Once I started eating and making kimchi regularly, I had to ask myself, what other vegetables could I turn into kimchi? My sister, Mabi, has used the kimchi paste we make at Starter Sisters on locally available talbos ng kamote, sayote tops, and pako (fiddlehead fern) to make them into kimchi.
Aside from the traditional napa cabbage kimchi (our vegan recipe here), radish and cucumber are the other popular varieties in Korean culture. But there are more than a hundred different types of kimchi, which include green onion and Asian chives. When I got my hands on some leeks, another member of the allium family, I thought maybe they could also get the kimchi treatment. Leeks kimchi!
Get to know your alliums
Usually, you can easily distinguish leeks from spring onions, chives, and green onions (aka scallions), because they are typically larger when they’re harvested and sold in markets. Sometimes though, leeks are harvested while they’re still young and can look like large green onions, which was the case with the leeks I got from Bauko.
The leaves of leeks also “develop a distinctive fork,” Yummy.ph notes. Meanwhile green onions and scallions are the same and their white stem ends don’t bulge out. Spring onions are closely similar in appearance to green onions, but the former have a small bulb at its base and are considered more mature scallions.
An easier kimchi
Since we’re already using a member of the allium family, we can skip the onion and other aromatics (garlic and ginger) we usually put in the paste for our vegan baechu kimchi. There’s also no need to add radish or carrots. We’ll still make the paste using glutinous rice flour, sugar, gochugaru and (vegan) fish sauce or soy sauce. The leeks kimchi becomes sour, spicy, and pungent, leading Mabi to describe it as “dragon’s breath kimchi.”
Make sure that when you mix well the cooled down rice porridge with the fish sauce and the hot pepper flakes and let it sit for 30 minutes. You want the gochugaru and the sauce to be well integrated into the paste. I didn’t let it sit the first time I made leeks kimchi and the thick porridge and the liquid kept separating during fermentation. It didn’t really affect the taste, but when it happened I would just stir the kimchi every time I burped it.
- 700 grams of leeks (or green onions)
- ½ cup of vegan fish sauce (or soy sauce)
- 2 tablespoons glutinous rice flour
- 1 ½ cups of water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ¾ cup gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes)
1. After removing the roots of the leeks and the outer tough layers, cut them into short pieces.
2. Rinse them well, drain, and put them in a large container.
3. Pour the fish sauce or soy sauce on the leeks. Mix them with well with your hands.
4. Keep the leeks soaked for an hour. If the fish sauce is not enough to cover them in the bowl, mix the leeks every 15 minutes.
5. While you soak the leeks, make your porridge. Heat 1 cup of the water.
6. Dissolve the sugar and rice flour in the remaining ½ cup of water. Add it to the pot when it reaches a gentle boil. Stir the mixture constantly until it is thick and bubbly. Once cooked, remove from heat and let it cool.
7. Remove the salted leeks from the fish sauce and set it aside.
9. Mix the fish sauce with the cooled porridge and add gochugaru. Mix well and let it stand for at least 30 minutes.
10. Pour the mixture onto the leeks. Best to mix them by hand.
11. Pack your leeks kimchi into a glass jar. Press it down to ensure minimum air pockets and put the lead back on the jar.
12. Let it ferment on your kitchen countertop for 3 to 5 days. Make sure to have a small plate or saucer at the bottom of your jar to catch any kimchi juice that might bubble out of the jar. Put inside your refrigerator once you like the level of sourness.
Leeks kimchi has a punchier flavor than the regular vegan kimchi we make (just as spicy though). So I like to add only a little of it (a tablespoon or two), mixed with regular kimchi when I make vegan sundubu jjigae and kimchi pancakes to give those dishes a deeper flavor.
You can find more tips on how to have a successful home ferment, here.