I have a slight obsession with kimchi nowadays (OK… it’s a full-on love affair), but the idea of eating fermented cabbage didn’t always hold the same appeal!
It was during my vegan diploma at Demuths Cookery School that I changed my mind about kimchi; it was one of the first things that we made on the course and over the two weeks, I gradually became more and more addicted to it – I decided that kimchi must be some sort of drug!
What is kimchi?
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish that is served alongside most Korean dishes and meals. Kimchi has a strong flavour and many are put off just by the smell. But it is a great staple to any diet as fermented foods are great for the gut!
What is kimchi made of?
Kimchi is made by fermenting vegetables with gochugang chilli. The most famous form of kimchi is made using napa cabbage, but you can also get variants like garlic kimchi, or carrot kimchi.
Mix it up! I urge you to get inventive and try different things.
Traditionally, Kimchi is made using fish sauce, or other fish-based ingredients. So if you are a vegan travelling through Korea, be wary of the Kimchi they serve you, I’ll bet on it being non-vegan! Make sure to eat in vegan-friendly establishments if you want to try Vegan Kimchi.
Just because the traditional recipe has fish sauce in it, doesn’t mean that vegans have to miss out. I started playing around with alternatives ingredients to try achieve that fishiness. If you so desire, you can add in nori flakes, or like in my recipe, you can use a vegan fish sauce – very popular in Vietnam (Nước chấm chay).
What does vegan kimchi taste like?
Vegan kimchi is tangy and spicy. It really packs a punch – so be careful!
A non-vegan kimchi may have a more fishy sourness to it because they use fish sauce. But you can definitely still achieve such depth with vegan kimchi by using a vegan fish sauce, miso paste, or trial out using a dried shiitake mushroom broth instead. Even give seaweed a go!
But if you are anything like me, the fishy sourness was never much of an appeal. Although all the above would definitely bring lovely umami to the kimchi.
This Vegan Vietnamese Kimchi has a slightly lighter more aromatic and sweeter balance to it, due to the Vietnamese influence with the lemongrass and pineapple.
Is vegan kimchi good for you?
Kimchi is a fermented food that is full of healthy bacteria which is good for the gut! Luckily for vegans, it has been proven that vegan kimchi, once fermented also shares all the same awesome gut-friendly bacteria as a non-vegan version.
It is worth noting thought that if you cook kimchi you may risk cooking off the gut-friendly bacteria. Try eating it as it is for the most health benefits!
Creating a fusion vegan kimchi
Okay, maybe I should just leave kimchi alone because it really is incredible as it is. But I just can’t help myself.
I love fermented foods, especially since they help my gut. So I am always looking for new ways to add them into my diet, and one way of doing this is to create different styles of things I love so that I can eat them more often with more cuisines.
I began with a Moroccan style kimchi (using rose harissa instead of the Korean chilli flakes) which was super yummy!
But I moved to Vietnam back in 2017 for a few years and started experimenting with popular Vietnamese ingredients during this time, using them to create a vegan Vietnamese fusion kimchi.
What is Vietnamese kimchi?
Vietnamese Kimchi is my take on the traditional Korean Kimchi, using vegetables and flavourings which are common in Vietnamese cuisine. Most Asian countries are accustomed to eating fermented vegetables, so you will find many kimchiesque jars and pickles fermenting away in their houses. Also, the Vietnamese are big fans of Korean cuisine, so you will find them eating Kimchi regularly.
Why create a Vietnamese kimchi?
I spent a lot of time in Vietnam and also have visited South Korea, I love both cuisines and I felt they’d fuse pretty well!
I have been making kimchi since I attended Demuths cookery school. So I already had a lotta love for it. Therefore, it only seemed right to continue adding more and more love to it.
I have experimented with many of the local Vietnamese ingredients and when bringing the two cuisines together in a bit of an experiment, I came up with a nicely balanced Vegan Vietnamese Kimchi that can just be eaten straight out of the jar!
This is why I thought it necessary to provide my own take on a mix of the two cuisines! Thus a Vietnamese Kimchi was born.
Some of the ingredients you may not be able to source, like the morning glory and the vegan fish sauce. You can just leave these out, or even sub the morning glory for more spring onion or spinach, and the vegan fish sauce for tamari/soy or a similar vegan stir fry sauce.
To be honest, you can change the ingredients around in Kimchi as much as you want! Make your own vegan fusion kimchi – but don’t forget to tell me about it!
What can you eat this vegan kimchi with?
If you are eating the kimchi raw, I recommend eating it as a side dish to most Asian rice dishes, or mixed into a cold noodle salad.
Maybe even try filling some vegan spelt bao buns with some vegan kimchi – yum!
Vegan Vietnamese kimchi
- 1 Chinese cabbage
- 1 Jicama - cubed. or you can use daikon, mooli or any kind of radish
- 3 tbsp Salt
- 1 Onion
- 2 Spring onions
- bunch Morning glory - or you could use spinach
- 4 tbsp Gochugaru chilli flakes - 3 if you like it less spicy
- Chop the chinese cabbage into large chunks (approx. 3 cm) and place into a large bowl with the chopped jicama
- Massage the 3 tbsp of salt into the cabbage jicama mix and set aside for 1 hour
- Whilst waiting, blend the paste ingredients in a blender or by using a hand blender until smooth
- Slice the onion, the spring onions and the morning glory finely and set aside
- After the 1 hour, wash and drain the salted veg and leave to dry just a little
- Mix in the other chopped vegetables with the gochugaru chilli flakes and then massage in the paste using your hands (use gloves if you want to avoid getting chilli everywhere)
- Place the kimchi into a sterilised jar making sure there is a few centimetres of space at the top of the jar to allow for any expansion during the fermentation process. Also make sure to push down any air pockets in the jar so that the mix is tightly packed
- Keep the jar in a dark cool area and check on it every day for 3 days, pushing out any more air pockets and bringing the liquid to the surface
- After the 3 days put the jar in the fridge, it is okay to start eating but it will definitely get better with more time so try to keep away from it?(I like to keep mine for a few weeks)
- The kimchi will then keep for up to 6 months, not that it ever lasts that long in my fridge, yum!