We apologise for the sudden hiatus. This blog was started as a hobby and remains completely non-profit and we want to say thanks for all the support from everyone. When we first started this blog in 2011 we had to search high and low for subjects to write about, but as of 2014, we were completely overwhelmed with the number of Korean events and products available in the UK. It’s a delight to see the popularity of Korea has exploded worldwide and we’re loving every moment of it from fun events and food each weekend to much coveted products being more readily available to the UK.
As the MASSIVE gets back into writing, we thought about how we can return on this journey towards discovering Korea and what better way than with Kimchi! The Iconic product of Korea, even if you don’t know who Big Bang or Old Boy are, everyone knows about Korean Kimchi. As the British Summer is coming to an end, one big Korean tradition is coming up, KimJjang! We have written about KimJjang before but it can be a rather overwhelming task, especially when you don’t know the first thing about cooking. Luckily for us North London Restaurant Yoji is here to teach us the ways!
Yijo is a restaurant located by Finchley Central tube station which is a fairly quick tube ride from central London and very easy to find right outside the station. Since November, Yijo went under new management and is also one of only two restaurants in London which have a real coal barbecue.
Before getting into our aprons and gloves we were all treated to a bowl of refreshing water kimchi in soup, it was cold, spicy and absolutely delicious! We were then introduced to Chef JP, a man very acknowledgable when it comes to kimchi and taught us the history of kimchi with some very cool fun facts. Chef JP explains that kimchi was white before, and only took on the iconic red colour when red chili was introduced from Portugal. He also explained how kimchi in North Korea was actually different as the land for growing chilies is best in South Korea so they have no access to chili powder. Because of this, you’ll also find that kimchi gets hotter as you go to southern regions due to the difference in the local chilies.
Being in the UK, there are a lot of Korean ingredients that aren’t as easy to get hold of so Chef JP has taken great care into adapting his kimchi recipes so they compliment our local ingredients. But Chef JP states that you cannot beat Korean Mooli (radish) which is very hard to locate in the UK. When making kimchi, Chef JP gives alternatives for ingredients that would be hard for us to locate at UK supermarkets, for example if you can’t find an Asian pear, try a English pear and apple mix. In fact kimchi is such a versatile dish that it’s easily adaptable to whatever ingredients are available to you, hence there is over 250 types of kimchi out there.
Of course there are many ways to learn how to make kimchi in the UK and we ourselves have attended the SOAS kimchi class before. But Yijo provides you with a much more hands on experience. For example, one step in the kimchi process that we always miss out on is the salting of the cabbage. Because this has to be done in advance, we’re often presented with pre-salted cabbages to work with. But here Chef JP gives us all a chance to learn how to salt the cabbage properly and even gives a good shortcut if you are short of time; use salty water to salt the kimchi! Although you will have to compromise on the taste, the best kimchi takes time and patience.
We are given approximate measurements so that we can alter our kimchi to best suit our taste buds. Throw in all that amazingly red chili powder or add in a bit by a bit, the choice/risk is yours! You are encouraged to constantly test taste your fermenting paste to ensure you have your perfect flavour. In Chef JP’s kimchi recipe he doesn’t use sugar so to keep his kimchi as healthy as possible. Instead he uses naturally sweet ingredients to cut the spiciness in kimchi such as pears or sweet Korean mooli (which unfortunately is not available in the UK).
One very exciting part of the Yijo kimchi class is that you actually get to chop!!! How many times have you been to a cooking class and all ingredients have been prepared for you. Here we got to try out our (poor) chopping skills as well as get lots of top tips for around the kitchen. Yijo keep their kimchi classes small so no student will feel left out and Chef JP is very patient and ensure he moves at a pace that suits everyone. As we went through each step of the process, he made sure he went round to everyone to check our progress and ensure all questions were answered. He was very detailed in describing the textures and colours we should be looking for so that we would leave with the skills and know-how to replicate this process at home. And if you’re still stuck, Yijo are always on hand on Twitter to answer a question or three in our case!
Overall the Yijo kimchi experience is very fun and highly recommended if you want to attempt making your own kimchi. You’ll also get to take your kimchi home with you to leave to ferment. At the end of the class and after all that hard work, Chef JP is not going to send you home with a kimchi cabbage that won’t be ready for another 2 weeks. We all got treated to some of Chef JP’s ready kimchi for a taste of what’s to come (or what it should taste like), served with the traditional bossam often eaten at the end of a successful kimjjang. We even got the most delicious kimchi bokkeumbap we have ever tasted! Yum! So for the very reasonable price of £35, you get a nice dinner, your very own homemade kimchi and skills you can take home with you.
So why not check out Yijo for a fun, hands on and delicious kimchi experience; it’s an excellent introduction to Korean cuisine. Chef JP and the Yijo staff are very friendly and patient, you can really tell that Chef JP has a true passion for the iconic Korean dish and really wants to spread the love of kimchi. Not only will you learn how to make the traditional cabbage kimchi but Chef JP teaches you how to make the main paste for kimchi fermentation that you can actually use to kimchi-cise anything you want. He will be happy to help you figure out ways to ferment just about anything! Whatever you love, Chef JP will find a way to turn it into kimchi!
Yijo Korean BBQ Restaurant – 1 Station Road, London N3 2SB
We can’t wait to go back and get a plate of Bokkeumbap all to ourselves, and try out their coal barbecue!