Over 30 submitted recipes in three different categories: fresh, cooked and fermented (or as I kept calling it, "funky"), as judged by a star-studded panel of jurors, including critic Jonathan Gold, city councilmembers Eric Garcetti and Ed Reyes, and chef Josiah Citrin. There were plenty of innovative submissions, from the fresh category's winner of cabbage kale salad with cranberries and carrots, to a runner-up kimchi grown in Thomas Starr King Middle School's garden. But the one recipe that everyone kept buzzing about was the winner in the fermented category: dried kimchi.
It was an idea that was born out of practicality, says Connie Choe-Harikul, from Granny Choe's Kimchi Co. "We always have loads of kimchi around the house on account of the family business," she says, "so a couple of years ago my husband had the idea of dehydrating it to halt fermentation when a batch was about to turn overripe." Although they've only been using it for their own personal snacking preferences, the contest served as a kind of beta-test debut. Now the company plans to offer it on their website in the next few months.
Choe-Harikul says the recipe is best as a kind of crunchy, salty, spicy snack, a healthy option to replace your Flaming Hot Cheetos. However, she also suggests crumbling and sprinkling the dried kimchi on dishes like ramen, mac and cheese, or pizza -- just like one might use hot sauce. "We especially love the combination of kimchi with cheese," she says. "That's how we introduce kimchi to friends who have never tried it before."
Connie Choe-Harikul is excited about the sudden influx of Korean foods making their way into the mainstream, pointing to chefs like Roy Choi and David Chang, but also to Korean Americans like Marja Vongerichten, who wrote The Kimchi Chronicles, and Food Network star Debbie Lee, who passed along her tips for shopping at Korean markets to KCET Food last year. "At the end of last year, Ruth Reichl predicted that kimchi might 'push sriracha off its perch' in 2012 and she could be right!" laughs Choe-Harikul.
The possibility of this new fermented reality was on the mind of contest judge and Koreatown booster Jonathan Gold, who wondered if we might be on the stinking edge of a trend. "Do we all have kimchi jerky in our future?"
Granny Choe's Dried Kimchi
1 large head of napa cabbage (salted per instructions below)
1 small daikon radish, julienned or shredded
1 small head of garlic, peeled
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
1 medium brown onion
½ bunch curly mustard greens, rinsed thoroughly
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp rice, cooked
¾ cup gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper powder)
Salt the cabbage the night before:
Peel the leaves off the head of cabbage. Discard any brown or spotty parts.
Dissolve ½ cup non-iodized salt into about 1 gallon of water in a very large bowl.
Place the cabbage leaves in the salt water, submerging as much as possible.
After a couple hours, flip the pile of leaves so that the bottom ones are on top. Let sit overnight.
In the morning, rinse and drain the cabbage (does not have to be 100% free of salt).
Make the kimchi:
Cut up the pre-soaked cabbage by stacking a few leaves on top of each other, slicing once down the middle lengthwise, then cutting crosswise into ¾-inch pieces. Put the cabbage pieces in a very large bowl.
Cut the mustard greens crosswise into ¾-inch pieces and add to bowl.
Cut the onion into quarters lengthwise, then slice crosswise as thin as possible. Add to bowl.
Put the ginger, garlic and rice in a blender and add just enough water for the blender to be able to puree effectively. Add to bowl.
Sprinkle the sugar, sea salt and gochugaru over the top of the ingredients in the bowl, then slip on a pair of plastic gloves and mix thoroughly by hand.
Pack kimchi into a clean glass jar (or jars) nearly up to the brim, then set at room temperature for 1-2 days somewhere where you don't mind kimchi juice bubbling out (or set on a plate to catch the juice). Move kimchi to fridge for at least one week. Enjoy at your leisure.
For dried kimchi:
When remaining kimchi begins to get very ripe (after several weeks), use a fork to lay out kimchi out flat on food dehydrator trays and dry until crunchy (we use an American Harvest Snackmaster turned up to full blast (145 degrees) for 10-12 hours for 2 trays of kimchi).
Store any uneaten dried kimchi in an airtight container. You can reuse silica packets from store-bought foods like seaweed to keep it crisp.
[Photos by A.Rios/R.E.]