This past weekend I took a journey to the past. I traveled to a time when my sister and I would spend hours dressed in rainbow-smeared smocks, painting or smudging or turning clay to the sounds of men singing songs about Jane.
She came to visit for the weekend and while the rest of the house was sleeping, we were under the bright lights of my garage with our brushes and pallet knives practicing our hereditary craft. It has been years since my last painting session, but with her near me the brush felt at home in my hands, and the simple image materialized on the canvas.
I can be my whole and authentic self with her around, and with that comfort the process of creation became effortless. I could not complete my piece in time for her to leave, but acrylic can wait for our next weekend together, whenever that may be, and it will have to wait until then, because I will need my sister muse by my side.
She also shares with me a deep love of Korean food — we learned the language and the culture together, after all.
While she was here, I demonstrated and shared with her my radish kimchi recipe. Unlike other kimchi that requires days of fermentation and hours of work, this can be made in less than one hour start to finish — and you don’t have to bury it in the yard.
This kimchi is ramen’s best friend. A spoonful of noodles and broth with a cube of kimchi eaten all at once is a bite of heaven for me. It is also an excellent companion for barbecued beef and fresh white rice.
I eat about three full batches of this every month, and I still love every crunchy, fiery bite.
2 pounds daikon radish
3 tablespoons kosher salt
¼ cup Korean red pepper flakes (find it at a Korean market or order online, but this cannot be substituted)
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ cup finely minced fresh ginger
¼ cup finely minced fresh garlic
4 stalks green onions, roughly chopped
Wash and sanitize your fermenting vessel and all the equipment you will be using.
Wash and peel your radish and cut into about 1-inch cubes.
Place the radish in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle on the salt.
Use your hands to toss the radish to distribute the salt, then cover with a clean kitchen towel and let sit for 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes.
While the radish is being salted, mix the rest of the ingredients together in a separate bowl and set aside.
At the end of the 30 minutes, reserve ¼ cup of the radish water in the bottom of the bowl, then drain the radish cubes. Do not rinse.
Mix the radish water and the seasonings together to form a loose paste.
Spoon the seasoning paste onto the radish and use a spoon or your gloved hands (my preferred method) to thoroughly coat the radish in the spicy seasoning. Take your time with this and make sure every cube is well coated.
Transfer to the fermenting vessel — for this size batch I use a 2-quart glass mason jar — and very loosely screw on the lid. You do not want to tighten the lid because there will be a buildup of gasses inside the jar as the kimchi ferments.
Leave the jar at room temperature for 4 to 8 hours, then move to the refrigerator. The next day you may tighten the lid.
The kimchi will be ready to eat immediately but will be more delicious after a couple of days in the refrigerator, after it has ripened and started to sour.
Eat within a month. The smell should be potent and sour, but if you notice a foul, rotten odor, or mold, then you must throw the batch out.