Sunday, March 30, 2014

Isn't Kimchee Naturally Gluten-free?

It’s time to restock! 50 lbs of Napa cabbage kimchee will be ready in five to six weeks. Pogi gimchi is made with quartered or halved heads that are rubbed with Korean chili paste and stuffed with julienned radish, ginger and peppers. My kimchee is vegan and gluten-free. But isn’t kimchee naturally gluten-free?—this questions comes up often. If you’re a label-reader, as I am, you’ll find that wheat is often used as a filler in some Asian products. I’ve found it in miso, fermented black bean, soy sauce and Korean chili paste (gochuchang). For those who have celiac disease or choose to exclude wheat from their diet, this is an important matter to note.

Rice and millet were first cultivated in China as far back as 7,700 BC. Wheat traveled the Silk Road to Western China around 2500-2000 BC along with other occidental influence. Prized for it’s gluten component, wheat is commonly used for making pasta (a Chinese invention); other Asian noodles are made from root starches and bean flours. But what is gluten? It’s a protein that naturally occurs in wheat, barley and rye grains. Gluten is composed of two molecules, gliadin and glutenin, which when activated with liquid form a simple protein. On its own it is not bad thing; this protein is used to make a meat substitute known as seitan (mein chin in Chinese) after all the starch is removed.

For those who have celiac disease (an auto immune disease) purity is crucial; eating foods with gluten triggers a reaction in which the body attacks and destroy the small intestine’s villi and microvilli, which leads to malnutrition and painful gastric symptoms. The consequences are much more dire than a wheat allergy. The common wisdom is to avoid gluten-based foods and test regularly for antibodies.

Although some grains are naturally free of gluten, they might be cross-contaminated in a shared kitchen, whether it be yours or a commercial facility. All surfaces and non-reactive tools need a thorough cleaning with bleach or vinegar and hot soapy water. Tools and equipment made of porous materials (plastic, wire mesh, wood, aluminum, etc.) should be designated for non-gluten use only.

When you make your own Korean chili paste (gochuchang) it’s not an issue. Click here for pictorial instructions from my blog that show you how to make a batch of gochuchang, and mak kimchee. Be sure to use coarse Korean chili flake (gochucaru), there is not substitute for this ingredient. It’s sweet, mildly spicy with a smoked grassy fragrance. Make it a fun afternoon with a group friends.

MUL-tini, Shaken not Stirred

Kick back, relax and have a MULtini to start your weekend. It’s made with my Brussels sprouts mul kimchee. My friend Nata Traub, mixologoist extraordinaire, has perfected what most only try to attempt—a kimchee-based cocktail that will rock your world.

Mul kimchee is not spicy, Koreans served it as a soothing summer soup for those scorching hot days. It’s a relatively short fermentation, two weeks at the most, just long enough to go tart.

I’m not sure if I can tout the health benefits, but I can tell yo this is one fine martini with notes of juniper, ginger, burdock, wasabi and just a hint of garlic, garnished with a wedge of fine-aged Brussels sprout. It soothes the tongue like a good pair of kid gloves and blooms in your mouth like a cool summer evening.

A few weeks ago some of our Eat/Share/Eat group from Facebook met up in real time in the West Village. Over brunch I presented Nata and Justine each with a small vac-sealed bag of freshly made Brussels sprouts mul kimchee. The first thing Nata said was “Cocktails!” and thus the Mul-tini was born. Save those olives for snacking, and leave the pickle-back for the kids. Check out Nata’s blog for cocktails and more. Here’s her recipe for this innovative Korean libation:

Friday, March 28, 2014

Gluten-free Kimchee-Bacon Pajeon Recipe

Here’s a recipe from my Kimcheelicous ePUB cookbook for gluten-free Korean crêpes—kimchee-bacon pajeon made with scallions. Not all Asian cooking employs wheat, this recipe uses two rice flours. You’ll need a good blender to make the kimchee batter and you can make your own rice flours in a coffee grinder. Prep time is short but the batter should rest for an hour to allow the starches to bloom. Cook your bacon ahead of time, a microwave makes this task easier.

About the kimchee... this recipe is a great way to use kimchee that has gone sour, you know, that jar that you’ve had for months that’s been languishing in the back of your fridge. Muk Eun Ji (literally meaning old kimchi) is Napa cabbage that has been aged for two to three YEARS, not months. Fresh kimchee (under a month old) is best suited as a side dish, but it looses all of it’s flavor and character when cooked. Muk Eun Ji is used for making stews, marinating or braising meats and for making pajeon. You can use Napa cabbage kimchee (baechu or mak work well), but I prefer fermented radish (kkakdugi); it has more flavor when used in cooking, especially after it has become very tart.

To make rice flour in a coffee grinder first make sure you clean it thoroughly. Wipe down the blades and interior with a spoapy sponge, let it dry then mill 1 tsp each of white rice and baking soda to absorb any residue. Discard and wipe clean with a dry paper napkin. Blend rice grains 1/4 cup at a time, mill until you achieve an even consistency. If you plan to make more than this recipe requires, store your flour dry in a closed container. DONE! Now grease-up that griddle and get that bacon ready, it’s time for some pajeon pageantry!

Kimchee-Bacon Pajeon
Yield: 8-10 crêpes
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup white rice flour (not sweet rice)
  • 1/4 cup tapioca or potato starch
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp roasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup kimchee, roughly chopped
  • 2 bunches of scallions, cut 3" in length
  • 10 pieces of bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled 
  • blender
  • large griddle or cast iron pan
  • vegetable or canola oil to grease the pan
Add egg, water, kimchee, sugar and sesame into a blender and puree until smooth. Add rice flours and starch and blend until smooth. Add more water and blend if the batter is too thick, but no more than 5 tbsp. It should be as thick as yogurt. Place batter in a covered bowl and refrigerate for an hour.

