth sachet in a small saucepan with 2 cups of water (or to make from scratch, use around 7 cleaned (gutted), dried anchovies and a piece of kombu). Cover and bring to a rapid boil. Allow to simmer around 15 minutes then remove from heat. Without removing the lid, allow to come to room temperature (can transfer saucepan to fridge to speed up the process).
3.) While the broth cools, prep the carrot and lightly salt to encourage softening. Set aside. When the broth has approached room temperature, also cut up the onion and green onion.
4.) Once the broth is room temp, drain the perilla leaves and dry them well on paper towels. Cover both sides and press firmly.
4.) Add the broth to blender/processor or, if mixing the kimchi paste by hand, add the broth to a medium mixing bowl. Combine with the garlic, ginger, fish sauce, soy sauce, plum syrup, and optional hot pepper(s). Process or otherwise hand mix until evenly blended.
5.) Spread a thin layer of the paste on the bottom of the snapware or fermentation vessel. Then add 4-5 leaves, and spread a thin layer of the paste on the top leaves, followed by a light sprinkling of some carrot, onion, and green onion. (You don’t need to cover all the leaves with the kimchi paste, just the tops of each new layer.) I recommend rotating the position of leaves to avoid empty pockets forming. Repeat the process until all the leaves, kimchi paste, and sliced veggies are used up. Make sure to save a little extra paste for the top layer of perilla leaves to ensure a good coating.
6.) Fasten the snapware shut and allow to stand at room temperature for 24 hours. (In rather warm environments, you may wish to go only 12-18 hours.) Transfer to the refrigerator and allow another 24-48 hours to develop the flavor before opening.