Homemade Kimchi

I consider myself to be more of a socially awkward person. I dislike networking and I am surprisingly shy when I am in a group setting with people who I’m unfamiliar with. In these situations, instead of turning on my charm, I think I actually become what some would call…borderline creepy.

Despite that, I love it when I can make a new friend. I love the process of when a stranger come into your life, and somehow the two of you stumble upon something that you share in common – you both get really excited, and scream, and talk about it non-stop for 15 minutes, and then you laugh together. Sometimes,  you end up keeping in touch with the stranger and the two of you become friends. I love that. For me, the process is always slightly awkward, but the result is always worth it.

This is what happened between our wedding photographer, Melia and I. Actually, it didn’t happen exactly like what I described above. Melia is very calm and graceful, so screaming is not really her thing. But I screamed, loud enough for the both of us, so it’s all good.

Aside from being an incredible photographer and a mom to 2 adorable boys, Melia is also a kimchi connoisseur. After confessing to her my love for kimchi and mentioning that I’ve always wanted to try and make kimchi from scratch, Melia shared with me her favourite recipe.

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This recipe is originally from Dr. Ben Kim, and folks…it’s a definite winner. I will never be buying kimchi from a grocery store, ever again. The kimchi keeps well in your fridge for at least 1 month and you can make some many things with it, the possibilities are endless – kimchi fried rice, korean pancake, kimchi stew, I could go on for hours.

Here is what you’ll need:

1 head of Napa Cabbage
1/4 cup sea salt
1/4 cup Korean red chili powder (ko choo kah rhoo//고추 가루)
3 stalks of green onions
2 TBsp fish sauce*
3-4 garlic cloves
A chunk of fresh ginger, skin removed, maybe 5-10 grams
1/2 ripe apple
1/2 ripe pear
1/2 medium yellow onion

  1. Roughly chop the napa cabbage into large bite-size pieces. No need to wash the cabbage leaves just yet, that will come later. Throw the cabbage into a big non-plastic bowl.
  2. Completely dissolve the sea salt into a mug of warm water, add it to the cabbage and toss the leaves around to evenly distribute everything.
  3. Let the salted cabbage sit at room temperature for about 4 hours, undisturbed. The cabbage leaves will shrink while the salt draws water out of them.
  4. Strain off all the liquid and throughly rinse the cabbage leaves to get rid of the salty brine. Return the cleaned cabbage leaves to a large bowl
  5. Mix the Korean red chili powder with 1/4 cup of warm water until a red paste forms. Add the paste to the bowl with the cabbage
  6. Roughly chop up the green onions into large bite size pieces, add them into the bowl, along with the fish sauce
  7. In a blender, blend together garlic, ginger, the half apple, half pear, and half onion with a cup of water until everything turns into a smooth puree. Pour it into the bowl with the cabbage.
  8. Put on a pair of plastic disposable gloves. Use your hands to throughly toss all of the ingredients in the bowl so that everything is mixed evenly and that every cabbage leaf is coated with the red peppery marinade. (According to Dr. Kim, gloves are necessary as the pepper will burn the skin on your hands…I took his word for it and I recommend that you do too).
  9. Firmly pack your kimchi into a large, clean glass jar. Really use those muscles and pack the cabbage in nice and tight, this helps with the fermentation process. Then pour in some of the red pepper liquid that’s now in the bottom on your bowl. I like to cover all of my cabbage leaves with 1/2 inch of the liquid
  10. Do not fill your glass jars up to the brim. The kimchi inside will expand slightly as it ferments. Also, do not cap the glass jar too tightly, give it a bit of wiggle room so that air can escape
  11. Leave the jar of kimchi on your kitchen counter, at room temperature for 24 hours. Then tighten the cap and transfer the jar into the fridge and it will keep for at least 1 month
  12. You can eat the kimchi as soon as the first 24 hour mark has passed, and it will be delicious. The cabbage will get more and more sour as it continues to slowly ferment in the fridge. We like it best after it has been in the fridge for 2-3 days, and then it just keeps getting more and more delicious by each passing day.

*Omit the fish sauce if you are making a vegetarian version. If you are feeling adventurous, I heard red miso paste or kale powder (dissolved in water) make can make good substitutes for the fish sauce.

Recipe from Dr. Ben Kim.

Chinese Fried Rice with Zucchini, Shiitake & Spam

Alright. Stop with the judging already. I know, I used Spam. Get over it.

I.Love.Spam.

There. I said it. It’s out there.

I hope you will still love me…

In case you’re wondering…

No, I do not love Spam more than bacon. Bacon is in a league of its own and nothing, except for maybe Hickory Sticks in giant Costco-sized bags will come close.

But I digress…

If it makes you feel any better, the fried rice also had plenty of zucchini and Shiitake mushrooms to balance out the non-nutritious, but heavenly tasting spiced ham. They will help unclog your arteries after the Spam attack.

There are a few rules/tricks in making the perfect fried rice. I have personally never been successful with making fried rice until earlier this month, because… well, I don’t like rules. I like to break rules. Often times, a few broken rules can lead to spectacular results. But this is not the case for fried rice, unless you enjoy clumpy, soggy rice with uncooked veggie chucks that taste like vomit… then, I really can’t help you.

