With the slow accent of spring, I was ready for a change from my traditional crock of sauerkraut and looking to ferment something a bit more bright and lively. So I turned to kimchi, the classic preparation of cabbage slathered in garlic, chile paste, and ginger, then fermented like you would sauerkraut or many other pickles. Kimchi is an ubiquitous part of every meal in Korea, although I never quite got used to eating it with breakfast. But it's not that different from slopping Tabasco over your breakfast eggs and potatoes, so I've slowly come around to the idea.
Slightly bewildered, I called in a pro. My sister Youngjoo gave me tons of advice, from her own kimchi making and her mother's recipe. You might remember the totally awesome kimchi-dedicated refrigerator her mother owns. Youngjoo found both the sugar and soy sauce to be a bit odd, and suggested for sweetness I could puree sweet onions and use them in my kimchi. She also recommended an addition of white daikon radish, which would help cut the spicy/funky flavor of the chilies and fermented cabbage and add a refreshing flavor and crunch.
I did take a bit of artistic freedom with the chilies I found a sack of beautiful, fruity, fiery Fresno chilies, which are my favorite hot peppers hands-down. Sadly, I haven't had much luck in drying them or making a hot sauce from them...they just become a bit tame and one-dimensional. But always one to throw in some more untested variables, I pureed six of them to make my chile paste. Two weeks later and the kimchi is shaping up into a beautiful, zesty cauldron of fermented goodness. Now that it's right where I want it, flavor-wise, the jar will go in the fridge to slow down the fermentation. It'll still ferment and get stronger, softer, and sharper, but the fridge should help keep it in the sweet-spot a bit longer.
Time for a kimchi dog!