Baek Ggakdugi Kimchi (Mild Daikon Radish Kimchi)
I love baek (meaning "white" in Korean) kimchis. Kimchis are usually associated as spicy and dressed in a gochugaru seasoning, but historically the initial roots of kimchi were fermented without the addition of chilis. Thus the baek kimchi recipes still linger around, but they are served only occasionally.
My aunt, an excellent kimchi maker, once told me that making a good baek kimchi is far more challenging than making spicy kimchi.
"You have to achieve flavor depth and maintain perfect preservation of the vegetable with one less ingredient- which happens to be the most flavorful one. In a baek kimchi, overdoing one ingredient will stand out far more than spicy kimchi. Nothing can hide behind the gochugaru in baek kimchi. Making it requires balance and mastery," she said in her usual soft tone.
I watched her carefully adding coarse grains of sea salt to her brine, tasting frequently as she went.
"You have to be careful not to over-salt or under-salt. Don't be tempted to over-salt because you're afraid there won't be enough flavor, " she advised.
I have yet to master the perfect baek kimchi made with baechu (Korean for Napa cabbage), but I'm pretty close with this baek ggakdugi recipe. I am so ready to eat this with a plate of Korean fried chicken. Yeah you heard me.
3 daikon radishes, skin peeled and then cubed
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 green onions trimmed, washed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 small onion, finely sliced
1 small carrot cut into matchsticks and rinsed (optional and for color)
1/8 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup minced garlic
3 tablespoons minced ginger
2/3 cup cooked short grain rice
1 rounded tablespoon saewoo jut (Korean salted shrimp)
1/4 cup cool water (or preferably cold kombu dashi if you already have some on deck)
Peel and cut daikon radishes into small cubes. To learn how, check out my short tutorial below.
Sprinkle salt and half of the sugar onto daikon and toss to incorporate evenly. Let sit in a large colander for one hour. This process will not only season them a bit but will also drain out excess water.
In the meantime prepare the kimchi sauce. In a blender puree one roughly chopped onion, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, remaining sugar, rice and water until smooth.
After one hour shake excess water off daikon and place in a large mixing bowl. Combine daikon cubes, green onions, carrots, sliced onions, saewoo jut and sauce. Mix well with hands to incorporate ingredients evenly throughout.
It should taste not too bland or too salty, but leaning more towards the saltier side. Like it sweeter? Sprinkle in a little bit more sugar. It will not taste quite right yet of course, as it must ferment to develop it's full flavor.
Pack kimchi tightly into clean glass jars. Make sure there are no air pockets in your kimchi when you are packing them into jars. Leave ample space on top of the kimchi from the lid, at least an inch.
Remember this food is alive and it will begin creating gas that will make it rise as it is fermenting. You don't want kimchi explosions all over yourself, only in your mouth.
Tightly close jars with lids and store away from direct sunlight or heat sources. I stored mine in a kitchen cabinet. Let ferment for at least one day. You will begin seeing little gas bubbles in your kimchi.
I let mine sit for two days before I thought it was ready, but this really depends on your preference and your environment. I like mine a slightly on the ripe side.
Once completely fermented store in the refrigerator. It will last for at least a month, or more. It's kimchi! It's forever. <3