Raise your hand if you’ve felt personally victimized by coronavirus? Mean Girls references aside, I’m pretty sure all of us have had at least one culinary pursuit during this quarantine and for me it involved fermentation! I tried my hand, with the help of my sister Kristina, at making homemade vegan kimchi. When I’ve told people about this I’ve been asked every single time, “what makes kimchi not vegan?” To which I respond, the fish sauce. So, our task was to create a tasty and viable substitution. Since I’m not in the business of recreating the wheel, I just googled “vegan kimchi recipes” and used The Minimalist Baker’s recipe. Here’s how it went:
The first thing you should know is this is a VERY lengthy and messy process. Without Kristina I’m not sure how long it would’ve taken me to get this done but with her it took about 4 hours (prep time).
We did not have napa or savoy cabbage but the final product still turned out delish! After you salt the cabbage for what feels like years (2 hours), the real fun starts! The recipe called for a lot of Korean red chili flakes but I have a relatively low heat/spice threshold so I halved it.
After mixing the ingredients for the chili sauce together, we had to create the vegan fish sauce using tamari. Then you combine the two sauces along with the other vegetables you want to use in your kimchi.
Once that’s done you should be ready to coat your salted and rinsed cabbage with the sauce. Fair warning - this sauce stains and it may or may not burn your hands later when you get out of a hot shower. Ahh reminders of a successful day of culinary creations!
Make sure you coat every leaf thoroughly so that your kimchi is packed with flavor. I recommend using a rubber spatula that you can easily clean when done.
Lastly, you’ll need to place the kimchi into your jars for fermentation. I highly suggest using large mason jars rather than plastic or Tupperware containers. Really press down on the kimchi so you can pack it in there. It took 4 jars for us to be able to get our kimchi packed!
I decided to let the kimchi ferment for 4 days in the cabinet (store in a cool, dry place) before moving it to the refrigerator. Side note, it made our entire cabinet and eventually kitchen smell like kimchi throughout the week. As fermentation occurs air bubbles form and get trapped in between the layers of cabbage so the pressure in the jar really builds up and you’ll need to open the jars every day to release it. Press down firmly on the kimchi to make sure all the air is released before resealing the jar. After the first 24 hours mine had actually started to leak out and the jar’s lids were warped from all the pressure! For a video of the mid-week ferment check out my Instagram (IGTV): @prananutritionist
One week later it was time to try our kimchi! I found it a bit spicier than the level of spice I enjoy but it was true to the authentic taste of kimchi by being spicy, crunchy, tangy and fragrant! My husband loved it and said it tastes just like kimchi he’s had at restaurants as well. We’re planning on having it with rice and tofu this week so I’ll post a picture of that later on.
This wouldn’t be a dietitian’s post if I didn’t point out the health benefits of kimchi. Knowing that it’s a fermented food, kimchi offers both prebiotics and probiotics which means a happy healthy gut! A healthy gut microbiome means less inflammation and digestive issues. Probiotics (good gut bacteria) can also help to maintain a healthy weight by reducing constipation.
So there ya have it, kimchi! I’m eager to hear what you think of kimchi whether you’ve made it yourself or not. And of course if you do make it yourself let me know how it turns out!