Tuesday, June 15, 2021

your cabbage awaits

But what, you'll have been thinking, has been going on in the spicy noodle arena? We don't seem to have heard about that for a while, and that's one thing that should have been relatively unaffected by the lockdown, since all that was happening by internet mail order anyway.

Well, I see that the last post where I presented an update to the ordering and consumption statistics was in January 2020, just after I'd done an order for 100 packets from my usual source, Wing Yip. This was a couple of months before the start of the first UK lockdown, and as you can imagine with myself and Nia at home seven days a week the consumption levels were fairly high. What I found when I had a look at ordering some more a few months later was that the prices had gone up quite dramatically, from 79p a packet in January 2020 to 97p a packet as of today (that's about what they were a year ago as well). I don't want to start accusing anyone of price-gouging, but is is certainly true that they must have seen a hike in demand, and for a while until things settled down it would have been either impossible or extremely difficult to get any from a physical supermarket.

The reasons for getting the noodles from Wing Yip in the first place were firstly that the unit price was lower than the supermarkets, so despite the P&P if you bought enough (100 at a go is plenty) you could save yourself some money, and secondly that they sell all sorts of other goodies as well, from strange green drinks with lumps of jelly in them to actual nice stuff like interesting curry pastes and kimchi. As I said here, I don't want to give the impression that I was munching fermented cabbage as a 5-year-old during our stint living in South Korea, because I've really only developed a taste for it in the last five years or so (I really was eating the noodles at that age, though).

Noodles can now be more cheaply obtained from supermarkets like Sainsbury's, or from Amazon, in both cases for a little over 80p a packet (and no P&P charges). That's great, but it leaves open the question of where I get my supplies of kimchi from. Some branches of Lidl seem to sell it, but none of my local ones do. 

So I did a bit of internet research and the general consensus seems to be that you can make your own without too much hassle or complexity. I mentioned this to Hazel and then forgot all about it, but fortunately she is a ruddy genius and got me a massive clip-top jar and some basic ingredients (mainly chilli-based) for my birthday. I won't attempt to rehash any of the gazillion recipes out there on the internet, but what they pretty much all have in common is the thing that lots of people around the world call napa cabbage but UK supermarkets tend to call Chinese leaf, garlic, spring onions and some form of chilli flavouring. There seem to be two schools of thought here regarding whether you should use the gochugaru (Korean chilli powder, on the left in the picture below) or the gochujang (a sort of paste made from chillies, beans and fermented brown rice) as the chilli flavouring; most of the recipes I saw recommended the former so I went with that. 

This video contains the distraction of the parallel making of another kind of kimchi out of a terrifyingly giant radish but otherwise gives a pretty good summary of the method, which is really pretty simple; soak the chopped cabbage in some salted water a bit to wilt it, make a fearsome-looking paste out of the crushed garlic and chilli powder and the shredded spring onions, mash the whole thing around until the cabbage is evenly coated (some cautious people recommend rubber gloves for this bit), put it in a jar, leave this at room temperature for 48 hours or so (mine got about 72 as we went away for the weekend but seemed none the worse for it). Then you just pop it in the fridge (a good seal on the jar is essential here if you don't want everyone else in the house moaning about their food stinking of kimchi), ideally leave it for another week or so, and eat. I would describe the results from my first attempt as FREAKIN' AWESOME.

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