I was approached by Mr G to assist with developing some fish finger sandwich concepts, with one particular sandwich drawing inspiration from the East, South-east Asia to be precise.
For some inspiration, and to get into he right frame of mind, it was off to lunch at one of London’s premier modern Korean food restaurant with celebrity chef, Judy Joo, at the helm – JINJUU, meaning “PEARL”
Whilst sampling the delights the menu had to offer, we fell in love with a raddish kimchi – Mu Saengchae (Lightly Pickled Radish); situated at the front of the picture below.
There and then it was decided that this would be the perfect accompaniment to a South-east Asian inspired fish finger sandwich which will manifest itself in the form of a Bahn Mi!?
So, first thing first, how to make Mu Saengchae (Lightly Pickled Radish). This was an interesting journey within it self. When I first enquired at the restaurant what this dish is called I was told it was kimchi. But this was not kimchi as I knew it.
Little did I know that Kimchi as we know it (or as I knew it!) was fermented vegetables, usually baechu (Napa cabbage), seasoned with chili peppers and salt; what I didn’t know was that Kimchi can be made with other vegetables as well, including scallions, gat (갓), and radish (무; mu).
Enter The World of Kimchi:
- Kimchi (hangul: 김치 Korean pronunciation: [kimtɕʰi]; English pronunciation: /ˈkɪmtʃi/), also spelled kimchee or gimchi -Korea’s national dish.
- There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi made from napa cabbage, radish, scallion, or cucumber as a main ingredient.
- Kimchi varieties are determined by the main vegetable ingredients and the mix of seasonings used to flavor the kimchi.
- The Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul has documented 187 historic and current varieties of kimchi.
- Some Koreans do not consider a meal complete without kimchi.
After much oodling about the food shops in Chinatown and many conversations with over-friendly shop assistants with differing ideas as to what goes into this recipe, and endlessly calling the restaurant (JinJuu), I actually ended up back at JinJuu in Soho to find out more about this kimchee recipe.
I was very fortunate that the lady in reception, was able to direct me to Judy Joo’s Blog, with the recipe there. Furthermore, I was eager to research this recipe further looking at how the ingredients work together in more detail as well as variations on the recipe.
The core ingredients I found that resonated in all the recipes were Daikon Radish, Garlic, Rice Vinegar, Sugar and Gochagaru (Korean Chilli Flakes).
Further more I found that reading other peoples interpretation of the recipe, the flavour could be further enhanced by using fish sauce (myulchi jeot) and salted shrimp (saewu jeot).
With this in mind I embarked on my own kimchi adventure, (albeit for a fish finger sandwich which will manifest itself in the form of a Bahn Mi!), sourcing the ingredients, which were quite readily available at South-east Asian supermarkets.
One ingredient in particular I discovered was the use of Gochugaru, red chili flakes 고추가루. Up until now, I hadn’t even heard of this ingredient, however I cannot stress that this is an essential component in any kimchee recipe. I tried using chilli flakes from other cuisines but it did not taste the same as using Gochagaru.
The spicy taste of many Korean foods largely comes down to one key ingredient: Gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes). Gochugaru is made by drying Korean red chili peppers in the sun, de-seeding them and crushing them into flakes.
So here it is, my interpretation of this classic Korean Banchan (translated into English means side dish), an essential Banchan of any standard Korean meal.
This spicy, tangy banchan, or side dish, is a refreshing contrast to rich Korean barbecued meats as well as lending itself well to seafood. If you can’t find daikon, you can use red radishes instead.
5 oz. piece daikon (3 to 4 inches long), peeled
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp. plain rice vinegar
1 tsp. gochugaru (Korean red chilli flakes) or crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 teaspoon fish sauce, myulchi jeot
1 tsp salted shrimp, saewu jeot (just use more fish sauce if unavailable)
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Using a mandoline or a sharp chef’s knife, cut the daikon lengthwise into 1/8-inch strips. Transfer to a large bowl and gently mix in the remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour. Drain the excess liquid and serve cold.
The dish can be made up to 2 days ahead. Drain just before serving.