Monday, January 28, 2013

Oyster Obsession Part 3: Liquor

For the finale oyster post, we are exploring the liquor - that lovely salty bath that surrounds the meat, the essence of the ocean.  As I removed the meat for the po' boys I drained the liquor into a separate bowl.  It was destined for Korea's national dish, the subject of today's post: kimchi.

I love kimchi.  An asian version of sauerkraut that uses fish sauce and hot peppers to flavour the fermented cabbage, it is always served as a side dish on the Korean table.   Interestingly, the hot peppers were not added to the original kimchi until the 1500's, when Japan invaded Korea and brought the pepper with them.  Even in Korea, it is primarily Southern recipes that contain the seafood and spice elements, so consider this recipe more typical of a Southern kimchi.

The recipe is quite simple.  I used my oyster liquor rather than fish sauce and the proportions are loose.  Adjust to suit your own taste.
  • 1 head of napa cabbage chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of palm sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of fermented shrimps
  • The liquor of 15 oysters (approximately)
  • 1 tablespoon of fermented thai bird chili sauce
  • 2 cloves of organic garlic chopped fine (very, very pungent)
  • 2 tablespoons of ginger chopped fine

1. I adapted this recipe from a kimchi recipe I found on Chow where the directions are to soak the napa cabbage overnight in salted water.  Start by massaging the salt into the cabbage and then cover with water and leave overnight.

2. The next morning, add all of the other ingredients to a large bowl and blend together until the sugar is dissolved and everything is mixed well.  Add the cabbage to this bowl and mix it all together using your hands.  I recommend wearing gloves so the hot peppers don't burn your hands.  I also poured my oyster liquor through a sieve to prevent any little bits of sand and shell from falling into the kimchi.

3. Take a glass container and wash it out well with soap and water and then sterilize it in boiling water.  Once it is cool, spoon the cabbage into your clean container. 

4. The liquid might not reach the top of the cabbage.  I took a clean rock (wrapped in saran wrap) and placed it on top of the seasoned cabbage to help press the liquid out of the cabbage.  Cover the jar or put a lid on it and let it sit out at room temperature for 24 hours.  Then move the jar into the fridge and let it sit for a week.

The Verdict

Whoo!  The hot sauce is hot!  I only used a tablespoon of the thai bird chili sauce (homemade) but it is hot so it made the kimchi a bit overwhelmingly hot!  The oyster brine gives the kimchi a lovely delicate flavour.  Definitely a winner.  The garlic is fairly strong but not overpowering and the ginger is strong, but I'm a ginger freak so it makes me happy to nosh on large amounts of ginger. 

Changes for next time?  I am going to try another batch with my homemade fish sauce when it is ready.  I might try less hot sauce next time just because it is so freakin' hot that it interferes with the pleasure of eating the kimchi.  Different veggies might be fun as well, radish is traditional, cucumber is also used, broccoli might be interesting. 

Kimchi is a fabulous addition to any diet.  Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, which is renowned for its cancer-fighting ability and fermented foods are great for digestion in general.  If you've never tried it before, give it a shot and I promise that you will be back for seconds.

Up Next?  Corned Beef Sandys


Shonagh explores the guts of food in An Offal Experiment.