A few weeks ago, I came across this sticker aptly placed dead center on a graffiti clad door in the heart of soho; this unassuming tatted-up door undoubtedly acts at the gatekeeper to some brilliant artist or visionary passionately working away in his loft hoping to leave his mark in this world similarly to how this silly sticker stuck with me as I continued my walk to TriBeCa. This mysterious Manhattan man may embody “The Old New York” but as I eat my way through this city the semblance of this phrase seems to have disappeared. Instead of just repaving the roads of New York, the culinary heroes of this city have rebuilt it from the ground up.
Let’s take for example, David “Fire Breather” Chang, the man single handedly responsible for creating a positive association with Korean food. Before Chang brought us the greatness of MomoFuku(Ko, Noodle Bar, Ssam Bar, Milk Bar), Korea town was a 4 block x 2 avenue area that you only ventured to on your most courageous-est of days. Now, you regularly stop by No. 7 sub for a sandwich, need Chang’s mouth watering crack pie-on-a-stick weekly, dip into Woo Lae Oak’s Korean BBQ for a great meal with a large group, and oddly crave spicy rice cakes- no I’m not talking about the Quaker kind, I’m talking about these delicious guys…
So these spicy rice cake cravings starting coming on strong, and a friend’s (who happens to love Asian food) birthday was approaching which gave me the perfect excuse to attempt Chang’s kimchi and mix it up with chewy rice cakes and crispy brussel sprouts. I don’t know if David Chang is secretly the superhero FireBreather who is half dragon half hero but the kimchi came out so spicy that I had to dilute it with other sauces. However, round two (version below) came out just right! I also made my version of Peking duck that takes closer to 2 hours versus 2 days, that recipe will be up shortly. All in all the dinner was still successful and I am thankful to my friends who stomached the spicy kimchi, although their beads of sweat kind of made their “no it’s really good I promise” compliments hard to believe. We make Peking duck sliders topped with some aioli and kimchi, which masked the spiciness of the kimchi.
Chang’s Kimchi- modified for the vegetarian
Makes 1-1 ½ quarts
1 medium head Napa cabbage, discolored or loose outer leaves discarded
2 tablespoons kosher (or coarse sea) salt
1 ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
20 garlic cloves, minced
20 slices peeled fresh ginger, minced
1/3 cup kochukaru (Korean chile powder)*
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup usukuchi (light soy sauce)
2 teaspoons jarred salted shrimp (I substituted with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt mixed with lemon juice)
1 ½ cup 1-inch pieces scallions (both greens and whites)
½ cup julienned carrots
What you’ll need… time!!
Cut the cabbage lengthwise in half, then cut the halves crosswise into 1-inch-wide pieces. Toss the cabbage with the salt and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a bowl. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator (uncovered).
The next morning, combine the garlic, ginger, kochukaru, fish sauce, usukuchi, shrimp (or salted lemon juice), and remaining ½ cup sugar in a large bowl. If it is very thick, add water 1/3 cup at a time until the brine is just thicker than a creamy salad dressing but no longer a sludge. Stir in the scallions and carrots.
Drain the cabbage and add it to the brine. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours.
Note: Kimchi is at its best when the fermentation process occurs naturally allow the flavors to homogenize. So, while it may be good after 24 hours, it’s actually in its prime in 2 weeks. After that you have another week or two that it’ll still be edible but eventually it will be funky tasting.
*So the original recipe calls for ½ cup of kochukaru- I did this and can tell you the kimchi was almost inedible it was SO SPICY! So unless you want to cry or sweat all throughout dinner or breath fire for 2 days after, I highly recommend bringing it down to 1/3 cup. Korean Chile Powder is way spicier than your supermarkets chile powder, so keep that in mind- regardless I would bring it down to 1/3 cup.