Kimchi – hotter than life (Hot Diary part two)

I learnt another chilli recipe on a trip up to a friend’s place in Port Hedland.

Kimchi, a Korean chilli dish, is one of the most popular food-types in Korea. The dish consists of a salt-fermented cabbage process then added to a mixture of chilli, spices and more salt to add to the tang.

For Korean people, the dish is a necessity. It can be used with soups, seafoods, stir-fries or cold salads. But according to my chilli source, most people have it on top of sticky-rice.

I helped make some of this kimchi dish so I will try to remember the details on how it is made. About eight cabbages were needed to make a small dish of kimchi. First, all of the cabbages were washed out with a hose to get rid of any dirt that may still be sitting inside of it, and then they are stuffed on the inside with plentiful amounts of raw sea salt.

Submerge the cabbage into heavily salted water and leave them for 24-hours. Then when they are ready, wash them out and put them in a sealable container.

Now with the chilli part there are several concoctions you can use to get the right taste. A Korean favorite is the natural dried chilli flakes that can be purchased from any Korean market. But when making it I use finely chopped red chillis and a light spread of supermarket chilli powder.

Once it is all in together you have to leave it in the fridge for a week until the taste is right, then you can start using it.

The best thing? My Korean source told me that chilli increases your metabolism, so in a sense it will help burn fat. What could be better than a nice thick winter/summer meal that burns fat?

What do you see, when your eyes, they’re looking at me?

Blind people can see.

It’s proven, let me explain how through a circumstance that changed the way I see people.

In a conversation tonight (the same one as the previous post) I happened upon a memory lodged inside my thick skull.

The memory was about a man, a blind man.

It was March, 2009, in a small fishing town 900km north of Perth, Western Australia. It was a hot, but breezy, Saturday afternoon, if I remember correct. I was at Y’s house (a friend of a friend) for afternoon tea and drinks.

I knew Y from a Coroner’s case I sat in on in the previous year. He was involved with a fishing company that had allegedly left an aboriginal man to drown at sea. I wrote about this in extent. He referred to me as the “man who tells the truth” – a title I prefer to the others I had been given.

I was at his house because I had been at a State swimming carnival all day accompanying an inspirational paralympian who had won gold at the Beijing Olympics. His name was Jeremy McLure, he was blind.

Jeremy, about 21-years-old, had more stories to tell than any old digger, he was an incredible story teller. It is a trait blind people tend to pick up. But another trait I saw blew me away and still ranks my list of Great Things to happen to me.

J, a very close friend of mine, walked in the living room of the house. “Hi Ben,” he said. “How was the carnival?” I had responded in a standard sufficient answer then motioned to introduce Jeremy to J. “Have you met Jeremy?” I asked. They shook hands and exchanged short banter about the day’s happenings, and then Jeremy turned to me and said the most peculiar thing.

“You and J are very close aren’t you?”

I was taken aback, I questioned why he’d asked and admitted that we were close friends and had known each other for quite some time. There was nothing out of the ordinary in the dialogue following up to that question that would suggest J and I were good friends.

I guess he could see something no-one else could. Was it that he could examine speech patterns and sense ranges of emotions in dialogue? I have no idea. But what I’m certain of is that he saw instantly a sense of friendship between myself and another person.

Amazing isn’t it? I thought so.

Chilli – hotter than sex (Hot Diary part one)

Chef Ismail Ahmad is one I won’t forget. A bubbly celebrity chef, and a very friendly one too. He is known throughout Kuala Lumpar as the Jamie Oliver of Malaysia. A very bold title, and one well-earnt too.

I’m not much of a Malaysian cook, I can make curries or sometimes a Chinese stir fry.  But Ismail opened my eyes up to a new world of chilli use and rice making.

For myself, chilli means a curry, and that’s it.  For Chef Ismail it’s a cultural token, a key ingredient to every food type cooked in Malaysia.

One tip I picked up, which does come in use now and again, is to cook your chilli in oil.  Me, the inexperienced self-taught chef that I am, usually put chilli in with meat or a stir fry whenever I feel like it.  But according to Ismail and Malay cooking rules, chilli goes after the oil.  He said the only way to cook chilli and get its full use and flavour in a meal is to heat up the oil in a pan, then when the oil is ready to cook, put in the chilli. The sensation after throwing chopped up fresh chilli into oil makes my nose burn, then run, then I sneeze.  A similar process to how I would react if enough pepper flew up my nostrils.

But ever since my first curry making lesson I have been using chilli in most of my cooking.  I am still in the mood to taste that same food with lots of chilli, and maybe even get creative myself.

Last night, for instance, I used Lambrusco (cheap gourmet red wine) in a lamb chilli dish.  The idea may sound strange but the sauce you are left with is divine.  But none of that is comparable to coconut rice. 1/2 cup of rice and one small tin of coconut milk is all it takes. Then bring to the boil. If it gets a little too dry you may need to add extra water. It tastes great. I have adopted it for every curry I cook from now on because the coconut taste is not too offensive.