One has to acquire a taste for kimchi, the fiery Korean pickled cabbage condiment, and if you start with a bad kimchi, you may never go back. But when it’s well made, with really good ingredients, it’s an exciting taste that livens up all kinds of meats, soups, and stews. This recipe is not at all traditional. It’s more of a European-style, kimchi-inspired cabbage braise, made from fresh instead of pickled cabbage, with a little Asian pear for sweetness. But we didn’t hold back on the chilies and garlic, so it’s somewhat authentic in that way. It’s a terrific side dish with grilled meats or fish; or just serve it with rice or noodles.
What to buy: Sold in large crystal formations, rock candy is a hard lump sweetener used in Asian cooking, particularly to sweeten and glaze savory dishes. It is actually a blend of refined and raw sugars and honey, and it is slightly less sweet than pure sugar. You can find both yellow and clear rock sugar, sometimes called Chinese rock sugar, at Asian markets; or you can substitute the slightly less pure rock sugar sold on sticks or strings at old-time candy stores. (You will need to pulverize the sugar by hitting it with something hard, like the base of a frying pan, to remove the sugar from the string or stick onto which it has been crystallized.) You can also find rock sugar online.
A traditional ingredient in kimchi, red flecks of Korean crushed red peppers contribute a lot of flavor and a moderate level of spice. The pepper is usually sold in bags at stores that cater to a Korean clientele, or you can find it online.
- 1Wash the cabbage and drain. Trim off the very bottom of the cabbage, leaving enough of the root end intact to hold the head together. Carefully separate the leaves without breaking them from the root, and sprinkle 1 cup of the salt in between and over them. Tightly press and reshape the cabbage and place it in a nonreactive container, such as a Pyrex dish. Dissolve the remaining 1/4 cup salt in 6 cups water and pour over the cabbage. Let the cabbage sit for 3 hours, giving it a quarter turn every 15 minutes. Rinse for several minutes under cold running water. Gently squeeze out any excess water.
- 2Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 275°F.
- 3In a large cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, gingerroot, and jalapeño pepper and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Lay the cabbage on its side in the pot. Add 1 cup water and the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cover and transfer to the oven.
- 4Braise for 2 1/2 hours. Turn the cabbage over, baste with the pan juices, and continue to braise for 2 1/2 hours more.
This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.