Pahadi Kimchi: An ode to fermenting traditions
Pahadi Kimchi in grandma’s spice blend
Kimchi is a popular spiced vegetable ferment from Korea. It is made with any available vegetable and seasonings local to a region. In Korea there are 100s of kimchi recipes indigenous to a specific region and ingredient.
Kimchi is a probiotic condiment that harnesses the power of microbes present in the produce, water and air through lactic-acid fermentation. It is this fermentation process that transforms the carbohydrates, proteins, and minerals into lactic-acid, probiotics, amino acids, B-vitamins. The overall output is a superfoods version of humble cabbage results in more bioavailable content available for our bodies to absorb.
Kimchi Korean is made with a specific Korean child pepper called Gochugaru.
Since fermentation is all about adaptability and inclusiveness I see no limitation is swapping the gochugaru with my ammaji's spice-blend' aka ‘jeere-ka-masala’.
This pahadi kimchi recipe calls for staple spice-paste that my pahadi muslim family uses in multiple dishes- dahi phulki, mooli thencha, baigan parche. Its a thick wet blend of cumin seeds, garlic, salt, dry red chillies - local or Kashmiri, I add onions to this blend for kimchi. Then comes the seasonal produce like pahadi kheera, pahadi ganth mooli in monsoon, cabbage, spring onions, red carrots, peaches in summers.
Though I give this recipe a city makeover with occasional Napa cabbage, English cucumbers, Ooty carrots, the results are pretty great every time. The lactic-acid bacteria don't discriminate either.
Tools and equipments needed:
Glass jar with lid - capacity 3L-5L
Fermentation Weight - Another jar of 100 ml capacity that can fit on the mouth of your big jar. (something like a Kissan jam jar would work)
1 Cabbage/Napa Cabbage - tightly packed. When buying cabbage look for heads that are heavier for their appearance roughly 1 kg. You can swap the cabbage with peeled watermelon rind flesh cut in bit size cubes
2 Pahadi/English cucumbers
1 bunch spring onions
2 medium radish or ganth mooli
2 peaches (optional) you can try apple or pineapple too
Any other vegetable/spice/herb you wish to experiment
Salt - 27 gms total (25 gms for rubbing in the cabbage) 2 gms for spice blend
For spice blend
150-200 gms dry red chillies - variety to use - bydagi, Guntur, Kashmiri - as per availability
15 gms Jeera seeds g
2 bulbs of garlic
1 big onion
2 gms salt
4 tbsp water
Blitz chillies, salt and jeera together with water and make thick paste. Blitz, garlic and onions together and keep separately - This is your pahadi kimchi paste
*I don't add ginger in the recipe but you will find most of the kimchi recipe with ginger. You can add julienne ginger to the vegetable mix.
- Clean napa cabbage, spare one big clean leaf for later use. Cut the rest length-wise. Cut the halves length-wise. You will have 4 long sections of napa cabbage. Cut each section into big square chucks. Transfer to a big bowl. If not using Napa cabbage you can cut the cabbage in square chunks
- Rub the salt generously on the cabbage. Let it sit for 30 mins. Cover it with a plate and weight on the cabbage. Keep turning the cabbage for 3-4 hours and let the salt draw out the water from the cabbage
- In a different bowl cut all other vegetables and fruits in a separate bowl
- Add chilli-jeera paste and onion-garlic paste to the cut vegetables. Add salt. Mix well
- Coming back to napa cabbage - wash off all the cabbage in running water in a colander and let it drain all water
- Add the napa cabbage in the bowl of spice mixed vegetable and fruit. Mix well
- Adjust the salt as per your liking in the whole mixture. It should be exactly as per your liking or just a bit higher. Please do not undersalt or oversalt
- Take a clean glass jar and start transferring the kimchi mix in it. Keep pressing to let the air escape. Sure a muddler or mixer temper for the job or wear gloves
- Take the big whole napa cabbage leaf and use it as a blanket to cover the surface and tuck in the corners
- Now the weights - fill the small 100 ml jar with water and close it with a lid. Place this jar on top of the big jar content and press the cabbage down thoroughly. Kimchi juice will flow atop
- Press the small jar enough inside the big jar so you can close the big jar lid
- Place a plate under the kimchi jar to collect any juices oozing out due to CO2 build-up. Let it sit in an airy space away from sunlight for at least 3 days
- Burp (open and close) the jar every day. Wear an apron or open the jar in the sink. CO2 build-up makes the juices ooze out aggressively
- After 3 days do a taste test. If you like the taste, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. KImchi is ready to be eaten. It will continue to ferment slowly in the fridge
- Continue fermenting at room temperature if you like it tangier
Kimchi will keep in the refrigerator for months.