IMG_20170904_121123.jpgIt’s a bit terrifying beneath the skies controlled by Rocket Man and Barking Dog, when you know a misunderstanding or miscalculation, based on rabid ego or hungry id and advanced technological war toys, could render apocalypse for a terrible number of people.

And speaking of people, so many of us around the world have developed a fantastic love for Kimchi, food of the lands of Rocket Man – a salty, sour, umami, often fishy and spicy pickle that opens the taste buds and the heart– not that the germ-phobic Barking Dog would ever try a food so microbially rich.

It was with a personal prayer for understanding and peace that I experimented making Aubergine Kimchi in August. Aubergines were 39p a piece at a local supermarket, which felt unbelievably cheap for our neck of the woods. I’d been interested in the method for Ukrainian Sour Aubergines in Olia Hercules’s  Mamushka. Instead of beginning to ferment aubergines from raw, as do many American and British recipes, the practice of steaming/ boiling the vegetables first, then weighting them down to remove excess (and bitter) liquid, seemed the brilliant culinary stroke.

With cooked aubergine as a base, making a standard paste, within which the fermenting would happen, was straightforward.  The result is slithery silky and very delicious.   A paste with other spice and flavour components would also make wonderful preserved aubergine (say tomato paste, garlic and coriander/ cumin, or simple ginger and soya sauce).

It was after I’d made this that I noticed a reference to Eggplant Kimchi in The Book of Kimchi, the treasury of photos and historical, anthropological, scientific knowledge produced by the Korea Information Service in 1998. The authors mention it as a local specialty in Pyong-an-do Province, the most northwest province of North Korea that borders China.

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I have no idea how it is traditionally seasoned there, and make no claims to authenticity,  But it felt good to imagine some kind of connection with North Korea, not as a nation state but simply as home to human people with whom to share interests and pleasures uniquely experienced around delicious food.  And of course with continued prayers for peace and de-escalation of tensions.


Aubergine / Eggplant Kimchi

I boiled four aubergine for 20 minutes, then chopped them roughly, and placed them in a colander, and proceeded to take unappealing pictures, please forgive:

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Then I placed the colander over a bowl, and weighted down the cooked aubergine with a heavy plate and a liquid-filled jar.  Lots of fluid vacated, and I kept it just in case I would need to moisten the spice paste…

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And then I made a kimchi paste, fairly standard to my usual:

  • 1/4 cup Korean red pepper powder
  • 4 cloves chopped garlic
  • and a knob of ginger of equal size, shredded
  • a bunch of spring onions, sliced
  • a teaspoon sugar
  • a tablespoon of onion seeds (Nigella seeds) because I like the bitterness
  • a glug of fish sauce or tamari if keeping vegan
  • some of that aubergine juice to soften the paste
  • a teaspoon of seasalt  (Do remember to add since we haven’t salted in the beginning as one often will with kimchi– I added a teaspoon of sea salt as per the Olia Hercules recipe for the 4 aubergines (2 lbs), and adjusted to taste at the end. The fish sauce/ tamari are also salty features.)

In this case I added some sliced fresh jalapeños because they were nearly black and so beautiful.  Fresh red pepper would also be lovely– anything you like that you imagine goes with aubergine…

Enjoy massaging the paste over the drained aubergine, wearing rubber gloves if you wish, and pack down in a jar, again weighting the veg beneath any liquid that arises.  As it bubbles, sometimes the liquid will overflow, and a saucer or plate beneath is helpful to prevent mess.  This ferment started to taste good and tangy in three days; a month later stored at room temperature it’s still so good!


Just a postscript: Fuchsia Dunlop has written a very interesting travel and eating piece about North Korea in the Financial Times…  Sorry there seems to be a firewall but it’s a fascinating article.

26 September: An even better post Postscript.  The great JinJoo of the excellent Korean cooking blog Kimchimari wrote the following on my Instagram:

 “North Korean foods always have less chili powder and very little or no fish sauce. For Gahji kimchi, it is mainly fermented in soy sauce, little chili powder, green onions, onions, fresh green and red chili peppers, no garlic, no ginger.”  So this is how I shall do it next time

 

 

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