Dongchimi Guksu (White Radish Kimchi with Noodles)

Dongchimi is a mild form of kimchi made from giant white radishes (pictured below) pickled in a briny, watery broth.  I just discovered on Wikipedia that the northern regions of Korea are known for dongchimi, which is traditionally made in the winter when white radishes are in season.

Dongchimi guksu tastes like childhood to me.  My mother in particular loves it, which makes sense given her northern roots.  Nowadays, people get all kinds of fancy with it and add apples, pears, and other good things.  The guksu refers to the noodle aspect — some people like to add white or buckwheat noodles to a bowl of dongchimi and its watery soup.  Add a dash of sesame oil, a dusting of sesame seeds and voila!  A cool, light meal of divinely balanced flavors.

My mom was recently inspired to make dongchimi after a friend served it for lunch with some hip new fixings.  She hasn’t made her own kimchi in years so I figured I’d better take notice.

Please note that dongchimi takes about a week to ripen, but it’s well worth the wait.

You need:

For the dongchimi:
4 large white radishes
4 Fuji apples, quartered (no need to peel or core the apples and pears)
2 large Asian pears, quartered
2 pears of your choice (Bartlett and Anjou work well), quartered
2 fresh jalapenos, cored and quartered
1 lemon, quartered (peel on)
1 white onion, quartered
15-20 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 bunch of scallions, cut in half
1 ginger root, peeled and sliced
2/3 cup to 1 cup salt
2 empty gallon-sized glass jars (kimchi jars are great)

For the guksu:
1 package somen noodles (these are thin, white Japanese noodles, similar to vermicelli)
sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds

1.  Boil a large stock pot of salt water:  bring the water to a boil and then add salt and boil until the salt dissolves (my mom added 2/3 of a cup of salt to the pot below — she took to blogging right away).  Remove from heat and allow to cool (it’s best to transfer the water out of the pot for faster cooling.  We left the pot outside in the cool night air but it still took ages).

2.  Wash the radishes and their greens carefully.  Peel the radishes and cut off the greens, reserving them.  Cut the radishes into eighths or smaller.

3.  Divide the goods in half and fill each of the 2 empty jars:  start by adding the radish chunks, apples and pears, then add everything else.  Some people like to include the radish greens as well.

4.  Once the salted water is cooled to room temperature, fill the jars with the water and screw on the lids.

5.  Let the jars sit out to ripen (probably away from direct sunlight).  After a few days, there should be bubbles forming at the top of the jar.  The fermenting process might cause the contents of the jar to expand and the water level to rise. If so, skim liquid off the top to keep the jars from overflowing.

6.  It’s fair game to taste the dongchimi any time between the 3 and 7 day mark.  Ripe dongchimi should be well-flavored and basically not taste like you’re eating raw radishes.  The fruits absorb the brine at different rates, but the longer they sit, the further they will pickle.  We deemed ours ready to eat after about a week.  Dongchimi can be sliced and eaten as a side dish, as pictured here:

7.  For dongchimi guksu, prepare the somen noodles according to the package (they cook in about 5 minutes).  Put a serving of noodles into a bowl and add some sliced dongchimi, fixings, and briny broth.  Garnish liberally with toasted sesame seeds and add a dash of sesame oil to the bowl.  Savor the way the flavors mingle — dark sesame notes, tart kimchi, sweet fruit and brine.

Notes:
– Once the dongchimi is ripe, store the jars in the fridge
– Rice works in a pinch instead of noodles, and is equally delicious
– It’s good to have a breath mint on hand, and lots of water

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