Gaji Sobaegi Kimchi, Stuffed Eggplant Kimchi
Eggplants have been a favorite ingredient in Oriental painting and also in the Korean kitchen, not only for their good looks but also for their exquisite meaty flavor. In my childhood, we used to munch on raw eggplants right from the vegetable patch in our back yard. They were so sweet and crunchy. In Korean folk medicine, charred and pounded eggplant is used as a remedy for food poisoning.
Makes 3 quarts
30 minutes to prepare and 1 day to mature
4 egg plants, each about 7-inches long and 1½-inch in diameter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon saeu jeot (salted shrimp), finely chopped
1 tablespoon sweet rice flour
2 tablespoons put gochujang, fresh Hot Red Pepper, pureed or crushed hot red pepper flakes
½ tablespoon sugar
2 cloves garlic, skinned and grated
1 ounce fresh ginger, skinned and grated
6 ounces Korean chives, snipped in 1 ½-inch pieces
Wash the eggplants well and pat dry with a paper towel. Using a knife, trim off the stem and cut a deep gash lengthwise. Be careful not to cut all the way through to make a long pouch. Place in a steamer and steam for 3 minutes, or until the eggplants are barely wilted. Do not overcook. Drain in a colander. Wrap the eggplants in a kitchen towel one at a time and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
In a saucepan, dissolve the sweet rice flour in 1 ½ -cups water. Bring to a boil and decrease the heat to medium-low. Cook for 2 minutes, until it becomes a thin paste, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Let cool. In a bowl, combine the put gochujang, fresh hot red pepper pureed, sugar, garlic, ginger juice, and sweet rice paste, and mix well. Add the chopped saeu jeot, chives, and toss gently. Divide into 4 portions.
With a spoon, gently stuff the mixture into each of the 4 eggplants, spreading it evenly. Tightly close up each eggplant, returning it to its original shape. Cut each in half, crosswise, and lay in a 3-quart wide mouthed jar with a screw-top lid. Add a little water to the bowl to mix with the remaining bits and pieces of stuffing, and sprinkle over the eggplants.
Close the lid tight and double wrap in plastic bags. Let mature at room temperature for 1 day. Transfer to the refrigerator. The kimchi will stay fresh for no longer than a few days.
To serve, slice each eggplant crosswise into I-inch pieces and place, cut side up, on a bed of fresh greens.
Note: In my family recipe, in place of saeu jeot, we use 4 ounces of beef ground round cooked with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper. Because of the beef, the flavor is much richer.
Vegetarian recipe: To make this kimchi strictly vegetarian, replace salted shrimp with ½ tablespoon fine sea salt.