Friday, January 27, 2012

Vegan Kimchi Secret Ingredient?

Kimchi the morning afterKenji, writing about his month adhering to a vegan lifestyle, has an interesting recipe for the old Chimpanzee Tea Party favorite: kimchi. For those who are unaware, the issue here is that your traditional kimchi is decidedly not vegan... at the very least it has fish sauce, but could also have salted shrimp or oysters. Always one of the tricky parts of finding vegan/vegetarian food in the Asian sphere is their propensity to put non-obvious fish products in places you'd never expect... everywhere from the aforementioned kimchi to the dashi used to make an unassuming miso soup. Now, you can simply exclude these fish products when making Asian dishes at home... as I did when I made vegan kimchi... but what's a temporary vegan to do when he doesn't want to give up that precious umami? Well, Kenji, of course, experimented:
What's the best substitute for the umami-burst of the dried shrimp? I tried a number of things including soy sauce, marmite, and pure MSG powder, but the best option was red miso paste, a similarly glutamate-rich condiment that's readily available.
I really want to make kimchi again, but I think Anna is deeply concerned about the current pickle proliferation and losing refrigerator space... so I might be on pickle timeout. But for the rest of you... definitely worth making and dead easy to do... plus it lasts forever... assuming you like the funk of "ripe" kimchi, as I do. Otherwise, I guess you have to eat it in a month or so, but there are plenty of things to make with it (kimchi quesadilla!).