Cycle 4 – Item 172
26 (Wed) June 2013
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with the Family
Korean-Swedish Culinary Exchange (8) (see also KSCX)
Ggakdugi (깍두기) is a Korean dish. It’s a type of kimchi consisting of muu (무우), a long white Korean radish similar to Japanese daikon but twice as big and slightly sweeter. The radish is cut into cubes; depending on personal preference, the pieces may range in size from small dice to huge blocks. The term “ggakdugi” derives from “ggakdug (깍둑) = rough chop.” The pieces are salted for several hours, rinsed, tossed in a blend of pickling spices that comprise, at the very least, red chili powder + garlic + ginger + sugar + fish sauce and/or shrimp paste, placed in a container, and set aside at room temperature for a a day or more to ferment. Ggakdugi is arguably the second most common/popular kimchi, after kimchi made from napa cabbage. It’s the default accompaniment to various beef soups in restaurant settings.
While kimchi is of course the national dish, actually a side dish but the one essential dish that all Koreans beyond the age of 2 eat on a daily basis, often with every meal, most people these days don’t make their own kimchi at home; they just buy it from the supermarket. The store-bought stuff is fine, though the flavors tend to be homogenized/diluted – i.e., absent of regional characteristics, toned down – to appeal to a broader/younger customer base.
Although I could’ve gone a lifetime without ever making my own kimchi, I was shamed into it by reader GK. Our Korean-Swedish Cooking Exchange started with him making kimchi, which has now become a regular practice, apparently. Bad enough that I’ve been slacking on the Swedish dishes, but I couldn’t let him outdo me on the Korean cuisine as well.
So, for my first attempt ever at making my own kimchi, I started with ggakdugi. Because the spices are relatively simple (no stuffing required), and because the radish is so hardy (won’t turn to mush if improperly handled), it’s one of the easier types to make.
It turned out okay, I guess, but it’s still a bit too early to tell. In any case, I’m so glad that I finally got around to making the initial attempt. Once I get a handle on ggakdugi, I’ll move on to oi sobagi (cucumber kimchi), buchu kimchi (garlic chive kimchi), and – maybe several decades down the road – actual baechu kimchi (napa cabbage kimchi) . Thanks, GK, for kicking my ass into gear.
The ggakdugi was paired with pyeonyuk, essentially the same thing as bossam except for the accompaniments.
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)