Korean Kimchee: Kkak Doo Gee
(Due to San Francisco lacking in any kind of good Korean food, I’m including this post from my personal blog here. Obviously, it’s not about restaurants, which is what I intend to use “Food in San Francisco” for, but it’s food.)
Kimchee made from radish is called “kkak do gee”. If you’ve been to a Korean restaurant, you’ve probably seen it – the big chunks of radishes with red sauce all over it?
Well, this is a favored side dish for the delicious Korean soups, and one that many, many places fail to make well, it seems. Aside from kimchee made from Napa cabbage, this is perhaps the second most popular kimchee.
Now folks, I cook a lot. I cook most anything Korean or Italian, mastered a few Indian dishes, and give me a chunk of meat, and I can serve you something delicious.
But – I don’t do recipes; I don’t read recipes and I don’t write them either. It’s all by trial and error, and tasting as I go until it’s perfect.
So for those of you who are recipe whores – I apologize. I know not precisely how much of anything goes into this dish except I can explain only how many of certain things go into it. So, this posting won’t have exact measurements as it’s basically all by taste. I can, however, list the ingredients and explain how to do it, so here goes nothing….
2 Large radishes, available at Korean markets or Chinese markets
Korean Chili Powder – the very best available, and it’s reflected in the price
1 whole Garlic, peel and use all the cloves
Ginger – approximately 4T?
Fish Sauce (1/2 cup)
Salted Shrimp (shrimp paste, or sae woo jut)
Half of a large Onion
2 Serrano or Jalapeno Chiles
First, peel the radishes and cut them into 1 inch or so cubes. Size is based on your own preference, but the larger the size, the longer the salting process will take.
Put it all into the large bowl (I use a really, really big bucket type of bowl) and use the best salt available to sprinkle heavily. Turn with a spoon to make sure every single radish cube is coated with a decent amount of salt. (If you take one and eat it, it should warrant a “WOW, it’s really salty” but not “I think I’m having a stroke” kind of salty. I told you, I don’t do measurements!)
When the salting process is done, take about 1/4 C of sugar and sprinkle the radishes with that, too – again, turning to coat all.
Now, you wait.
Every hour or so, you come and turn over the entire thing to make sure all the radishes get equal time in the water you will inevitably see pouring out of the radishes. This entire process is draining the water out of the radishes while “pickling” them for kkak doo gee. Each time, taste a radish again. If you find that it’s getting perfect in saltiness, it’s not enough salt – apply more.
Let this process go on for a minimum of 5 hours – and up to 10 should be fine.
When they are ready, you begin to make the paste.
Throw these items into the food processor:
Chop up the half-onion into two chunks.
Chop the serrano chiles (and skip this if you can’t take the heat).
Put these and the garlic cloves and chopped ginger, along with the shrimp paste and fish sauce into the food processor, and grind to a thin paste.
You should end up with a rather stinky liquid – and remove it from the food processor into a medium bowl. Add in as much Korean chili powder as you can handle – the mixture should be red, and it should become quite a paste for this to work. Chili powder LOOKS spicy due to its color, but it doesn’t have anywhere as much heat as the serrano chiles do, so use enough for your purposes. Stir the whole mix and voila, you have your paste.
Drain the pickled radishes, saving some of the liquid (about 1 cup). DO NOT RINSE.
Now for this process, wear plastic or rubber gloves if you have any because your hands will stink to high heaven for a few days if you don’t.
Scoop handfuls of the red paste onto your radishes, mixing as you go. You may, or may not need all of the paste; it depends on just how big your radishes are as they vary in size drastically. Feel free to taste them – and make sure the saltiness remains as “Wow, it’s rather salty!” as the radishes will continue to release water, and this has to ferment and pickle more. If you want to add green onions – this is the time to do it. I skip it because I find that the sauce gets a bit sticky from the green onion juice, and I prefer my dish drier than that.
Once you’re all mixed together, put the whole thing into a large jar. Set it on your counter for a minimum of 2 days, and depending on your climate, it could be much longer. In San Francisco, with an average room temperature of 70 degrees, I have it out on the counter for a minimum of 5 days, letting it ferment.
THIS is why you salt the radishes so much – to make sure they don’t start rotting due to the fermentation process!
Everyday, I will open it up to take a whiff and maybe taste one. I want it to begin to give me a sour scent prior to my putting it into the refrigerator.
After about 5 days, I will put it into the fridge to let it continue fermenting in there. An additional 3-4 days in the fridge and usually, they are ready to serve.
THE MOST IMPORTANT thing when it comes to making kimchee of any kind is to find the very best chili powder you can use. At any Korean market, find the most expensive one. Usually, one medium bag costs about $5-6; the kind I use for kimchee will cost about $14-15, at least. If you can find organic garlic, ginger, etc. then do so. The radishes themselves have no taste – it’s all the other stuff that either make your kimchee a success, or failure. Don’t save on cost for this process. (One medium bag of chili powder should last you enough to make this dish about 3 times so it’s really not a lot of money.)
(FYI: it’s basically the same process and ingredients for Napa cabbage kimchee – but I skip the sugar altogether.)