In Korea, every meal includes from two to twelve side dishes, also known as banchan. The most important and well-known of all is kimchi -- spicy pickled cabbage. It is the national dish of Korea. One restaurant in Miami that we know of goes through 60 cabbage heads a week.
Meet executive sous chef Jae Kyung from The Dutch, who's kimchi is the whole reason for a barbecue feast tonight.
A couple of weeks ago we gave you the scoop on The Dutch BBQ series, which is going on every Wednesday night through the end of July. Last week we had a chance to go behind the scenes for the menu and chef's favorites.
"Kimchi probably one of the items on the menu I can have every single day. After we realized how good Jae's kimchi tasted, we decided to make it all the time. It's the whole reason we even started the Korean barbecue," says chef de cuisine Conor Hanlon.
A very cultural and personal dish, kimchi is never the same, although there are some steps that must always be taken. The most important is that if you want kimchi for the weekend, you should start working on it at the beginning of the week. "It's a long process, but in Korea it's something that's served with every meal, so it's something that you always make a lot of and are always making," explains Jae as he prepares two large and succulent cabbages.
The cabbage is first straightened and then salted throughout the cooking, It is similar to ceviche where the lemon cooks the fish, only in this case the salt is cooking the cabbage. This takes about six hours. Then the cabbage is left to ferment in room temperature for three days. Once it is ready, you can prep your filling, which includes Asian pears, fish sauce, chill powder, pineapple, and pickled shrimp.
The Asian pears and pineapple will help break down the cabbage further. "Ever eat a lot of pineapple and cut your tongue?" asks chef Conor. "The fruit has the same effect when used in cooking, like with Kimchi or bulgogi beef. It tenderizes the meat, allowing it to melt on your tongue."
So once the filling is ready and cabbage is fermented, Jae paints the cabbages red - like in Alice in Wonderland. His kitchen is even filled with beautiful oysters, only they don't talk. They are waiting to be fried and fed to humans, not a walrus. "It's a very therapeutic process. Most of the time we're dealing with orders, so something as simple as rubbing a cabbage lets you disconnect while connecting with the food," says chef Conor.
It certainly looks therapeutic - I don't even cook and I felt like getting my hands dirty and painting some cabbage red. Once Jae has gotten every inside and leaf drenched, he packs his cabbages tightly and gives them two days or so to ferment. Jae explains: "You don't even really have to check on them," he says. But he always does. "With Miami and the extreme heat, you have to be careful. You always want to try a piece from the center - that's how you can tell." Once Jae has a batch of kimchi ready, it's time to make the next.
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Jae and Conor chose to go with crispy pork belly as the main dish, with kimchi of course. There are also beef ribs in a Korean chili glaze and bulgogi beef skewers. The bulgogi beef is marinated overnight -- also in Asian pears and pineapple -- and grilled almost instantly to medium rare. Daikon radish pickles play sidekick to the bulgogi, adding some texture and acidity to the meat, while a pot of crispy vegetables onion, carrots, bean sprouts - served over warm rice and with a suvied (not fried as the traditional Korean way) egg on top serve as the filler. Oh, and sweet potatoes. Americans gotta have them, even with a Korean BBQ feast. While it's too late to go back in time and try Jae's traditional Korean cooking, you're still in time for tonight's second-to-last barbecue in the summer series -- Hawaiian-style barbecue.
Chef Conor and Jae will be burying and roasting an entire pig in their beachy backyard at The Dutch. "I'm a little nervous 'cause it's something I've never done before," confesses Conor. What he's not nervous about is the last installment in the barbecue series, next Wednesday, July 31, which will feature the chefs' favorites. For Conor, that means something Moroccan and a pulled pork sandwich of some sort. Priced at $30 per person and served family style, The Dutch's BBQ series only comes around once a year. Kimchi, on the other hand, is available every day.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha