Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Kimchi got to do with K-pop in Singapore?

During my recent visit to Singapore, I have noticed that Korean food have taken a firm foothold in the local eatery scene. Korean food is available even in the local food courts and moving towards a popularity status, similar to that enjoyed by Japanese food, up until the 1990s. I can’t help but suspect the Korean TV series or K-pop culture is driving a paradigm shift in the exposure and popularity of the Korean food in Singapore. But recent influx of enquires and requests to by blog for kimchi recipes from fellow Singaporeans can only add to my long held suspicion.
Just like sambal belachan which is an integral side dish for Nonya and Malay families, kimchi is typically served at every meal in Korean homes and restaurants. To many Koreans, a meal without kimchi is unthinkable! Kimchi has always being synonymous to Korea long before K-pop and Korean TV soap operas have grown into a popular pastime among young and many not so young followers in Singapore, resulting in widespread interest from food to the fashion and style of Korean idol groups and actors.
Ironically, I have learned kimchi making not from a Korean but a Japanese friend Naoko, who has been making kimchi according to a home recipe she inherited from her grandmother. It has been her family’s pride; there is nothing like homemade kimchi! Each family’s kimchi has its own unique flavour, but the basic process is still the same. According to Naoko, the basic step is to salt the vegetable, firming it up by extracting its liquid in order to give crunchiness to its final product. A mixture of spices is than added and the vegetable is left to ferment, creating its distinctive character of homemade kimchi.

2 kg Chinese cabbage.
11/2 cup coarse sea salt
500g Chinese radish cut into matchsticks
3 fresh large chillies seeded and cut into strips.
3 large white onions sliced
150g Chinese chive (ku chai)
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup Korean Chilli powder (kochu karu) or coarse chilli powder
2 tsp salted Shrimp (saeu chot) or chinchaluk (Malaysian preserved shrimp)
2 tsp flour.

Wash cabbage and cut lengthwise into quarters. Place the cabbages into a large steel or plastic bowl with the cut sides up and sprinkle salt between the leaves. Dissolve ¼ cup of slat with 1 cup of warm water and pour over the cabbage. Let stand the cabbage for at least 3 hours, shifting the cabbages every hour to evenly salt the pieces. During the last hour, test the cabbage for crunchiness. If you happy with the crunch, rinse the cabbage several time and drain on a colander. Make the stuffing paste while the cabbage is salting. To make the stuffing paste, dissolve the flour in 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to boil and reduce the heat to medium low. Stirring gently until it becomes a paste. Let it cool before adding the chilli powder and preserved shrimp. Mix well into a deep red paste and add all remaining ingredients and mix well. Place the salted cabbages in a bowl and insert the stuffing paste between the leaves. Place the cabbage into a screw-top jar and press down firmly to pack well and remove trapped air bubbles. Add a little water to mix with the remaining bits and pieces of stuffing and pour over the cabbages. Add more water if needed to immersed kimchi completely in liquid but be sure to leave at least 50mm of space at the top of the jar.

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