At any given time, I have at least two types of home-made cabbage kimchi in my fridge – young and aged, with the former eventually morphing into the latter. The young kimchi is no more than a couple of months old. I make it in small quantities – usually half of a large head of napa cabbage at a time. With its relatively mild flavour, slightly fizzy mouthfeel (because it’s still fermenting) and gently crisp texture, it tastes fresher than the several-months-old stuff, which is strong and pungent, with thoroughly wilted vegetables. In addition to eating the young kimchi as a side dish, I use it in uncooked purées and sauces, and in dishes such as the first recipe below. I use the aged kimchi to cook with.
Roast pork and kimchi wraps
I ate a version of this dish at a party in Singapore and liked it so much that I made it at home. These two-bite wraps are great as an accompaniment to drinks: make a platter of them and hand them around to your guests. They should be eaten within 10 minutes, or else they will fall apart once the wrapper gets soggy.
Buy a boneless, slightly fatty piece of siu yuk from the siu mei shop. The spring roll wrappers (also called egg roll wrappers and spring roll pastry) should be square and made of wheat flour, not the very thin rice paper wrappers that need to be dampened with water and which are used for Vietnamese spring rolls.
1 piece of siu yuk, about 5cm wide by 10cm long
About 150 grams young kimchi, drained
10 sheets spring roll wrappers
For the sauce:
60 grams hoisin sauce
60 grams oyster sauce
10ml sesame oil
If the siu yuk is cold and the skin is soft, rather than crisp, heat it by putting it skin-side-up on a tray and placing in an oven that’s pre-heated to 180 degrees Celsius. Heat for 10 minutes then cool to room temperature. Use a serrated knife to cut the siu yuk in half lengthwise, then slice each piece 5mm thick – you should have 40 pieces. (A tip for tidier slices: cut the siu yuk upside-down, so the skin side is on the cutting board.) Put the drained kimchi on a double layer of paper towels and squeeze out the excess moisture. Roughly chop the kimchi.
Put the hoisin sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil in a small pan, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about five minutes.
Wrap the spring roll wrappers in a doubled-up layer of dry kitchen cloth. Microwave briefly, or until warmed through. (If you don’t have a microwave, heat them one-at-a-time on a stovetop griddle placed over a medium flame: heat each wrapper for a few seconds on each side, then stack them, keeping them warm by wrapping them in a doubled-up layer of dry kitchen cloth.) Cut each wrapper into four smaller squares and keep them warm. (If they become stiff when working with them, heat them again.)
Lay several of the smaller wrapper squares side-by-side on a work surface, with one of the corners facing you. Use a spoon to smear a small amount of the sauce on the diagonal, from one corner to the other. Lay a piece of pork in the centre of the wrapper and top with some of the kimchi. Fold up the near corner of the wrapper towards the centre, then fold over the side corners. Lay the wrap on a platter and finish making the others. Makes 40 pieces.
This is a hearty dish that balances the pungency and tartness of aged, overripe kimchi with other strongly flavoured ingredients. Korean and Japanese instant broth (yooksu and dashi, respectively) come in small bags that resemble those for tea; you just need to soak the bag in hot water. Buy the type made with dried fish and sea kelp.
150 grams pork belly, cut into cubes
5ml soy sauce
About 50 grams onion
1-2 garlic cloves
100 grams firm bean curd
50 grams enoki mushrooms
About 100 grams Korean zucchini
100 grams aged cabbage kimchi
1 bag Korean or Japanese instant broth
30ml sesame oil
15 grams gochujang (Korean spicy soybean paste)
2 tsp gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes), or more to taste
Fine sea salt, to taste
1-2 spring onions
Cut the pork into small cubes and mix with the soy sauce. Thinly slice the onion and garlic cloves. Slice the bean curd into 1cm cubes. Trim off the root ends from the enoki mushrooms. Quarter the Korean zucchini lengthwise, then slice it about 3mm thick. Roughly chop the kimchi. Put the instant broth bag in a heatproof measuring cup and add 250ml of boiling water. Leave to steep for a few minutes.
Heat the sesame oil in a Korean stoneware pot (one that holds about 700ml) over a medium flame. Add the meat and brown it lightly, stirring often. Add the onion and garlic and stir to coat with the oil, then mix in the gochujang and gochugaru. Stir constantly for about 30 seconds, then pour in the broth, leaving behind the bag. Bring to the boil, then add the bean curd, mushrooms, zucchini and kimchi. Simmer for several minutes, then taste the liquid; add a little salt and more gochugaru, if needed. Simmer until the zucchini is tender. Mince the spring onions and scatter them on top. Serve the chigae with steamed white rice. Serves one.