Blue Kimchi, a Bright Blue, New Day in Korean History

“So shines a good deed in a weary world.” — Willy Wonka

Part of a series where individuals share their stories of change and the recipes behind them.

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BLUE KIMCHI VIDEO RECIPE

Where the future is always really now.

THE CHEF

THE STORY: BLUE KIMCHI DREAMS

Celestial orbs of fire shine white in the midnight sky bending trajectories of photons blue in their vicinity where mysterious synapses are at work and some accidental intersections project images in a slow flame rate. Eye closed, I see cabbages swirling — sinking in a sapphire ocean towards depths so far down the sun can no longer reach them. In my consciousness, however, I know they are there in the pitch black — from the known unknowns where they must be harvested: sweet, tangy, salty, blue kimchi.

The villagers did protest. From a dream is no place to revolt against the order of things. Revolt? No, a vision, I explained — compelled to bring it to existence. Go home! You don’t belong here! Their resistance was surprising and overdone. I couldn’t have known a simple idea could cause such disquieting. I became distraught and discouraged. I dropped out of the Korean cooking course that I had enjoyed so much for months. As an American-born, the newly discovered camaraderie I felt with the people of my ancestors had been destroyed. I wept once — then, no more. I meditated for seven days, entering the blue abyss between wake and sleep to finally emerge with new eyes.

The social hierarchy of Korea had no room for something so blue. As they aged, the elders gained authority by default. Life experience is something to respect, but power should not be attained so unwittingly. What else could such a system produce but the constant re-inscribing of what was? Traditions are valuable, but they have limits. Many times, they are upheld simply by their association with the old and its sovereignty by chance.

“This cannot be! Kimchi cannot be blue! This is the truth!”

“And dreams? Blue dreams? Are they not also true?” I asked.

A revolution, as some may call such acts, happens in the same way but in converse: the intentional gesture of what is now or what is to come––no justifications are necessary.

How many times did I leave that small pile of kimchi untouched at a Korean restaurant? How many times did I imagine that wrinkled, orange-red vegetable when thinking of the national emblem of Korean cuisine? In my dreams, it was blue.

Everything changed when they had a taste like something pent up in their psyches had been liberated. There was a woman named So-Young, the most vocal opponent against this kimchi from out-of-the-blue. I only found out later that she won a first place prize for her traditional kimchi years ago. I empathized with her sense of pride, but selfless acts are all the more rewarding. To accept the blue would be too high of a cost for her, or so I thought.

At a community gathering in early summer, I produced the kimchi to the community elders and, first, offered So-Young a taste. The whole room was silent. As she took a piece into her mouth, a palpable anxiety filled the air as all who were there waited for her reaction. Suddenly, without warning, tears started streaming down from her eyes. She started to whisper over and over to herself in Korean, “anything is possible…anything is possible.”

It was a bright blue, new day in Korean history, I was told.

THE RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

  1. 1/2 Napa cabbage (1.5 pounds)
  2. 5–6 tablespoons of salt (salt to taste)
  3. 3/4 cup of white sugar
  4. 1/2 Asian pear or Korean pear
  5. 1/4 cup of Korean radish or daikon
  6. 1 1/2 tablespoons of shredded ginger
  7. 3 cloves of garlic
  8. 1 spicy chili pepper (do not use red chili pepper or the color may become compromised)
  9. 2 cups purified water
  10. 3 packets of magical mixed berry powder (a real kool ingredient that will aid you in getting that beautiful blue color)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cut cabbage into quarters. Keep as much as would fit in the jar you will be fermenting in.
  2. Rinse cabbage once in cold water. Let drain.
  3. Salt cabbage liberally between each leaf. Better to salt more than less.
  4. Set salted cabbage aside for one hour so that it soaks in the salt.
  5. In about 30 minutes, flip cabbage over. Take excess salty water and pour it over the top of the cabbage to get a real even coat.
  6. While cabbage is resting, cut all produce to small and thin pieces. You may use a knife, grate, or blender. Transfer to bowl and mix ingredients.
  7. Take 2 cups of purified water and add to bowl. Add a tablespoon of salt.
  8. Add mixed berry powder and 3/4 cup of sugar to water and mix thoroughly.
  9. Taste the brine and make sure it is to your liking. It should be sort of potent. It will be less so when fermented and done.
  10. Add all chopped produce to brine and mix thoroughly.
  11. After one hour, rinse the salted cabbage three times. Get in between each leaf. The cabbage should be slightly flexible by now. Let drain.
  12. Take chopped ingredients and stuff in between each leaf.
  13. Pack seasoned cabbage into a clean jar to your liking. Make sure there is at least an inch or so room left at top.
  14. Pour rest of the brine into the jar. Do not fill completely to the top as it may overflow after fermentation process.
  15. Let the jar sit in room temperature for 1–2 days. After 24 hours, open the lid to let some of the air out.
  16. Put in fridge. It will be ready to eat with a beautiful blue color in 10–14 days!

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