Cook two pajeon at a time. Pre-heat griddle to medium and grease with oil. Arrange two beds of scallions, roughly 3" by 5". Pour 1/2 cup of batter over each bed of scallions and sprinkle with bacon bits. Let it sit for two minutes then flip to other side for another two minutes. If you want your pajeon well done, cook each side for another two minutes. Store in a warm oven until ready to serve. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese or toasted sesame seeds and serve with your favorite egg dish. You can freeze pajeon for future meals, allow then to cool completely, wrap them well in foil and freeze. Thaw and reheat when ever you want!

Thanks again Maangchi for sharing my recipe! You are an inspiration and a book of cooking wisdom, but mostly you remind of the all the great food back home that I miss so much. 감사합니다!! Visit her website for Korean recipes, cooking videos and more at
@maangchi #KoreanFood #kimchi

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Sweet Cabbage Rose for Spring

Early roses of cabbage line my work table. It’s spring, but you wouldn’t know it today, as the temperature dropped back down to 27°F this morning. Yesterday the Q was packed with people trying to take advantage warm 55°F Sunday. I came back with all the essential ingredients for making Korean chili paste. Stock is low and it’s time to make more kimchee.

Salt is ubiquitous to the lacto-fermentation process, not only for conditioning vegetables for rubbing with paste, but for creating an environment that allows lactic acid bacteria to colonize. For that matter I never use anti-bacterial soap or hand lotions.

With so many pastes pre-mixed and available, I’m often asked why I bother make my own. Reading over the FDA labels, I found that most commercially made chili pastes (gochuchang) and miso use wheat as a filler. Some brands list corn syrup and MSG at the front of the list. My fine-aged foods are gluten-free and free of preservatives, the only way to ensure that my goods are naturally flavorful I make all my pastes, and my own miso for that matter. On the chopping board today I have make and pogi baechu kimchee (Napa cabbage) and two varieties of mul kimchee made with Brussels sprouts and green beans.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Kimcheelicious sells kimchee wholesale!

Kimcheelicious sells kimchee wholesale! See if you can say that five times real fast for a new tongue twister. I delivered 36 lbs. of fermented goods to Greenpoint yesterday. Josh Cohen, owner of Jimmy’s Diner (Three Little Pigs, Inc.) has opened a second location at 92 Calyer. Speaking of which I got completely twisted around walking down Manhattan avenue. As with most of Brooklyn these days, Greenpoint is quickly gentrifying. Who knew? Yet it still has the old Polish neighborhood charm, narrow streets and alleys, low-rise buildings, small churches, specialty Eastern block food shops, diners. I walked four block in the wrong direction until an old Polish woman told me I was going the wrong way. But I didn’t mind, the weather was nice and I built in get-lost time. Have I said how much I love what I do?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kombucha Harvest

From an unassuming cardboard box in a dark corner of the kitchen comes a wonderful refreshing tonic: kombucha. This fermented beverage is made by feeding sweetened black tea to a cultured Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast, aka SCOBY.  This living mat is composed of a variety of hundreds of beneficial bacteria and yeast; together they synthesizes caffeine and sugar into a nutritious probiotic beverage.

We harvest about two gallons every three weeks. Kombucha is now a very popular health drink, but some say drinking to much might throw off the natural balance of bacteria in our body. Traditionally it is taken as a health tonic in China, not slammed down like a sports drink. It should be sipped at room temperature in a one-cup serving. I used to flavor batches with cranberry and ginger, but I decided plain is the best flavor... tart with a slight hint of sweetness.

These SCOBYs are eight generations awway from when I first received the mother from my friend Mike Riley. They seemed to go dormant for about a month, but after moving the jars to another location in the kitchen, they nearly doubled in size in a month’s time. Some folks think it’s the ugliest thing on the planet—rubbery, flesh colored with tendrils. I find it purely fascinating. Well... bottoms up, and raise your glass to health. It’s harvest time.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Simple Fermented Salad

I’ve been fighting a chest cold, but after a very Gluten-free EatUP! this past Sunday I think my body finally caved in. I’ve been craving this fermented salad since last week and now it’s ready: Brussels sprouts mul kimchee with very ripened avocado drizzled with EVO and sea salt. It hit very flavor spot in my mouth. This non-sipcy kimchee tastes like brined palm hearts but with a more complicated flavor with subtle hints of burdock root, garlic, ginger and wasabi. Mul kimchee is prized for it’s soothing savory brine, which is served more as a cold soup in Korea. This is one of the non-spicy kicmhees I’m making for GFEU in April.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Buy Our Kimcheelicious Foods

You can now buy Kimcheelicious fine-aged foods each month at the Gluten-free EastUP! starting on march 9, 2014. Where? At Freddy’s Bar here in Brooklyn NY. Drop by for a tasting and a grilled kimcheese sandwich. Our flag ship products are:
  • Napa Cabbage Kimchee (mak kimchee),
  • Fermented Korean Radish (kkadugi)
  • Sweet-Hot Seasoned Korean Chilipaste (gochuchang).
Email us about shipping details for our vac-sealed goods. Are foods are made in small batches with the finest ingredients to ensure quality and flavor. Although each month we will feature new products such as Wasabi-rubbed Mul Kimchee Brussels Sprouts, Kimchee Salt, Hanguk Saffron and more.

Kimcheelicious is a founding partner in the Gluten-free EatUP!—a monthly pop-up market that brings gluten-free foods makers together with the people who live with celiac disease or live a wheatless life-style. This pop-up market is sponsored in full by Levine’s General Store, a provisioner of gluten-free goods.