Saturday, November 19, 2011
Kkakdugi (Cubed Radish Kimchi)
Korean radish, mu (or moo), is in season! They simply taste best this time of the year. Korean radish is a variety of white radish (aka daikon) and has firm crisp flesh and a slightly sweet and peppery taste. I've been taking advantage of the season and cooking many radish dishes, such as mu guk (soup), musaengchae (spicy salad), mu namul (stir-fried), and, of course, kkakdugi, which is a popular variety of kimchi. It's kimchi-making season in Korea. So, I decided to show you all how to make kkakdugi this time.
Kkakdugi is an easy and quick kimchi to make. The radishes are first cubed and salted for a short time and then mixed with the seasonings. The taste of kimchi depends a lot on the types, the quality, and the ratio of the seasoning ingredients. Each Korean household has its own ways. Traditionally, various jeotgal (salted seafood) are used in kimchi for the distinct pungency and depth of flavors. Saeujeot (salted shrimp) and myulchiaekjeot (fish sauce made with anchovies) are the two that are most commonly used. I almost always use both of these in my kimchi, as well as some fresh shrimp which is my mother's secret ingredient for adding extra freshness to the kimchi flavor. If you can't find saeujeot (salted shrimp) in your area, at least use some raw shrimp. It will make a huge difference. Kkakdugi can be enjoyed with any Korean meal, but it's especially good with a bowl of mild soup such as seolleongtang. It's a delicious side dish that will add a pungent kick and some crunch to a meal!
2 - 3 medium to large Korean radishes (about 6 pounds)*
(*Buy the ones with smooth skins that are firm and heavy.)
1/3 cup coarse sea salt (less if using table salt)
4 - 5 scallions, cut into about 1-inch lengths
1 teaspoon glutinous rice powder*
(*Mix it with 1/3 cup water, simmer over low heat until
thickens to a thin paste and cool. Yields about 3 tablespoons.)
2/3 cup Korean red chili pepper flakes, gochugaru (adjust to your taste)
1/4 cup saeujeot (salted shrimp)**, finely minced
2 tablespoons myulchiaekjeot (fish sauce)
3 - 4 raw shrimp (about 2 ounces), finely minced or ground
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
(**If salted shrimp is not available, increase the fish sauce by the same amount.)
a large bowl (7 - 8 qt)
a large colander
1 gallon (or 2 half-gallon) airtight container or jar
Clean the radishes by scrubbing with a brush and/or scratching off the stubborn impurities with a small knife. Peel the skin only if necessary. You don't need to peel if the skin is smooth and clean. Cut into 1-inch thick discs, and then cut each disc into 1-inch cubes, placing in a large bowl. (The cubes will look big but will shrink during the salting and fermentation processes.)
Sprinkle the salt over the radishes and toss well to coat evenly. Let sit for about 30 - 40 minutes until the radish cubes have softened and released some liquid.
Meanwhile, make the glutinous rice paste and cool. Prepare the other seasoning ingredients. Mix everything, including the rice paste, well. Set it aside for a while for the red pepper flakes to dissolve a little and become pasty.
Drain the radishes in a colander and discard the liquid. Do NOT rinse. Rinsing will wash the flavor away. (The radishes still contain sufficient water content that will be released during the fermentation process. With this method, the resulting kkakdugi will have a nice thick juice.)
Place the radishes back in the bowl. Add the seasonings and scallions.
Mix everything well, preferably by hand, until the radish cubes are evenly coated with the seasonings. (Make sure to wear kitchen gloves.) Taste a little bit of the seasoning off of a radish cube. It should be a little too salty to eat as is. Add more salted shrimp or fish sauce if necessary. (The radishes will be a little dry at this point, but they will release water during the fermentation process.)
Store in an airtight container or jar. Before closing the lid, press the kkakdugi down hard with your hand to remove air pockets between the radish cubes. Leave it out at room temperature for a full day or two, depending on the room temperature and how fast you want your kimchi to ripe. Then, store in the fridge. Although you can start eating it any time, kkakdugi needs about two weeks in the fridge to fully develop the flavors. It maintains great flavor and texture for several weeks. To me, kkakdugi tastes best when fully fermented, making it a little sour, but that is certainly a matter of personal preference.