I'm not yet sure, but it seems the red cabbage kimchi is the real winner of this kimchi-making experiment. The flavor defies easy categorization. It tastes like red cabbage, but fruitier, with a bit of funk and a hint of kimchi flavor, and a subtly complex layering of flavors. If I hadn't made it and it was served to me, I'm not convinced I'd identify it as kimchi, but perhaps I would. It is certainly fermented red cabbage. I'm not sure what I'd call it, except delicious.
To rehash, above are the basic ingredients.
The cabbage was cut into quarters lengthwise, and the quarters were then quartered again, also lengthwise.
The cabbage was submerged in salt water, weighted, and allowed to brine for a minimum of 6 hours and up to overnight. My cabbage ended up brining nearly 18 hours, a few more than recommended in the recipe.
The cabbage was then drained, and spun in a salad spinner to remove excess moisture. The drained cabbage was placed in a large bowl and tossed with the sugar until evenly coated.
The scallions and watercress (not pictured in the first photo) were cut into 1-inch pieces and placed in a food processor and processed until finely minced.
The scallion-watercress mince was added to the red cabbage and combined with the grated radish and pears.
The ginger root, garlic, fish sauce, shrimp paste, and red pepper were pureed in a blender and then poured over the fruit and vegetable mixture.
The resulting mixture was not particularly attractive.
The bowl was covered loosely and allowed to ferment at room temperature. The instructions indicated that fermentation would take anywhere from 2 to 6 days, until the kimchi reached a pH of 4.5, bubbles appeared, and the cabbage turned a bright uniform red. We were still having some cool nights in early June, and my house as admittedly on the cool side. Each day the kimchi grew more pungent, and there were a couple of days where removing the lid from the kimchi caused tears to flood my face. The tear-inducing sharpness eventually lessened, although admittedly the kimchi did not look any more appetizing. In fact it looked worse. The watercress seemed to turn a muddy brown, more reminiscent of swamp than food. The aroma of the kimchi grew increasingly more appealing and appetizing however, offsetting its rather dubious appearance.
On the sixth day, the desired pH was achieved and the kimchi turned bright red. Despite all the garlic and ginger, and a fair amount of chili pepper as well, it is not particularly hot. I can feel the tickle of the ginger in my nostrils when I take a bite, but there is no real burn. Instead I get a bit of crunch from the cabbage, a bit of fruitiness and a complex blend of cabbage and spice and something I can't quite put my finger on. I almost want to eat it by the bowl-full. It seems to be altering my perceptions of kimchi, of the potentials of flavors, and blurring my mental lines separating Asian from Western flavors.
Interesting. The clear winners here are my first kimchi, David Chang's recipe from Momofuku, and this red cabbage kimchi from Aki Kamozawa and Alexander Talbot's Ideas in Food. I suppose I should not be surprised, both books are by chefs who have had a permanent impact on my understanding of food and cooking. This does not mean that Kimchi 2 is completely out, although at the moment it is a distant 3rd. I still intend to study the effect of aging on all three kimchi versions and what I love after three weeks may be completely disappointing after 3 months, or even more. It is all a learning experience.