Here is one recipe I would like to introduce you. It is Braised Pork Ribs and Kimchi (돼지갈비 김치찜, dueji galbi kimchi jjim). And the kimchi I used in this recipe is called “moogunji (묵은지)”. Moogunji is very old fermented cabbage kimchi.
If you go to restaurants that are famous for their dishes made with kimchi in Korea, most will use this moogunji to make their dishes extraordinary. Some moogunji is as young as 6 month old, and some can be older than 3 years.
Moogunji kimchi is not ideal to eat as is. It is too potent and sour (sometimes bitter), it’s not enjoyable at all. However this old cabbage kimchi is not going to be thrown away. It is FABULOUS in the braised food.
So, you might think if you let your cabbage kimchi sit in your refrigerator for at least 6 month, it will turn into moogunji automatically. Well, chances are NOT. Moogunji doesn’t come that easily. The cabbages are salted more heavily than ordinary kimchi for longer storage purpose. It ferments very slowly. It also requires certain level of consistent temperature and complete lockout of air. Well made moogunji kimchi can hold its firm texture with deep fermented flavor for years.
If you store ordinary cabbage kimchi in the refrigerator, usually they taste the best right after it got fermented and hold its prime fermentation for another month or maybe two. However, usually after about 2 month, they become very acidic and mushy in the texture. Any longer it may even become alcoholic if your kimchi is not properly stored.
Traditionally Koreans keep their kimchi in earthen jars to keep in the outdoor, but these days many Korean household uses kimchi refrigerator to stock up their kimchi throughout the year. It keeps kimchi in the most ideal temperature to retain its taste and texture longer than ordinary refrigerator.
Anyway, since moogunji is so wonderful to use in braising, you will find this recipe so delectable. Pork is perhaps the best partner to cook with kimchi, and cooking with pork ribs will maximize its potential. Long simmering will bring out the marrow from the bones and you will taste the best of what Korean kimchi can offer.
Major Korean groceries carry this packaged moogunji. As you can tell the color of kimchi is not as vibrant as a result of its long fermentation. If you can’t find moogunji, use your ordinary cabbage kimchi but make sure it is very sour and potent (Keep it on the counter for a couple of days to speed up)
Make a stock with anchovies, dried sea kelp and a few slices of ginger. Basically you boil them in a water first, then simmer for 15 minutes. Drain the stock and reserve about 2-1/2 cup to use in this recipe. Set aside.
Then boil a pot of water and briefly cook the ribs for 3 minutes. This will get rid of major fat and unwanted gunk from the bones. Rib meats are quite fatty and you want to reduce its fat amount before you add in the braising process to lower the fat intake. Drain the ribs and rinse with hot water. Set aside.
Note: If your pot doesn’t have a heavy lid, you will need more amount of stock (extra 1/2-1 cup) to make-up for the steam evaporation.
…and cover with a lid. Bring it just about to gentle boil over medium heat, then simmer over low heat for 1 hour. It is a good idea to shake the pot gently once or twice so the liquid will sip through all the nooks and crannies.
The moogunji is so tender but retained its body, and the meat from the ribs is melting in your mouth. Oh, the flavor…! I can’t describe in English, but I can tell you that I emptied out two bowls of rice with this.
You might wonder how you eat the whole piece of cabbage. You can cut it with a pair of scissor just like most Korean restaurants do. But in my house? I use the most divine kitchen tool I own – my fingers. I just tear the cabbage with my fingers (my thumbs and index fingers). My mother did this way with kimchi, saying “Kimchi tastes better when you tear them with fingers. Less knife, better taste”. I used to think it was so gross. But I now find myself doing the same action to my kids, saying the exact same words (but in English).
This is the winter Korean comfort on its best and it made me feel like as if I was dining in a small rural town of Korea . How nostalgic…!
- 2-1/2 lb pork ribs
- 2 lb (1kg) old fermented whole cabbage kimchi (moogunji) with about ¼ cup of kimchi juice
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon Korean chili flakes
- ½-1 tablespoon Korean soy bean paste (doenjang)
- 1 tablespoon Korean soy sauce for soup (gook-ganjang)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice wine, optional
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 green chili or jalapeño, sliced
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 6-7 large dried anchovies
- 1 large piece dried sea kelp (dashima or konbu)
- 3-4 fresh ginger slices, ¼" thick
- 5 cups water
- Soak the pork ribs in a cold water for at least 1 hour. Drain. Bring the pot of water to boiling and add the pork ribs and cook for 3 minutes. This will remove some fat and the unclean gunk from the bones. Drain the ribs and rinse them in hot water. Set aside.
- For the stock, put anchovies, sea kelp, ginger in water and bring them to boil. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Cool and drain the stock reserving about 2-1/2 cups.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine Korean chili flakes, soy bean paste, Korean soy sauce for soup, garlic, sugar, rice wine, and sesame oil; mix well. Add the pork ribs and toss all together.
- In a heavy bottom dutch oven pot, spread sliced onion on the bottom and top with pork ribs. Add the whole kimchi to cover the pork on top. Pour the kimchi juice and the reserved stock over the kimchi.
- Cover the pot with a lid and bring it on to medium heat to gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Open the lid and turn the kimchi to the other side jiggling the pork ribs and onions underneath. Cover again and continue to simmer for another 45 minutes to 1 hour. Add the green chili and green onion to the pot and cook for 15 more minutes or so. Serve warm with rice.
- If your pot doesn't have a heavy lid, you will need extra ½-1 cup more stock to make-up for the steam evaporation.