30 March 2011

Kkakdugi (깍두기) Korean daikon kimchi

I'm excited to introduce one of my favorite banchan to you today!  There are so many banchan (roughly translated as "side dishes") in the repertoire of Korean cuisine, and the kaleidescope of flavors, colors, and textures found in any given array of banchan (Korean meals are served with 3, 5, 7, 9, or 12, depending on how formal the occasion and how large the group) is at once a delight and a mystery to me.

I've been taking on banchan one at a time, slowly building my portfolio of recipes, and this one is totally a keeper.  Crisp and fresh cubes of Korean daikon (known as mu, 무) are dressed with Korean red chili powder, fresh ginger, garlic, green onion, and fish sauce, and then slightly fermented.

It's called kkakdugi (깍두기), so-called because of the cube cut of the vegetable.  How I first learned about it, I cannot remember, but it sure is great to nibble on!  And the daikon radish, especially when fermented, is reputed to aid in digestion (often being served alongside meaty stews such as seolleongtang or kalbitang), making it a healthy addition to any table.

From what I've read, traditional Korean cooks claim that mu, the large, round green-tinged Korean daikon radish, is superior to the all-white, long and thin regular daikon.

Korean daikon, or mu, image from Maangchi.com

Curious as to the validity of this claim, I did a side-by-side comparison, preparing both mu and daikon with the same seasoning on the same day.  Freshly seasoned, they had similar flavor and were both crisp, but the regular daikon seemed more watery in content when I bit into it.  After a day or two of fermentation, the difference was quite apparent; while the mu held up in crunchiness and texture, the regular daikon was becoming limp and unappetizing.  So, my verdict?  Definitely go with mu if you can find it.  But if you can't, make this up with regular daikon and eat immediately.

Kkakdugi 깍두기 (Korean Daikon Kimchi)
Makes 8 cups, recipe adapted from various sources

2.5 pounds Korean daikon (, mu)
1 Tbs. finely grated ginger
1 ½ Tbs. finely minced garlic
1 green onion, finely sliced
½ tsp. superfine sugar
4 tsp. Korean red chili powder (고추가루, gochugaru)
¼ cup fish sauce (recommend “3 Crabs” brand)

Peel the mu and cut into approximately 1-inch cubes.  Place the cubed mu in a large mixing bowl.  Sprinkle the remaining ingredients over and then toss the mu with your hands, massaging each piece to coat well.  (Tip: wearing kitchen gloves will keep your hands from getting stained by the red pepper powder.)

If prefer your kkakdugi unfermented, eat fresh and immediately store any leftovers in the refrigerator.  Alternatively, if you would like the fermented kkakdugi flavor, let age at room temperature 1-2 days, then enjoy!  Store any remaining kkakdugi in the refrigerator.  I usually eat up the batch within a week, so I am not certain how long it would otherwise keep!

Note: Your stored kkakdugi will release liquid over time.  Save this liquid--it is great for use in stews!  (More to come on this later...)


Unknown said...

Looks light and refreshing! Love your experiment with two different types of radish and the verdict. Your photos are beautiful too. I personally like kkakdugi well fermented - like weeks old. It easily lasts several weeks or longer, depending on the salt level.

The Church Cook said...

My favorite as a child! I still love it with ramen; very gourmet, right Erica? hope you are having a good Monday.

erica said...

Hyosun, thanks for the info on how long kkakdugi keeps! That is really helpful!

And Kay! Yes, the week is off to a good start...hope it is for you too! Would you eat the kkakdugi as a side to the ramen or as an addition in the ramen itself?

Anonymous said...

Looks yummy... sad to say that I've never made any kimchi myself. Kay, I still eat ramen as comfort food and my daughter loves it, too. I throw slightly old kimchi into the ramen and cook it to give it a spicy taste (when using the plain ramens like sapporo), but really fresh ones, I enjoy eating on the side! Also, the liquid, I've thrown it into bibimbap as well as stews.

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