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!
What is Kimchi?
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made by fermenting vegetables with gochugang chilli, with the most famous form of kimchi being made using napa cabbage. 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!
It was during my vegan diploma at Demuths Cookery School that I changed my mind; 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!
More recently, I have really enjoyed playing around with the Demuth’s recipe. I began with a Moroccan style kimchi (using rose harissa instead of the Korean chilli flakes) which was super yummy! Since living in Vietnam, I have experimented with some local ingredients and came up with a nicely balanced Vietnamese kimchi that can just be eaten straight out of the jar!
What is Vietnamese Kimchi?
Vietnamese Kimchi is a 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.
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! Be inventive.
What is ‘Vegan’ Kimchi?
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).
Vietnamese Style Vegan Kimchi
- 1 chinese cabbage
- 1 jicama cubed or daikon, mooli or any kind of radish
- 3 tbsp salt
- 1 onion
- 2 spring onions
- Small bunch of morning glory or you could use spinach
- 4 Korean gochugaru chilli flakes 3 if you like it less spicy
- 1/2 onion roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
- 5 cm piece of ginger peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3 tbsp finely chopped lemongrass
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper I use local Phu Quoc black pepper
- 1/2 small pineapple chopped you can use tinned, but buy it in juice not syrup
- 3 tbsp vegan fish sauce or you could try any similar vegan stir fry sauce
- 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!
Top Tip! If you don’t like waiting for your kimchi to ferment make sure you always have a new batch on the go to keep yourself covered for any future kimchi needs!