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Sashimi Kimchi

Jeannie Yun from South Korea

Serves
15
Preparation
90 minutes
Cooks in
2 weeks
Country of origin
North Korea

The faint smell of incense, sesame seed oil and the sound of ice cube hitting the crystal glasses always meant holiday. It meant that aunties were cooking and scotch was being served around the table. Traveling for the holiday at Yun family meant at least one person was going home crying. We were a rowdy, expressive, and judgmental gastronomes. “This Kimchi is at least a week too young,” or “this merlot is too sweet” are some of the phrases we would say to each other. But even for those obnoxious group, there was one dish we all appreciated: Sashimi Kimchi.

The most well-known form of Kimchi, the most (in)famous Korean soul food known for its smell, must be the fermented cabbage with red pepper powder. But to a descendant of North Korean immigrants, fermented radish with halibut sashimi can just as well be it. Three of my four grandparents fled North Korea during the War leaving everything behind. But what traveled with them across the border was some of family recipes. And are we not glad it did!

The mundane raw ingredients mingle and work their magic. Over the fermentation process, the radish becomes so crisp and refreshing with a kick while the fish matures both in flavor and texture with just enough acidity to call for the next mouthful of rice. Rolling around in your mouth, the rice begins to yield sweetness which it then balances the saltiness and bitterness from fiber from the upcoming bite of radish. This lascivious cycle never ends. Taste only consists of five senses. And regardless of how magical my grandmother’s Kimchi may once had been, it could not have been more than some simple combination of saltiness, sourness, bitterness, sweetness and umami. But what makes it so memorable is the time, place, occasion and the company I was with to enjoy the food. For that reason, food is the strongest form of legacy and possibly the cheapest way to time travel. And I would like to actively share my recipe and learn others for as long as I can.

Ingredients

  • 2 Asian Radish
  • 4 – 5 big chunks of raw Halibut (could be any fresh fish, whiting is used in the picture)
  • 2 handful of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar (opt)
  • 2 cups of red pepper powder
  • 1/2 cup of tuna or anchovy based fish sauce
  • 2-3 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of minced ginger (or powder)
  • 1 cup of blended onion
  • 1 cup of blended Asian pear
  • Half bunch of spring onion chopped (opt)

Method

  • Cut the radish into 2 inch width and 1 inch length (triangular or rectangular shapes are common)
  • Cut the fish into 2-3 inch long (bones, skins, head, tail can all be used)
  • Add salt and sugar on the radish for an hour (toss around to make sure the salt will touch all radishes)
  • Drain any excess water from radish
  • Mix red pepper powder, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, onion and pear (some salt and sugar is optional)
  • Marinate the fish and radish well
  • Put it in air-tight container and leave it out in room-temperature for a day and put it in the refrigerator
  • Mix everything once in a while
  • When the marinate penetrates into the center of radish, it is ready to be served
  • Enjoy with a bowl of rice and any broth-based soup (dried pollack with tofu soup in the picture)

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