Korean Banchan: Kkaennip Kimchi
The weekend before last, I ventured out in an accidentally-sporty two-door rental car (I made my girlfriend do the driving!) to visit a friend in Los Angeles.
I’m terrified of the Los Angeles area’s sometimes 10-lane highway situation, so I usually avoid the place at all costs, but this was my oldest childhood friend who had moved to LA a full year ago, and I had yet to go visit…
As it turns out, she lives in Koreatown!
If you just thought “Uh oh,” you were right… We spent one whole morning in a giant Korean grocery store, and I spent $120 on nostalgic foodstuffs (and a dolsot– stone bowl– for bibimbap!) that I DIDN’T NEED.
Then I was very indulgently humored as we enjoyed a Korean lunch and, later that evening, went out for a Korean dinner. (I skipped taking photos, since I figured I’ve posted enough photos of Korean restaurant food from Seoul!)
One of my most exciting purchases came from the produce section; bundles of fresh kkaennip (perilla leaves) were stacked into pointy green mountains.
Bundles of ten leaves each, selling at 3 for $1. How could I pass that up?
Kkaennip Kimchi, these seasoned spicy leaves, which many people call “sesame leaf kimchi,” is actually not made from sesame leaves, but from perilla leaves. (Though, like many Korean dishes, it does call for sesame oil and sesame seeds.) It’s not the most common dish, even in Seoul, but whenever I got a chance to try it, I was taken with the very strong, herby, shiso-like* flavor of the leaves, brightened up by the distinct kimchi tang of garlicky chili paste.
When I first got back from living in Korea in 2008, I went on a (similarly extravagant) Korean food shopping spree somewhere in Oakland, CA., but fresh kkaennip were nowhere to be found.
Instead I bought several sardine-can-like tins of kkaennip– both this spicy kimchi version, and a non-spicy one– and then
hoarded saved half of them until past their expiration date. Oops.
Now, at least, you can understand my excitement to discover fresh perilla leaves in LA!
So I’m happy to present you with Korean Banchan, Part 2 (of my infinite-part series, as Stephen Colbert might say). Take a look at Korean Banchan, Part 1: Spicy Sesame Bean Sprouts if you’re interested.
And if spicy kimchi side dishes are not your cup of tea, but you’d still like to experience the unmistakable and pungent flavor of fresh perilla leaves, you can always skip this recipe and try wrapping them around some warm rice and stir-fry or grilled meat with a generous dab of ssamjang! But that’s another blog post…
Meanwhile, I’m just grateful to be able to share this recipe with you at all. I was so so worried that my precious little bunches of kkaennip would not survive the crazy 90-100 degree LA area temperatures that I kept them by my side– and out of the hot car– all weekend. They went into my friend’s fridge in LA, then the next day came with me into a coffee shop, another friend’s house, and a Target. But the perilla leaves made it! And I made kkaennip kimchi.
* Japanese Shiso and Korean Kkaennip are both varieties of Perilla, though the kkaennip leaves are much larger than most shiso leaves.
(Makes 8-10 servings as a side dish)
~ 30 perilla leaves (they often come in bunches of 10)
~ 2 cloves garlic, pressed
~ 1- 1 1/2 Tbsp. ginger, grated or minced
~ 1 – 1 1/2 Tbsp. coarse kochukaru (Korean chili powder)
~ 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
~ 2 Tbsp. water
~ 2 tsp. sesame oil
~ 1 tsp. sugar
~ 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
~ 1-2 scallions or buchu (garlic chives), chopped
How to make it:
1. Gently rinse each perilla leaf, and spread the leaves out to dry. I spread them out between paper towels and they dried very quickly. (You can leave the stems on the perilla leaves, but I trimmed just a tiny bit– about 1/2 an inch– off the bottom of each stem.)
2. Toast the sesame seeds, either in a pan on the stove, or in a toaster oven, just for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Press the garlic and grate the ginger.
3. Make the kimchi paste: In a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, kochukaru (chili powder), soy sauce, water, sesame oil, sugar, and sesame seeds. (You can reserve some of the chili powder if you’re not sure you want to use it all. You can also add a bit of extra water to stretch the paste a bit.) Optionally stir in some chopped scallions or buchu as well.
4. Make sure each perilla leaf is clean and patted dry. In a large tupperware container, or simply on a plate, spread a bit of the kimchi paste– very thinly and evenly– over the top surface of the first leaf. Layer a second leaf on top. Continue to stack these perilla leaf “sandwiches,” spreading the kimchi paste across the top of every other leaf.
(If you have extra kimchi paste in the end, you can always lift the leaves by their stems and spread the extra paste onto the layers in between the “sandwiches” too.)
5. Chill in the fridge for at least a few hours before eating. Serve as a banchan side dish to a main course, or over warm rice for a satisfying snack.
6. Store the leaves flat in the fridge, either in a large tupperware container or in plastic wrap. They will keep for up to a week.