Making Your Own Kim Chee

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - October 31, 2007
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Randall Rhodes has been repairing Oahu roofs since 1991. His motto is “no job too small” and has provided assistance to homeowners who are unable to get the large roofing companies to come to their houses to do the smaller repairs. He also does preventative maintenance and will go over an entire roof to look for small repairs that need to be done before they turn into major problems.

In his spare time, Randall will take on other types of home-repair jobs when he is not in the ocean scuba diving or Boogie boarding. He finds that after a hard day of work, taking a walk on one of our beautiful beaches and then plunging into the ocean renews and re-energizes him for the next day.

Randall is fascinated by the richness of Asian culture; he attends various cultural events and reads about Asian history and traditions as much as he can.

It is a pleasure to dedicate this column to Randall, who spends most of his days keeping us dry inside our homes and getting us ready for the rainy season.

Chinese and Mongolian horse-men learned to preserve cabbage in brine, which sustained the builders of the Great Wall of China in the third century B.C. This preserved form of the vegetable was brought to Europe by Huns and Mongols and is eaten as sauerkraut in many European countries. It belongs to the large Cruciferae family and has long been valued for its medicinal properties; it was considered a panacea by the Greeks and Romans.

When purchasing, choose a cabbage that is heavy and compact - it should have shiny leaves that are well-colored and free from cracks and bruises.

Raw cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C and folic acid and a good source of potassium. It also contains vitamin B6.

Cabbage is said to have cancer-inhibiting properties, and to be an appetite stimulant and scurvy preventative.

Kim chee is a low-calorie, fatand cholesterol-free food. The combination of salt and spices creates an all-natural preservative, and fermented cabbage is said to promote intestinal health. Kim chee can also be made with radishes or cucumbers.

The taste will change as the kim chee ferments. Gloves can be worn while handling the hot pepper mixture.

It is high in sodium, so you can adjust the salt to taste and diet restrictions.


* 1/2 to 1 cup salt (or to taste)
* 1 head Napa cabbage (Chinese won bok), quartered

For Red Pepper Paste:

* 1 daikon radish, julienne-cut
* 1 head of garlic, minced
* 1 to 2 tablespoons minced ginger
* 2 to 8 tablespoons Korean red pepper flakes, to taste
* 2 bunches green onions, julienne-cut
* 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
* 1 tablespoon sugar

Place cabbage in large bowl; mix salt with enough water to cover cabbage. Soak cabbage in salt water for two to four hours. Cabbage should be wilted, supple, limp and salty in taste.

To make red pepper mixture, toss daikon, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, green onions, salt and sugar.

Remove cabbage and save salt water. Rinse cabbage and cut into bite-size pieces; discard center core. Toss cabbage with pepper mixture, coating each piece. Taste and add salt and red pepper flakes as necessary. Pack cabbage into glass jars. Cabbage must be covered with liquid sauce; add saved salt water to jar as necessary. Keep jar at room temperature for one day to allow for ripening. Store in refrigerator, tightly capped.

Makes eight servings.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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