Baby Bok Choy Kimchi with Cucumbers
I had the benefit of growing up with a wonderful grandmother who showered me with love and lots of homemade food. We always had at least two or three types of kimchi in the fridge. My grandmother was always in the kitchen whipping up different types of kimchi as well as other delectable dishes. She introduced me to many of the dishes I still enjoy as an adult. And whatever I wanted to eat, she was more than happy to cook. Some of our family members believed she was too indulging. Maybe she was, but her love wasn’t lost on me; I loved her back with all of my heart. She is no longer around. And I miss her.
To many, kimchi is the pickled/fermented napa cabbage smothered in gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper flakes) that is almost always served in Korean restaurants. But there are many more varieties: oi sobaegi (cucumber kimchi), kkakdugi (radish kimchi), dongchimi (radish and napa cabbage in cold clear broth), chonggak kimchi (“ponytail” radish kimchi), etc. Some varieties don’t even use gochugaru, thus dispelling the myth that all kimchi must be spicy. Additionally, kimchi doesn’t have to be made with a particular type of cabbage or radish, increasing the variety even further. In fact, I made baby bok choy kimchi with cucumbers last weekend.
It turned out really delicious. And I ate it the way my grandmother used to: wrapping a long piece of kimchi around some rice using chopsticks! I think my grandmother would approve.
Bok Choy Kimchi with Cucumbers Recipe
2 1/2 – 3 lbs Baby Bok Choy
6 pickling cucumbers (Kirby or Persian)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2″ – 1″ ginger, finely minced or grated
3 TB salt + 1TB salt
3-4 TB gochugaru
1 red bell pepper*
1/2 Korean pear + 1/2 Korean pear
1/4 apple + 1/4 apple
1/4 onion + 1/2 onion
1 TB fish sauce or salted shrimp
3 green onions or scallions (2 inch pieces)
1 tsp jalapeños, minced: optional
- PREP WORK
- Wash bok choy in cold running water separating the leaves. Cut up larger bok choy leaves into bite-sized pieces (1 1/2″ – 2″ pieces). Small leaves can be left whole.
- Wash cucumbers. Cut the cucumbers into long spears
- In a large non-reactive bowl, sprinkle 3TB of salt on the bok choy and cucumber pieces. Do it in stages. Lay down a layer of bok choy leaves and cucumber pieces, and sprinkle some salt. Add another layer and sprinkle some more salt, and so on. Let it sit in room temperature for 3-4 hours. This will draw out water from the boy choy leaves and cucumber pieces creating a natural brine. <Tip: Put weight on the salted vegetables. You can place a heavy pan or other heavy object over the bok choy and cucumber. This will further help draw out the water, and makes the vegetables crunchier.>
- Meanwhile, finely chop/mince garlic, ginger, and jalapeños (if using). If you have a microplane, use it to finely grate ginger. It’s easier than finely mincing ginger with a knife.
- Place 1/2 onion, 1/2 peeled pear, and 1/4 peeled apple in a food processor or blender and puree until completely smooth.
- Loosely chop the red bell pepper. Place the chopped bell pepper in a food processor. Process the bell pepper until they take on the appearance and size of large pepper flakes.
- Cut 1/2 peeled pear and 1/4 peeled apple into thin, bite-sized pieces. And cut 1/2 onion into thin, long slices. Finally, clean and cut green onions into 2″ pieces
- After 3-4 hours, rinse and wash away the excess salt from the salted bok choy and cucumbers. After all of the excess salt has been rinsed out, squeeze out excess water from the vegetables with your hands. Place the vegetables in a large mixing bowl. (In the image below, look how much water was drawn out from the bok choy and cucumbers just by salting!)
- Add 1 TB salt and gochugaru to the bok choy and cucumbers. Mix well using your hands (use food-grade gloves).
- Add minced garlic, ginger, and jalapeños, processed bell pepper, pureed apple and pear, and fish sauce. Mix well until well incorporated.
- Add sliced pear, apple, and onion. Mix. Add green onion pieces. Mix gently.
- Pack the finished product into a big glass jar/container. Try to pack it tightly by pressing down as you are transferring it to the jar. Make sure all of the kimchi juice and bits are transferred. Leave some room at the top of the jar – about 2 inches should suffice. If you don’t leave some room, kimchi liquid will bubble over and make a mess as it ferments. Believe me, you don’t want that.
- Leave the jar out in room temperature for about 48 hours depending on the room temperature and preference. Refrigerate. Serve chilled.
*If you choose not to use a red bell pepper, you need to ADD MORE gochugaru. However, adding a red bell pepper really make a difference in taste; it gives it a more refreshing taste. So if possible, try to use it.