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Citrus is bright, hazelnuts are crunchy. Kimchi adds punch. It’s easy to consider ingredients for their one, dominant trait. Use them for that one purpose. Talk about them with their default adjective: bright, zesty, creamy, smooth, nutty.
The more you write or read about food, the more its supporting words start to direct your cooking. I need crunch: nuts. I need brightness: citrus. I want heat: kimchi. For our words have said it so.
It’s not that these descriptors aren't true, but they’re limiting. Citrus can be fleeting; hazelnuts willful. In this salad, kimchi isn’t the unitasker our sentences have made it out to be: The warmth of just-cooked shrimp softens it to a sweetness—like a citrus in ceviche. It’s also roughage for a salad made of little more than carb, starch, and some cabbage crags. And it’s the mother of the dressing, adding effervescence and fermenty funk.
So kimchi is punchy, but also beckoning, burly, balmy. Easy going, too: Take it out of the jar, drain, chop it some, and you just cut out 500 other items from your salad’s ingredient list.
- One 16-ounce jar kimchi (or homemade equivalent)
- 3 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil, plus more for coating noodles
- 6 ounces soba noodles
- 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 cup shredded Napa cabbage
- Sesame seeds, to garnish