As I stood massaging the cabbage with copious amounts of salt for the Kimchi, my thoughts drifted to a place where I spent a lot of my early school days.
Right in the middle of a very busy market street, a road with the honks of scooters and auto rickshaws and the bells of the cyclists, kids playing marbles on the side of the roads was a norm. There were so many stray dogs and cows walking like they owned the roads. The homes were all quite tightly packed, and a lot of them were built in the early 19oo’s. Made of brick and wooden roofs, rough walls, and carved wooden doors with so many subtle nuances was my Maternal Grandparents’ home, famously known as “Ayya’s home.”
The huge wooden burgundy door, with six panels intricately carved, led you into a large interior. To both sides of the corridor were “portions.” Portions are single rooms, or sometimes more with a tiny kitchenette. Walking past two portions, to the left, is what I call the hub of the huge home, similar to THE HUB. It is a 20/20 foot space with a two foot dip with an open ceiling to reveal the beautiful blue sky. The corridors connected to this open place are supported by three huge green and red pillars which we kids often used to go around and dodge while playing catch.
In the middle of this huge property was my grandmom’s portion, which she lived in with her son. Her grandchildren would come after school, and would later be picked up by our parents after work. Those four hours were something not many kids now can experience, and I feel awfully blessed to have been a part of it.
My grandmom, a petite, under 5 foot woman, lost her husband before many of her daughters got married. She single-handedly managed everything so well, while being such an empathetic, hardworking and caring woman. A lady with few words, a lady with the strength of a mountain. Everyone knew her and respected her, though she kept to herself. She was a modern thinker during the days when modern thinking was a sin. Never a day to gossip, never a day to judge anyone. With so many grand kids, a whole house to manage, I can say she was as strong as one can get. She was a funny lady; she would laugh for everything. I remember her shouting at us to switch off the light or not to walk on the roof. Whenever one grandkid asked her for something and the other wanted something else, she always compromised by making a quick chutney, or fried some vada to satisfy all of us. If we were there on weekends, we were in for a oil massage and the hottest water bath that one could receive. As much as it pained then while she massaged, now it seems like a luxury that I can only dream of. Her pastime was to sit outside on what was called a THINNAI for hours ,just watching the traffic and people pass by. I wonder what she thought in silence.
Every summer, she had a huge project lined up. She would go to the market alone, and she would buy kilograms of mango and lemon for pickling. Sitting in our hub, the middle of our home, all the tenants who lived in their portions would get together to help grandmom cut the mango and lemon for pickling. They all sat around, chatted, and cut everything. She would salt it later and add the spices all in handfuls. After the process, she jarred everything up in these large brown clay pots meant for pickles. Now, all this went into a cool place to ferment and settle in.
She bottled the pickle up for her daughters very lovingly. Now that I think about it, she was a giver and expected nothing. She always did things for others. It was such a coincidence this was that I had to make Kimchi this month, the month that I remembered her and her home. It was the month that she left at 80 plus years, and in retrospect, a huge portion of those years was spent doing for her sons, daughters, grandsons and grandkids. Thinking of her now, it’s a huge void that no one can fill. A home that once she loved and was filled with laughter and affection is now shutdown, and no one lives in it anymore.
It still stands there, a meek, humble, old, beaten down home with the same burgundy door. Just now it sits next to tall three story modern buildings, in a road which is still crowded with cars, but with no kids playing by the side. A road which I don’t recognize any more. A road where our adventures of youth will just remain memories.
Now, to our Kimchi. I have been following @Christine for a while on Insta. After a lot of her followers were making her popular kimchi recipe, I got very intrigued. It all started there. I made this a few weeks ago for the first time, and since then, I’ve absolutely loved it.
After a few tries, I decided to add this to my blog because we love it so much. The original kimchi has fish sauce, and I have omitted it. You can definitely use it if you like.
Ramen is way simpler and so good made at home. Hope you get to try it out.
- 1 head of Napa cabbage
- 4 large carrots
- 2 English cucumbers or any cucumber which has no seeds or less seeds
- ⅓ cup of garlic(20 cloves)
- 3 inches of ginger
- 2 tbsp white sesame seeds
- ⅓ cup korean gochujang powder(if this is not available add more Chilli sauce. Chilli pepper paste can be used too)
- 3 tbsp sambhal
- 2 tsp chilli pepper flakes(optional)
- 3 tbsp coconut sugar( brown sugar if you can't find coconut sugar)
- ⅓ cup apple cider
- ⅓ rice vinegar
- ⅓ salt
- 2 packets Egg Noodles or Buckwheat noodles
- 5 stalks green onions
- 1 tsp ginger garlic chopped
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp sambal or chilli sauce
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 cup packed kimchi
- 5-7 cups of vegetable stock, water (as much as you require)
- Pan fried tofu
- Boiled eggs
- fried garlic
- sesame seeds
- sliced jalapeno
- lime wedges
- Take a large bowl. Cut the napa cabbage into 2 inch size. cut the carrots, radish and English cucumber into 3 inch long pieces. Put everything into a large bowl. Add ⅓ cup of salt. Mix well and let it sit for 45-1 hour.
- While the vegetables are soaking, In a food processor, add the ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, korean gochujang powder, sambal, chilli pepper flake, coconut sugar, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar and process to a coarse paste. Set aside.
- After an hour, rinse it very well with cold water and drain everything and put it on a kitchen towel to completely dry it out. After it is dry, add it to a large bowl and add the paste and massage it very well. Cover it tightly and let it sit on the counter top for fermentation.
- It is nice to to ferment anywhere from 1-2 days. Once it is fermented, bottle it up and refrigerate it.
- In a large wok or pan, add a tbsp of oil. Let it get hot and add the sliced green onions, ginger garlic and saute. You can add some mushroom at this stage. Add some soy sauce, sambhal and kimchi and 5 cups of water. Let it come to a boil and add the noodles. Cook for 2 minutes and you are ready to serve.
- Pour in bowls, and top with as much or little as you want your toppings to be.
2. The peppers you use is key to a good Kimchi. Korean red chili pepper which are made from Sun dried peppers are the best.
3. This recipe is a quick one and needs a couple of days of fermentation.
4. My biggest tip would be to never put in a plastic container for fermention, clay jars are the best, if not that, the next best thing is dark glass jars.