Batter Licker

August 26, 2011

fake kimchi (or: how sauerkraut saved bibimbap)

As my facebook followers already know, two weeks ago, I stood in an aisle at Whole Foods, paralyzed by a $7 jar of kimchi. When an entire head of cabbage would run me only $1, $7 for a jar containing maybe 1/6th head of cabbage seemed outrageous, even for Whole Foods prepared products. But I didn’t have a few days to let my own cabbage ferment, as bibimbap was the dinner plan for that very night and the veggies I had grated the day before were not going to stay crunchy for another day.

Why and how had I planned so carefully ahead and done the prep work, but utterly forgotten such an essential ingredient?!?

Then I remembered the giant, unopened jar of sauerkraut, left in my refrigerator by my mother a few months back when we had forgotten to use it with some meal or another. Cautious relief set in.

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Perhaps the fermentation methods that turn cabbage into sauerkraut versus kimchi aren’t exactly the same. Certainly sauerkraut is more of a shredded texture, and less chunky and crunchy than kimchi. And sure, all the flavors might not develop as quite as deeply as a traditional kimchi recipe.

But drained and quickly marinated in a bit of garlic, ginger, and two Asian chili pastes (sambal oelek for spiciness and the traditional Korean gochujang for that addictive je ne sais quois quality that draws me back to kimchi time and again), sauerkraut came through for me. Thanks to the pressures of time and frugality, I found a great way to re-purpose the neglected sauerkraut, save myself some cash, and create a kimchi-like substitute that saved my Korean-themed dinner.

Fake Kimchi

1 c. sauerkraut (pickled cabbage)
2 to 3 Tbsp. sambal oelek (ground fresh hot chili paste)
1 Tbsp. gochujang (Korean sweet and spicy chili paste)
1 garlic clove, minced or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and minced or 1/2 tsp. ginger powder

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients together. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and if possible, let sit for a few hours while flavors meld. Do ahead: can be made a week in advance and stored in an airtight, refrigerated container, but if you’re planning that far ahead, you may want to try making your own legit kimchi.

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