Some of us love fall in love with kimchi at first bite, others have to acquire a taste for the fiery Korean pickled cabbage. If your introduction is via bad kimchi, you may never go back. But when kimchi is well made from really good ingredients, it’s an exciting taste that livens all kinds of meats, soups, and stews. This recipe is not at all traditional. It’s more of a European-style, kimchi-inspired cabbage braise, made from fresh instead of pickled cabbage, with a little Asian pear for sweetness. But we didn’t hold back on the chilies and garlic, so it’s somewhat authentic in that way. It’s a terrific side dish with grilled meats or fish, or just serve it with rice or noodles.
What to buy: Sold in large crystal formations, rock candy is a hard lump sweetener used in Asian cooking, particularly to sweeten and glaze savory dishes. It is actually a blend of refined and raw sugars and honey, and it is slightly less sweet than pure sugar. You can find both yellow and clear rock sugar, sometimes called Chinese rock sugar, at Asian markets; or you can substitute the slightly less pure rock sugar sold on sticks or strings at old-time candy stores. (You will need to pulverize the sugar by hitting it with something hard, like the base of a frying pan, to remove the sugar from the string or stick onto which it has been crystallized.) You can also find rock sugar online. A traditional ingredient in kimchi, red flecks of Korean crushed red peppers contribute a lot of flavor and a moderate level of spice. The pepper is usually sold in bags at well-stocked Asian groceries or Korean markets.