Californian

Watermelon Rind Kimchi

August 19, 2020
2 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
Author Notes

For several years, my mother and I successfully grew small yellow heirloom watermelons, the lemon-colored flesh brimming with citrusy flavor. The flavor was so unique that I hated throwing out the rinds with the compost. After reading about Southern watermelon rind pickles, I wondered if I could make kimchi out of the rinds. Turns out, you can—with the firm, light-green part of the rind, at least!

Though the recipe here suggests using gochugaru, saeu-jeot (Korean salted shrimp), ginger, garlic, scallions, and soft herbs of your choosing, this kimchi welcomes experimentation: If you’re vegetarian or aren’t able to find the saeu-jot, substitute with a tablespoon of vegetarian fish sauce or skip it entirely. The chile powder will really give the kimchi its signature flavor, but you can substitute other chile powders if you can’t find gochugaru—you might just have to adjust the proportions based on spice levels. And instead of adding watermelon flesh to the mix (perhaps you’ve stashed away the watermelon rinds from your picnic last week in the fridge?), you can also play with herb-spice-fruit flavor combinations in marinating mixture: Instead of watermelon puree and mint, try combining Tajin and cilantro, mint and Asian pear puree, or basil and apple puree. We find in Southern California that whatever fruit is in season can be pureed and added to our kimchi.

Layer this delightfully fresh kimchi over steamed Korean sticky rice or chop it up for kimchi fried rice; julienne for fatty, meaty sandwiches like SPAM or pulled pork; add to bibimbap; or simply devour out of the jar with a pair of chopsticks. —Dakota Kim

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Makes 1 big jar kimchi (about 3 cups)
Ingredients
  • 3 cups cubed watermelon rinds (from 1 small watermelon)
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 cup red watermelon puree
  • 3 scallions, chopped or sliced on a diagonal
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed into a paste (I use a molcajete or Korean mortar & pestle to mince nicely, crushing the garlic and really getting the juices out)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon gochugaru
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped mint, basil, or cilantro (optional but highly recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon saeu-jeot, minced (optional)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Slice the watermelon into 3/4-inch thick rounds through the center of the watermelon. Take each watermelon round and slice in it half. Cut away most of the red flesh (use some of it for the watermelon puree you’ll need for this recipe), leaving some of the lighter pink flesh intact on the rind. Peel the dark green skin away from the lighter green portion in as thin of a slice as possible.
  2. Cut the remaining rind into 3/4-inch cubes (if you’ve ever seen or made kkakdugi, cubed Korean mu radish kimchi, the cube sizes should approximate the smallest version of that kimchi). It’s okay if all your cubes aren’t exactly the same size or width, as kimchi is somewhat forgiving after it’s marinated in its juices. Reserve the watermelon flesh for snacking, or puree in a food processor or blender and freeze for smoothies or margaritas.
  3. Place the cubed watermelon rind in a large mixing bowl. Add one tablespoon of coarse flaky sea salt, toss with (optionally, gloved) hands or mix well with a spoon, and set aside.
  4. In a separate small mixing bowl, combine the watermelon puree, chopped scallions, shredded carrot, minced ginger, garlic, sugar, gochugaru, optional herbs, and optional minced saeu-jeot.
  5. Rinse your cubed watermelon in a colander and return it to the large mixing bowl. Add the chile mixture and toss with a gloved hand, massaging the spices gently into the watermelon rinds.
  6. Store your watermelon rind kimchi in a large glass jar with a screw-top lid in the fridge. As the kimchi will release more liquid as it ferments, it’s best to leave an inch of space at the top when filling the jar. Depending on your taste preferences, you can eat it fresh, or eat it after it’s fermented in a few days. The kimchi will keep for at least three weeks in your fridge.

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