Here are the rules:

  • Use high heat. Allow your wok to heat up as the oil should be nice and hot so that your ingredients will fry up quickly.
  • Use leftover (1 day old) rice. Leftover rice tend to be more dry, with each grain separated. Chilling rice in the fridge also dries out the rice.
  • Fry the eggs first in the wok, removed it from the pan, then fry the rice. Or…if you are lazy like me, you can fry the eggs first, and when it’s about halfway done, add in the rice and stir it up.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 small stalk of green onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, quartered then diced
6 Shiitake mushrooms
1 Cup Spam, cubed
3 eggs, beaten in a small bowl
4-5 Cups leftover rice
A few spoonfuls of canola oil
1 TBsp light soy sauce
Salt & pepper, to taste

  1. Heat a wok or large saute pan on high heat and drizzle in 1 big tablespoon of canola oil.
  2. When the pan is nice and hot, throw in the onions (both yellow and green) and saute quickly until the onions begin the soften.
  3. Add in the mushrooms and zucchini. Once the zucchini is soft and cooked through, remove everything from the wok and set it aside.
  4. With the oil that remains in the wok, turn the heat to medium high, add in the cubed Spam and saute until some of the edges are golden brown and the meat is cooked through. Remove the Spam from the wok and set aside.
  5. Add 1-2 more tablespoons of canola oil into the wok, let it heat up and pour in the whisked eggs. Stir the eggs quickly to scramble them and when they are about halfway done, throw in the leftover rice and stir well. Spread the rice all around the wok and to allow the rice to ‘fry’, toss it occasionally.
  6. When the rice is evenly heated through, add in the veggies. Toss the rice, add in soy sauce, salt & pepper and mix it into the rice. Don’t add in too much salt as the Spam that you’re about to add is already salty.
  7. Finally, add in the Spam, taste the rice and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  8. Once everything is heated through and you’re satisfied with your seasoning, your rice is done!

Brown Sugar Jalapeño Ribs

5 ingredients + 1 pot + 8 hours =  ridiculously delicious ribs

I have always steered away from making ribs at home, because it often involves a lot of prep work, and that takes up tons of time. Ribs also need to be cooked for a long time before they are tender, so even if I were to make my Oven Baked BBQ Ribs, it would only be possible on weekends because the baking time is more than 2.5 hours.

Just when my dream of having ribs for dinner on a weeknight was dying out, I discovered City Girl Chicago‘s recipe.

I say this in absolute seriousness: these ribs changed my life.

I throw these 5 ingredients in to my slow cooker in the morning, and by the time I get back home in the afternoon… dinner is ready, angels are singing and unicorns are jumping over rainbows. No lies.

The only catch to this recipe is that you need a slow cooker. I’m sure you can cook it in the oven on 250F for a few hours but I’ve never tried it. If you are not lucky enough to have a bestie who gave you a slow cooker for your birthday, then you need to make a few new friends. Or you can get yourself a slow cooker, ASAP.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2.5 to 4 lbs ribs (beef or pork)
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup soy sauce (use gluten free if needed)
1/2 cup water
5 whole jalapeno peppers

  1. In a slow cooker, put the ribs in the pot.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together brown sugar, soy sauce and water until all the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Pour sauce over the ribs and throw in the whole jalapenos.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, flipping once.  If you’re out of the house all day, flip them when you get home so the other side of the ribs gets saturated.
  5. Serve with rice, pasta, quinoa and/or veggies.
  6. Watch unicorns jump over rainbows and be amazed.

Recipe adapted from City Girl Chicago.

Pork and Chive Wontons 云吞

It’s the beginning of a new year and one of my goals this year is to make more Asian inspired dishes….since I am sort of Asian and all.

One of the things my mom always makes at home are wontons (云吞).   It has always been one of my favorite things to eat.  I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and then again for midnight snack.  I ate these so often that my mom refused to make them for me anymore, because just the thought of cooking wonton made her want to vomit…. No joke.

Anyways,  since mom boycotted my wonton supply.  I must now find a way to make it myself!  I neeeeeeeed my wontons.   It’s an addiction, I admit it.

Without asking mom for the recipe. I ventured out and bought myself some fancy-dancy wonton wrappers, chives, 2 lbs lean ground pork, and began my wonton making extravaganza.  It was quite a success, if I do say so myself.  A few minor tweaks here and there, but no major mistakes (thank goodness!  I was really nervous going into it).

Here is what you will need

1 lb lean ground pork
2.5-3 cups chopped chives (depends on your taste)
2 large eggs
3-4 TBsp oyster sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 pack of wonton wrappers

filling:

  1. Mix all above ingredients (except wonton wrapper), set aside.
  2. You can test for the taste by frying a little bit of the filling.  If the filling feels tasteless, add more oyster sauce.  If the filling is too salty, you can add more pork and chives.

Wonton  making:

  1. Please refer to the photos below for step to step instructions

Wonton cooking:

  1. Boil a large pot of water with salt (or stock if you have any).  Once the liquid comes to a steady boil, gently place wontons in, and turn the heat down to medium.    Allow the wontons to boil uncovered to 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to  prevent sticking.
  2. Cooked wontons should float to the top, and look a bit swollen
  3. Serve HOT!

Here are some step to step photos. I think these pictures will provide more information than my words ever will.

***A special thank-you to my wonderful and ultra sexy hand model/assistant: Mr. K

1. Cutting chives into small pieces

2. Mixing chives, pork, egg, oyster sauce, sesame oil (ignore the garlic in the picture, I added it to the filling and it was not a good idea)

3. Dip one side of the wonton wrapper in water

5. Fold over 2 sides of the wrapper (wet side on top) to enclose the filling

6. Dip both ends of wrapper in water, sealing the ends

7. Fold the ends together, one on top of another

8. There you go! You can freeze them like this, or cook them right away

9. This is what they look like after they are cooked through.