Make your own kimchi with young radish greens

Yeolmu kimchi (Korean Bapsang).
Yeolmu kimchi (Korean Bapsang).PHOTO: THE KOREA HERALD

Yeolmu are young summer radish greens - a variety of white radishes with tender, long greens and a thin, small root. They are not the top leafy parts of mature white radishes or chonggak mu (young radish), which are much tougher. 

Very commonly, young napa cabbage, called putbaechu or eolgari, is also added to yeolmu kimchi, giving it a different texture and flavour. I like the ratio of radish greens to young cabbage to be 2:1. You can use only the radish greens without any young cabbage.

Look for radish greens that have slightly plump stems, not too thin and not too thick, with dark green leaves. You can cut off the root part if it is too thin and tiny, or use it if it is big enough. They reduce in volume significantly once salted. 

It is important to handle these vegetables with care. If bruised, they will develop a grassy taste (called putnae), which will linger in the kimchi. 

You can also enjoy this crunchy and refreshing yeolmu kimchi in bibimbap (mixed rice), bibim guksu (spicy mixed noodles) or naengmyeon (cold noodles). I hope you try making it while summer is still here.

Ingredients:

2kg yeolmu (young radish greens)

1kg putbaechu (young napa cabbage)

6 Tbs salt

4 cups water

3 Tbs salt

2 cups water

Flour paste:

2 Tbs flour

2 cups water

Seasoning ingredients:

6 fresh red chili peppers

4 Tbs gochugaru (Korean chili pepper flakes)

10 plump garlic cloves

1 ginger, 5cm-long, 3cm-round

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup salted shrimp 

Other vegetables:

5 or 6 thin scallions, roughly chopped

1/2 large onion, thinly sliced

Method
1. Cut off the root end of each radish if the root is thin and not usable. Otherwise, cut the thin end of the root and scrape off the impurities with a small knife. Trim off any bad leafy stems and cut the greens into 7cm pieces. Transfer to a large bowl.

2. Trim off the root from each young cabbage. Cut the cabbage into 7cm pieces and transfer to another large bowl. 

3. Fill the bowl of radish greens with water. Let them sit in the water for about 10 minutes to release any dirt. Then wash the radish greens a couple of times by gently shaking them in the water. Drain. Do the same with the young cabbages.

4. Dissolve 6 Tbs salt in 4 cups water in a small bowl. Placing a handful of the radish greens back in the large bowl, sprinkle with some salt water. Repeat the process until all the radish greens are placed in the bowl. If you run out of salt water, pour some back out of the bowl with the radish greens and use again. Repeat the process for the young cabbage in another bowl with 3 Tbs salt and 2 cups water. 

5. Let the vegetables sit for about 40 minutes until they become slightly flexible. Flip them over once or twice while salting. 

6. Meanwhile, make the flour paste. 

7. Coarsely blend all the seasoning ingredients together. Combine with the flour paste.

8. Gently rinse the salted radish greens and cabbage separately in cold water and drain well. 

9. Place the radish greens and cabbage in three to four batches in the same large bowl, pouring in some seasoning mix each time. Add the scallions and onions. Toss everything very lightly by hand, using kitchen gloves, until everything is evenly coated with the seasoning. 

10. Store in an airtight container or jar. Leave it out at room temperature for a few hours before storing in the fridge. You can start eating kimchi at any time, but it will taste best after a few days in the fridge.