Kimchi (© Mara Yamauchi)
I first discovered kimchi when I lived in Tokyo as a diplomat. Strong-smelling, fermented cabbage….it doesn’t exactly sound appetising, does it?! But as soon as I tasted kimchi, I was hooked. Fresh, tangy and full of flavour, I quickly fell in love with it.
Initially I only ate it in restaurants, but soon I was buying big tubs of it in the supermarket to keep in my fridge at home. You do need some courage to try it, but I promise it is well worth it, because kimchi is delicious!
Fermented foods reportedly have lots of health benefits. They encourage growth of good, probiotic bacteria in our gut, which can help your digestive and immune functions. They are easy to digest because the breakdown process has already begun. And there is evidence that they can help with brain function and mood. So they are terrific for staying in good health generally. I read recently that good bacteria can help synthesise vitamin K, which has been found by Dutch researchers to be deficient in some of the worst cases of Covid-19.
There is a large variety of fermented foods out there including live yoghurt, sauerkraut, natto (fermented soy beans), kefir, miso… but my favourite is definitely kimchi. Recently I took the plunge and had a go at making it myself. It was simpler to make than I expected, and the result was delicious! Thank you so much to my friend Yulin for this recipe.
1 Chinese cabbage
1 cup sea salt
10 cups water
2 tablespoons sticky rice flour
Half cup water
2 ripe pears, finely grated
Half an apple, finely grated
Half cup of Korean fish sauce
2 tablespoons salt
Half tablespoon sugar
1 cup Korean chili powder
2 tablespoons garlic, grated finely
1 tablespoon root ginger, grated finely
1 cup spring onions, chopped into 4cm long thin pieces
200g white daikon radish, grated finely
200g white daikon radish, chopped into 4cm long matchsticks
Chop the cabbage into quarters length-wise. Place the sea salt and water in a large saucepan and mix well. Add the cabbage and soak for five hours.
Rinse cabbage in clean water three times and drain well, squeezing out as much water as possible. Then cut into bite-size pieces.
Mix the rice flour and half a cup of water in a saucepan, and heat gently. Once it thickens, remove from the heat and let it cool completely.
Mix all the remaining ingredients into the sticky rice base, stirring well. Add the cabbage and mix well.
Transfer to a clean, airtight container and leave in a cool, dark place for 24 hours for fermentation. Then transfer into clean jars and store in the fridge. Enjoy!
Mara Yamauchi for World Athletics