Trade Secrets: Ramp it Up

Flipping the script on a Korean staple.

When Seely Wetherell’s mother immigrated to the United States from South Korea in 1971, she brought along a traditional kimchi recipe that she passed on to her son. “I’ve done my family recipe most of my life,” says Wetherell, who is now a personal chef in addition to working with McHale’s Catering in Ft. Mitchell. But he’s begun to put his own spin on the dish.

Photograph by Natasha Breen/

South Korea has a much shorter vegetable growing season than the United States, so residents ferment a variety of veggies kimchi-style as a way of preservation. Wetherell has embraced that idea, making kimchi with everything from traditional green cabbage to mustard greens. But the real star is his ramp version. After salting the ramps—elusive culinary cousin to both wild onions and garlic scapes—Wetherell soaks them in a mixture that includes minced shrimp, pureed Asian pear, fish sauce, and gochugaru, Korean red pepper flakes. Then he lets the fermenting commence. Ramps have a thinner membrane than Napa cabbage, so they only take about a week to reach peak fermentation.  “[Kimchi] is an up and coming thing,” says Wetherell. “It’s neat to watch.”

Here’s the full recipe:

Ramp Kimchi

Makes about eight servings

2 lbs ramps, cleaned and trimmed,
1 cup julienned carrot
3/4 cupjulienned daikon radish
12 green onions, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/3 cups grated ginger
1/3 cup minced garlic
1/8 cup brined shrimp minced
1/4 cup high quality fish sauce
1 Asian pear, pureed
1 cup gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
1 cup sea salt
1 cup water
1 T rice flour
1 1/2 T sugar

1.Coat all sides of the ramps with the sea salt, paying special attention to the greenpart of the ramps. Drain for one hour. Then, rinse all salt off ramps and dry.

2.Make a base by whisking water with rice flour and sugar under low-medium heat until combined. Set aside to cool.

3.Mix gochugaru with base, garlic, ginger, Asian pear, green onion, carrot, radish, brined shrimp, and the fish sauce. Mix until a nice paste forms.

4.Coat the ramps with the paste, making sure to coat all parts of the ramps. Combine all in a large, covered, BPA-free container to bloom and ferment for one week under refrigeration. After one week, pack ramp kimchi in sterile glass containers.

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