Baby Kale Kimchi

Yay! Hopefully, as long as there are no random complications that arise later this afternoon, our countertops will be installed in just a few hours (EEP!) - I'll be sharing the whole process, probably on Monday - and soon, I'll be back to posting recipes more regularly since I will finally have a functional kitchen. Whoo!

Because we had to set our range in place in order to have our countertops templated, we've had a stove connected and usable for the past few weeks. We are constantly craving homemade Korean food so we've been taking advantage of having a stove by making lots of jjigaes (stews) because when you're craving Korean food, nothing hits the spot quite like a jjigae. But, you can't really have Korean food without kimchi. We haven't had the time or the patience or the resources right now to make anything too complicated so I've been making a lot of cucumber kimchi because it's relatively simple and doesn't require any humongous bowls or special tools (because even the easiest radish kimchi takes a bit of work). But as delicious as cucumber kimchi is, sometimes you want a little change. Enter: baby kale kimchi.
Does kale kimchi sound weird? Honestly, this recipe came about because I was making a jjigae and realized, "Shoot, we don't have any fresh vegetables to eat with this meal." I looked in our fridge and all we had was a container of kale. I couldn't imagine eating a regular kale salad (with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper) with Korean food, because while delicious, it's just not a good match. So, I thought I could try and make a kimchi out of it. I just used a similar technique for making cucumber kimchi and it was pretty delicious. So, when I decided to make it again for dinner a few nights ago, I documented it so I could share it.

½ lb baby kale (6 to 8 cups; my market sells them in 7 oz. containers - close enough)
2 to 3 tablespoons Korean fish sauce (to taste)
2 to 3 tablespoons red pepper flakes (gochugaru; to taste)
pinch of sugar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ red onion, sliced
3 to 5 hot peppers, sliced (I used cayenne and jalapeno)

Baby kale is great because it's delicious - offers the same flavor as regular kale - but it's a bit more tender and low-maintenance since you don't have to remove the woody stalks. So for raw applications, I prefer baby kale to regular kale. For cooked applications like wilted kale, sauteed kale, kale in soups, I prefer regular. That being said, this is a raw application but you could definitely use regular kale; just remember to remove the stalks and roughly chop up the pieces before following the rest of the recipe.
The first step is to liberally douse the kale with Korean fish sauce. Start with two tablespoons; you can always add more later if necessary. Substituting with Vietnamese fish sauce or Thai fish sauce will not give quite the same flavor but you can try it if that's all you have. Just know that you might need to add a little salt, since Korean fish sauce is a bit saltier. The saltiness of the fish sauce will wilt the kale. Once the kale has been "salted," set it aside.
Once the kale wilts, the texture becomes v. one note. The skinny little stalks offer a little bit of crunch but it's not enough. So, I like to add in onions and peppers to add a more a substantially crunchy texture.
Mince the garlic and chop the vegetables up into small pieces. I decided to use jalapenos and cayenne peppers because I had them in my garden. If you don't want to add more spice, you can use a cubanelle pepper or regular bell pepper. I decided to use red onion because I liked how all of the colors looked together but for a more mild flavor, I suggest a sweet vidalia onion.
After the kale has been sitting in the fish sauce for 5 minutes or so, use a pair of tongs to start gently tossing it all together. You'll notice that the volume of the kale will have reduced significantly and will continue to reduce as you toss it and it gets more and more wilted. Next, add in the gochugaru and sugar and toss together briefly before throwing in the chopped peppers, onions, and minced garlic. Mix until everything is well incorporated.
Keep mixing until everything is coated in gochugaru and fish sauce. Taste. Add more fish sauce and/or gochugaru as necessary.
Let the kimchi sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld and allow the salty fish sauce to soak in. Look at that: it's quick, only requires one bowl, and it's yummy. It surprisingly satisfies my kimchi needs.
Serve with rice (and any other banchan you like). This kimchi will keep in the fridge for up to a week but it's best if consumed within two to three days of making, just because the vegetables start to give off too much juice and then they don't hold onto the flavors of the salty fish sauce and gochugaru as well. They almost start to taste bland and watery; it's hard to explain so just trust me.
Here's the recipe page:


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