Kimchi, a pickled vegetable that no Korean meal is served without, is so beloved by the citizens of that country that the government has proclaimed it a national treasure. It was first created to preserve the harvest for the long, cold north Asian winters. Conserved with brine, then packed in large earthenware jars and buried underground where temperatures were stable and cold (not freezing), this pickle would sustain the Koreans through the frigid months. Variations depend on region and on seasonality. The vegetables are soaked in salted water, which helps prevent the wrong bacteria from getting in, but there is no vinegar—itself a fermented substance—involved. The fermentation creates the acidic flavor.
I came up with the concept for this dish when I first visited Korea, just before I opened Mirez.
3 cups peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped ripe tomatoes
1/2 cup peeled and roughly chopped seedless or Kirby cucumbers
1 large clove garlic, center sprout removed
3 tablespoons rice vinegar, or to taste
1 cup kimchi with juice, finely diced, or less to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
1 cup cooked shrimp or shucked raw littleneck or Manila clams
Julienned scallion greens