During late fall, Korean families make enough kimchi to last them through the winter and early spring. By springtime, the kimchi has fermented and developed a pleasantly tangy flavor. While this aged kimchi is perfect for dishes like kimchi stew, braised kimchi, and kimchi pancakes, there is still a desire for fresh kimchi. This has led to the popularity of a salad-like kimchi called geotjeori, which is a favorite in the spring.
Geotjeori is made in small batches for immediate consumption, skipping the fermentation process. The word “geot” means outer or outside layer, while “jeori” means lightly salted or pickled. So, the name geotjeori implies that the vegetables are only lightly salted, unlike regular kimchi that is fermented.
Traditionally, geotjeori is made with napa cabbage or other types of cabbage such as young cabbage (putbaechu) or spring cabbage (bomdong). However, in this case, I made it with tender baby bok choy. In Korean, bok choy is called cheon-gyeong-chae, so this dish is named cheonggyeonchae geotjeori.
Geotjeori is made using the usual kimchi seasoning, but each family has their own unique twist. For example, my mother adds sesame oil to her geotjeori, and some of my friends even include a bit of vinegar.
So, if you’re in need of a quick kimchi substitute or just craving some fresh kimchi, here’s an easy recipe to try.
- 4-5 young jujubes, with stalks and leaves removed
- 2 tablespoons of coarse salt
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, either grated or minced
- 1/2 teaspoon of grated or minced ginger
- 1/4 of a pear or apple, grated (or 1 teaspoon of sugar)
- 3-4 tablespoons of gochugaru (Korean red pepper)
- 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil
- 2 sliced green onions or chives
- 1/2 thinly sliced or grated sweet brown or red onion (optional)
- 1 grated carrot or cut into matchsticks (optional)
- You may also add 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds, if desired.
Begin by cutting off the stems of the bok choy and separating the leaves. Rinse them thoroughly and place them in a large bowl. Add salt to the bok choy and mix thoroughly. Allow it to sit for approximately 20 minutes, tossing it halfway through, while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
In a small bowl, combine the grated garlic, minced ginger, grated pear (or sugar), gochugaru, fish sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. Mix them together with about 2 tablespoons of water. Set the mixture aside.
Proceed to cut the green onions, carrots, and onions, and set them aside.
Rinse the bok choy a couple of times with water and drain the water from the bowl. Add the green onions, carrots, onions, and the prepared sauce to the bowl. Toss them together until the bok choy is well-coated with the sauce.
Taste the salad and adjust the seasoning to your preference by adding more salt, sugar, fish sauce, sesame oil, or gochugaru as desired.