Home > cultural commentary, humor > Recipe: New Age Kim Chi Pastiche

Recipe: New Age Kim Chi Pastiche

Kin chi

Kim chi

Living as I do in Northern climes, I have a fondness for pickled things. And cabbages. But while I’m partial to the odd bit of sauerkraut, what I tend to make at home is kim chi, which is a Northern Chinese and Korean variant on picked cabbage. I do this because I can, it’s quick and cheap, and also spicy hot.

There are endless recipes for this dish, some recording how the writer’s great-grandmother made it and others suggesting variants using multiple exotic ingredients. Mine is more characteristic of me – quick and dirty, with a spritz of twisted dark humour.

Meanwhile, I used to have – possibly still do have, somewhere – a New Age style recipe book that expected one to go to great spiritual lengths in order to prepare any kind of food.

Oh, and I’m in the latter stages of finishing a zombie story.

So with these three things in mind, here’s a recipe for kim chi.

The zombie thing is true, by the way, but it’s a red herring: no zombies are included in the recipe and none were harmed during the production of this feature.


Take your ingredients:

  • A cabbage – preferably Chinese Leaf, but any will do or you can mix-and-match depending on what’s in the fridge.
  • Garlic – I use three cloves for a litre of kinchi
  • Ginger – a lump about the size of a sugar cube
  • Chili – I use three fresh chilis for a litre (four was a bit much last year). Red or green, take your pick.
  • Pepper – one whole pepper if you like it, or anything else that takes your fancy, really – a quarter of a cucumber, even a carrot will do.
  • One 750ml bottle of rice vinegar.


Arrange the ingredients artistically on a work surface. Contemplate the simplicity and beauty of their forms, and the complex natural processes that created them.

Meditate on the ecological marvel of the nitrogen cycle, the transfer of nitrogen through different forms, which means that while today the cabbage will become your food, at some time in the future you may well be food for a cabbage – or perhaps for a primrose, daffodil, beech tree, and so forth.

If you live in a country where vinegar is required to be pasteurised (the US for example) you can omit this next step. Otherwise, greet the vinegar eels that will be swimming in the vinegar bottle, microscopic Turbatrix aceti nematodes that are harmless and nonparasitic. They too will become part of your food.

When you have achieved a state of harmonious balance, take a sharp knife and rapidly but carefully chop all the vegetable ingredients, using no more violence than is strictly necessary, and having first washed them thoroughly and removed any skin, for example from the ginger, that you don’t want in the mixture. Aim for very thin strips of Chinese leaf/cabbage, and small chunks of everything else. Place them in a bowl and mix together with your hands until the qi flows from your fingers or the chili and ginger make your hands itch, whichever occurs first.

Lastly, put the vegetables into an airtight glass jar (I use a Kilner jar but screw-top is fine, a washed-out coffee jar works just as well). Fill the jar with the rice vinegar. Place at the back of a cupboard and leave in the dark for a while. Some recipes say you can leave it for 6-8 weeks before eating, but I’ve never had the nerve, or the patience. I usually take it out and start eating it after 4-5 days, with boiled rice or, if I’m feeling particularly slobbish, on toast. A litre jar won’t usually last me more than a couple of weeks… As you eat, take pleasure in the fact that what you are eating was made with your own fair hands, and remember that you are also consuming your own qi stored in the kim chi (you might also want to bear in mind the nitrogen cycle thing – eating this kim chi, indeed eating pretty much anything at all, is but one part of the great cycle in which you in turn will become a cabbage. You mean you didn’t believe in reincarnation?).



Nest week: Rave’n’Grave, fried red herrings in piquant zombie sauce…


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