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Kimchi with Gochugaru Chiles and Salted Shrimp

Written By Culinary Pen on Saturday, June 1, 2013 | 7:19:00 PM

Thanks to Youngjoo (again!), my Kimchi is coming up a notch.  She was kind enough to mail me a large bag of Korean chile flakes that she brought home from Seoul.  Called gochugaru, these chile flakes have a fruity, slightly sweet flavor and medium heat, which reminds me of a bright red version of guajillo chile flakes, or Turkish urfa biber chiles.  I'm really happy to have these, as my kimchi hasn't had that dramatic bright red color that's so appealing with kimchi.
Secondly, I'm trying another authentic ingredient: salted, fermented shrimp.  Adding some seafood element is traditional in kimchi, but so far I've stuck with fish sauce.  I'm curious how using the shrimp will shape the finished process.  With past batches of kimchi, I've notice the fish sauce has a distinct taste for the first three or four days.  After that, the fishy taste fades and become more of a savory backdrop to the spices of garlic, ginger, and chiles.  On a side note, these salted shrimp are totally deceptive.  They look just like prawns in brine, but when you spoon it out, it's like scraping out a wad of wet sand.  They must just be totally packed in salt.  They have a texture that's close to a paste, than their appearance of loose baby shrimp.
I'm also taking a tip from Youngjoo's mom, who would ferment her napa cabbage kimchi by just slicing the cabbage heads in half, then cutting out the hard core at the base.  When she needed some kimchi, which was daily, she would just take our half a head, and slice it up to serve.  My guess is that this helps the kimchi to last longer and retain a crisper texture, compared to chopping up the cabbage into thin strips at the start of the fermentation process.

One question I have for my next batch is combining the gochugaru with fermented shrimp.  Korea has a fermented chile paste called Gochujang, which I think might be interesting to try.  My guess is that it would add the spice element of gochugaru chile flakes, while also helping to kick-start the fermentation, like the little shrimp.  Well, we shall see.  The adventure continues!

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