How to Make Kimchi and Use It 3 Ways

On this week’s episode of Chefs at Home, chef Rachel Yang makes homemade kimchi, and then uses it to make soba salad, a cheese-topped pancake, and pork belly stew.

After watching Samantha Seneviratne make chocolate cardamom pudding (and a chocolate cardamom cream tart) on last week's episode of Chefs at Home, this week we're joined by Rachel Yang. The chef and restaurant owner demonstrates how to make kimchi from scratch, and then uses it in three different dishes—kimchi soba salad, a kimchi cheese pancake, and kimchi pork belly stew—with the kimchi at various stages of fermentation. (We're talking a range of three-day kimchi to two-year kimchi, here.) She also shares some tips along the way, gives a brief explainer on kimchi, and more. Read on for her step-by-step method and follow along with the video above.

First Up, Kimchi

Yang uses Napa cabbage for this kimchi recipe, and recommends picking a heavy one. Quarter it lengthwise, and then salt the layers—this is the most important part of the kimchi-making process, she says. Take coarse sea salt and season each layer, concentrating more salt on the bottom since that's where the cabbage is thicker. Then let the cabbage wilt in a sealed container at room temperature for 12 hours, rinsing and squeezing out excess liquid before using it to make the kimchi.

Next, make the kimchi base. In a blender, Yang combines onion, Asian pear, ginger, garlic, two different fish sauces—anchovy fish sauce and sand lance fish sauce—and salted shrimp, using a tamper to ensure everything blends. Then, the gochugaru (Korean chile flakes) goes in. After giving it a blend and a taste, the base is good to go.

Yang takes cabbage she prepared the day before and dons kitchen gloves to make the kimchi. While you could chop up the cabbage, mix it in a bowl with the base and be done, she says, having it be "perfectly layered" is a "more polite way of serving kimchi." She grabs the cabbage and rubs the base on each layer. Tightly fold up the cabbage so there's no air between the layers of leaves, and get ready to store it. If you don't have a fermenting crock or jars, she says you can use a resealable plastic bag—place the folded cabbage in, roll the bag to squeeze out the air, and seal it. Ferment the kimchi for three to four days at room temperature, turning the bag to the other side after a day or so so it ferments evenly. After that, store it in the fridge and use as you please.

Make the Kimchi Soba Salad

After three days, Yang takes her kimchi and uses it in soba salad. The dish starts with a sauce made of mirin, gochujang (Korean chile paste), rice vinegar, and toasted sesame oil, all whisked together. Next, Yang grabs gloves and cuts the kimchi—avoid a light-colored cutting board, which could stain—into bite-sized pieces. Add cooked soba noodles to a bowl, and pour in the sauce and chopped kimchi, mixing it all together. After that, all that's left is preparing the garnishes—in this case, chopped scallions, hard-boiled eggs (sliced in half lengthwise), and toasted sesame seeds and seaweed. Serve the noodle salad in a bowl and add the toppings.

Make the Kimchi Cheese Pancake

Next up is a Korean savory pancake, called buchimgae or jeon, which Yang makes with week-old kimchi and some cheese. She grabs all-purpose flour, cornstarch, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and baking powder, whisking them together in a bowl. The wet ingredients—an egg, gochujang, and water—are whisked together in a separate bowl, and then poured into the dry-ingredient mixture. After they're combined, you fold in the kimchi, cut into smaller pieces, with a spatula.

Heat canola oil in a nonstick pan, and pour in roughly a cup of the batter, spreading the pancake into about a half-inch thickness. Yang warns not to put the cheese in too early—the pancake cooks for two to four minutes on each side, and she sprinkles on the shredded cheddar and mozzarella right before she flips the pancake. Be careful not to burn the cheese, either. If the pancake seems like it's darkening too quickly but still needs to cook, Yang recommends transferring it to the oven. The resulting pancake is crunchy and golden brown. Slice it and serve in wedges.

Make the Kimchi Pork Belly Stew

Lastly, Yang grabs two-year-old kimchi from her fridge (you don't need to use kimchi that's fermented that long, she notes) to make kimchi pork belly stew. You'll need the kimchi, pork belly, miso paste, and tofu, along with some water. Start by cutting the pork belly into lardons and heating them in a pot so the fat starts to render. Meanwhile, take the kimchi, cut it into bite-sized pieces, and pour it and its liquid into the pot when the pork belly has nicely browned. After that, add the miso paste and the water, and cook until the pork belly is cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes.

At the half-hour mark, Yang adds the cut-up tofu, and then cooks the stew for another five to 10 minutes so the tofu takes on the flavors in the pot. After that, it's ready to eat—Yang pours it into a small serving crock and says the flavor is "really good." It would be the perfect dish to enjoy during colder weather, she says, or when you need something comforting.

Come back next Monday, November 23 for our next episode of Chefs at Home.

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