Last Saturday, the Korea Society hosted its annual family day with the theme of Seollal, the Korean New Year's Day. Kids played traditional games, made lanterns and learned how to do a proper bow for the elders on the New Year's Day. This year, I joined in on the fun and led jumeokbap (주먹밥) workshops throughout the day for kids and adults.
I also prepared dongchimi (동치미), winter radish kimchi, to go along with rice balls. It is often a mild, broth-based kimchi with tart, crunchy radish sticks. You can add a couple of hot peppers to infuse spicy heat to dongchimi. Traditionally, Korean Mu (무) radishes, some as big as your forearm, are fermented in whole with other ingredients in a big earthenware pot buried underground.
But of course, I don't have any yard or even a space in the fridge to ferment a few whole Korean Mu or patience to let them ferment in whole. So I make a simple version of dongchimi that starts fermenting within a day or two and can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Korean Mu is in season from late fall, and this is the time to make it. It is a popular ingredient in the wintertime for various uses from stews to salads, as well as its quality of facilitating digestion.
For the Korea Society's event, I made a special version for children. I cut the radish to cubes so that it's easier to eat in one bite. I also cut carrots to thin, small rounds and punched out flower shapes from red and yellow bell peppers using vegetable cutters. With just a few more ingredients, it became pretty and colorful dongchimi that's easy for kids to try. Leftover bell pepper pieces were finely chopped and used to mix in rice for rice balls.
The pictures and the recipe below show a mix of my regular version and adjustments for kids. Fear not, it tastes like dongchimi all the same, but you'll find more colors and smaller bites in dongchimi for kids.
Simple Dongchimi (동치미), Winter Radish Kimchi
Yield - about 2 quarts or 8 cups
4 cups water, filtered
1/4 cup coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 Korean Mu radish, about 2 lbs.
2 scallions, trimmed
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 piece ginger, about the size of 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1/2 onion, medium-sized, sliced
1/2 Asian pear, medium-sized, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 apple (any sweet apple such as Gala or Fuji), medium-sized, peeled and sliced
2~3 bell peppers of different colors to add color to white dongchimi
1~2 skinny carrots to add color
1~2 tablespoons coarse sea salt for bell peppers and carrots
1~2 red peppers (such as red Fresno pepper), sliced thinly with seeds to add spicy heat
1. Bring water, 2 tablespoons of coarse sea salt, and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Refrigerate to chill the water.
2. Place scallion, garlic, ginger, onion, Asian pear, apple and red pepper, if using, on the bottom of a deep container.
3. Peel and cut the mu radish to 2-inch sticks (or cubes for children). Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of coarse sea salt on radish sticks and mix well. Let rest until the outer layer of the radish sticks have softened slightly and liquid is released, about 15 minutes to 30 minutes. Wash off any remaining salt from the radish in cold water, about 3 times until there is no slimy feel to touch. Gently squeeze out excess water and add the radish to the container from Step 2.
4. If using, remove and discard the seeds and white membranes from bell peppers. Cut bell peppers to bite size or punch out different shapes with vegetable cutters such as this. Go through the same salting process for bell peppers and add to the container. Leftover bell peppers after cutting out shapes can be chopped and used for colorful rice balls.
5. Pour the chilled salt water over the ingredients. Water should be enough to immerse the ingredients. If necessary, cut out a piece of parchment paper and press it down with a plate to keep the ingredients under water.
6. Close the container with a lid or plastic wrap. Leave it out at room temperature for a day or two until bubbles form on the surface and the liquid has developed its sweet, tangy flavor.
7. Transfer dongchimi into a jar with a lid or an air-tight container. It keeps for about a month stored in the refrigerator.
8. Optional) If you want to mimic thin, crushed ice that comes with dongchimi that's stored underground in an earthenware pot, keep a cup of dongchimi broth in a shallow container or a bowl in the freezer. When thin ice starts to form after about an hour, scrape with a fork. From there, scrape with a fork every 30 minutes and put it back in the freezer until serving.
진실 (jin sil) truth
사실 (sa sil) fact