Most commercial kim chi and many homemade kim chi use white sugar to balance the heat of the chile. This version of kim chi uses a purée of apple, pear and sweet onion instead, and the result is more nuanced and complex. The sweet element doesn’t dominate or fight with the heat, rather a more harmonious whole is created–good chi, as it were. This recipe uses bok choi, though Napa cabbage can also be used. If you can’t find Korean chile powder or paste experiment with red pepper flakes, hot paprika, cayenne (though use much less), or other chile powders, flakes or pastes.
5 – 6 c coarsely chopped bok choi stems and leaves
4 c warm water, non-chlorinated
1/4 c sea or kosher salt
1/4 c Korean red chile powder or flakes plus 1/4 c water; or 1/4 c Korean chile paste
1 T minced garlic
1 T peeled, minced or grated ginger
3 – 4 chopped scallions, optional
1 – 2 T fish sauce or soy sauce, optional
1/2 c peeled, chopped apple, plus extra if needed
1/2 c peeled, chopped pear, plus extra if needed
1/2 c peeled, chopped (sweet) onion, plus extra if needed
1 c water, plus extra if needed
1. Put chopped bok choi in a large bowl. Combine water and salt and stir until the salt is dissolved. Pour over the bok choi and toss. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 4 hours but no longer than 24 hours. Drain. Taste the choi. If it seems really salty rinse to remove some of the excess salt and allow to drain again. Return choi to bowl.
2. Combine chile powder with water to create a paste. Scrape into bowl with choi. Add garlic, ginger, green onions if using, and fish or soy sauce if using. Do a quick toss of the ingredients.
3. Combine the apple, pear and onion with the one cup of water and purée in a blender. Pour over the choi mixture. Now, toss really well. Your hands are best here, especially to distribute the chile paste. Taste. If it’s too hot, make up a smaller batch of the purée and add in.
4. Transfer kim chi to a glass jar, one large enough that you can leave a couple of inches of headspace. Press down on the kim chi as you put into the jar. Also add the accumulated liquid in the bottom of the bowl. Leave a couple of inches of headspace to allow for expansion during fermentation. You may need to used a couple of jars. Cover.
5. Allow to sit for 24 hours at room temperature, then refrigerate, where the kim chi will continue to slowly ferment.