Go to any restaurant in Korea during our hot and sweaty summers, and you’re likely to find these lovely greens stems of kimchi on your table. This is yeolmu (열무, young radish greens) kimchi, a light, crunchy and refreshing summer kimchi. It’s so well loved, we eat it as a side dish and also add it to noodles and bibimbap.
1 bundle yeolmu (young radish greens, about 1–1.2kg)
1 medium white onion
1 red chilli (more if you want it spicier)
2–3 green chillies
10 cloves garlic
1 thumb ginger
4 tbsp coarse sea salt + a couple handfuls for curing
1 small handful scallions (3–4 cm between your thumb and forefinger)
5 tbsp of AP flour*
3 cups (600ml) water
*Any kind of starch will do: glutinous rice flour or even a cooked, mashed potato. The function of pul (풀, starch porridge) in kimchi is to counteract grassy flavors in the greens, and also provide food for the lactobacillus (speeding up fermentation in seasonal, quickly-consumed kimchi), so the exact amount of pul you use isn’t important. If we’re making kimchi to store for the long-term, we tend to not use pul.
To make the porridge in advance:
1. Mix your flour with cold water and whisk to remove any lumps
2. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly, and remove from heat when it becomes translucent. Cool to room temperature.
To make kimchi:
1. Clean your yeolmu by trimming any stiff and fibrous stems and scraping the roots clean. Pay extra attention to the top part of the roots where a lot of soil tends to hide. If your yeolmu is a little overgrown you may have to cut some of the roots in half.
2. Rinse thoroughly once more and set them aside to drain on a wicker tray (or wire rack). Don’t use a salad spinner—it can bruise the greens, releasing a grassy flavor. Anyhow, you don’t have to dry them perfectly, a few drops of water aren’t going to kill anyone!
3. Cut the greens into 5–6cm pieces. Put them in a bowl and sprinkle some coarse sea salt over them. The amount of salt doesn’t matter too much—the more salt you use the faster it cures, and vice-versa. Toss the leaves gently a couple of times. Be careful: If you toss them too much, you’ll bruise the leaves, bringing out too much grassiness.
4. Once the greens have wilted, rinse a piece and taste it. If you taste a little saltiness, it’s ready. Rinse all the greens gently in cold water and drain them on the wicker tray again.
5. While you are draining your leaves, combine the garlic, ginger and chillies together. Chop or blend until the red chillies are a coarse dice. Blend the onion separately into a purée.
6. Combine the chilled porridge, water and vegetables from step 5 and season with salt.
7. Cut the scallions into 5–6cm pieces.
8. Put the yeolmu greens into a container, spread the scallions on top and pour the porridge mixture evenly over it all. If there is a lot of space between the surface of the kimchi and the lid, place some plastic wrap over the top to prevent too much air exposure.
9. Let it ferment for a day at room temperature. Right when you start to smell a kind of funky, fermented aroma, put your kimchi into the fridge in a tightly-sealed container. Kimchi hates air, so always keep it air-tight.
You can start eating your yeolmu kimchi the following day. Serve cold as a banchan, or try adding a small bunch to your bibimbap or cold noodles.