Kimchi

Easy Kimchi

While most people picture a vermilion hue and fiery heat when the word “kimchi” is thrown out, did you know that kimchi used to be “white” before chili peppers were introduced to Asia from the New World by the Portuguese in the 1600th century?

Making kimchi was historically a way for people to preserve vegetables for the long harsh Korean winter, before the advent of modern refrigeration. With the introduction of chili peppers, it didn’t take long before people figured out that the capsaicin in peppers had an antimicrobial effect aiding in preservation, while adding a little spice to the bleak winter days.

In many ways, kimchi’s development parallels the development of similar preservation methods in other regions of the world. But while pickling has fallen out of favor in the West, Koreans have elevated the process to an artform, and in doing so, kimchi has become a part of Korea’s national identity.

Baechu Kimchi Recipe

With hundreds of regional and seasonal variations, it’s a requisite part of any meal. Even fast-food chains such as Lotteria (the #1 chain in South Korea) get in on the act, with menu items like the kimchi burger. During the great kimchi crisis of 2010, when bad weather created a shortage of cabbage, restaurants did the unthinkable and started charging people for kimchi, leading the media to describe the situation as “a national tragedy”.

These days, most young city-dwellers buy packaged kimchi, but for the older generations and those in rural areas, the baechu (napa cabbgage) harvest in late fall/early winter signals an annual ritual where extended family and neighbors gather to make giant bins full of kimchi. Although napa cabbage can be grown year-round, it’s the gigantic heads of cabbage with thick white stems made sweet with the chill of fall, that make the best kimchi.

Baechu kimchi is traditionally made by stuffing a spicy mixture of shredded veggies and herbs between the leaves of a whole head of cabbage. Some might call it sacrilege, but to save time (and because I really don’t need 10 pounds of kimchi), I usually buy a half head of napa cabbage and cut it up into pieces. After soaking the cut cabbage in brine overnight, and tossing it together with the other ingredients, it’s ready to eat almost instantly.

Personally, I love kimchi at all stages. On day one, it starts out like a salad, with fresh crispy cabbage and much of the heat coming from the raw garlic and ginger. As the kimchi matures, the flavors meld together, the harsh spiciness of the garlic gives way to the lingering sweet heat of the gochugaru. By the time the kimchi has reached the tail end of it’s ripening, the lacto-fermentation process renders the kimchi mouth puckeringly tart, the perfect stage for making Kimchi Jjigae.

Fermented Kimchi

While the best way to store kimchi is in glass jars (be sure not to seal the lids), I find that double bagging them in Ziploc freezer bags tends to keep the kimchi smell somewhat contained, and it makes it easy to store in a small fridge. That said, kimchi has the uncanny ability to seep through even the most airtight of containers and imbue everything around it with the fragrant aroma of fermenting garlic and cabbage, that’s why I like to keep it outside in an ice chest (it’s below 0 C everyday during winter here).

Equipment you'll need:

Kimchi
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Votes: 5
Rating: 4.6
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Rate this recipe!
Piquant and pungent, this easy-to-make kimchi is delicious when fresh, with a flavor that develops as it matures.
Kimchi
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Votes: 5
Rating: 4.6
You:
Rate this recipe!
Piquant and pungent, this easy-to-make kimchi is delicious when fresh, with a flavor that develops as it matures.
Ingredients
  • 1500 grams napa cabbage (~ half a large head)
  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • 50 grams onions (~1/4 large onion)
  • 30 grams garlic (~half a head))
  • 15 grams ginger - fresh (~ 1.25 centimeters), cut into coins
  • 65 grams sweet apple (~1/2 apple)
  • 3 tablespoons Saeujeot salted brine shrimp
  • 3 tablespoons rice - cooked short grain
  • 1 tablespoon myeolchijeot fermented anchovies or fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar - granulated (optional)
  • 150 grams Korean radish (~1/4 radish) shredded
  • 150 grams carrot (~1 large carrot) shredded
  • 4 scallions thinly sliced
  • 35 grams garlic chives - flat cut into 2 inch lengths
  • 1/2 cup gochugaru Korean chili flakes
Units:
Instructions
  1. Remove the core from the cabbage and cut it into 3"x3" pieces. In a very large bowl or clean bucket, add the napa cabbage and toss with the salt.
  2. Cover the cabbage with cold water. Put this in a room temperature place for 24 hours. This removes some of the excess water from the cabbage making it crunchier and it also begins the fermentation process.
  3. The next day, put the onion, garlic, ginger, apple, saeujeot, cooked rice, myeolchijeot, and sugar in a blender or food processor and process until you have a smooth paste.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, add the radish, carrots, scallions, garlic chives and gochugaru along with the mixture from the blender. Put on some food-safe gloves and squish the mixture together with one hand. Taste the mixture and add more gochugaru if you want it spicier.
  5. Drain the cabbage then return it to the bowl along with the seasoned vegetables. Toss the mixture together with your hands until everything is very well combined.
  6. Your kimchi is edible right away, but it's best to let it ferment in a cool place for at least a week.

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  • Guest

    I love kimchee with a steaming bowl of rice. I had been making a variation of Jeff Smith’s recipe from his book, “The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors” which is quite good and will have to give your recipe a try. Nowadays, since I have a Super H Mart nearby, I get my kimchee there as they have a great and inexpensive variety (including the cubed daikon version) available.

  • jadegreen_eyz

    I love kimchi with a steaming bowl of rice. I had been making a
    variation of Jeff Smith’s recipe from his book, “The Frugal Gourmet on
    Our Immigrant Ancestors” which is quite good and will have to give your
    recipe a try. Nowadays, since I have a Super H Mart nearby, I get my
    kimchi there as they have a great and inexpensive variety (including
    the cubed daikon version) available.

  • isa

    considering your advice of not closing the lid to a glass container, what will happen if we seal the double ziploc bag setup?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      It’s going to be the most active the first few days so you might want to leave it open just a hair, I find that with the ziplock setup, you can easily see when gas is accumulating, so if you check it about once a day you should be okay.

  • haemin

    it’s not sacrilege to cut up the cabbage :) it’s called maht kimchi when you prepare it that way, instead of stuffing each head of cabbage and all that jazz. although, as someone of korean heritage, i really ought to try to make kimchi on my own. maybe i’ll start with your recipe, then one day do a big batch!

    • Rua

      I agree with her.
      However, what you have here is in fact not the mainstream “Kimchi” as Koreans think it as a default. It shares the style of the cut with Maht Kimchi, but this rather needs to be called “Gut-jeol-ee,” solely because you missed out the process of “PICKLING” the cabbage with SALTED water. The reason why kimchi gets fermented is all due to the pickling of cabbage. It is the key process, and I know that seafoods or even ground egg shells can be added in order for enhancement of the fermentation.

      I noticed other Korean dishes you have in your blog a slight divergence from the mainstream recipe of it, Marc. For example, that of YangNyum Chicken. What you have there is actually more or less Ganjang Chicken, without bread. I am glad you have the enthusiasm of spreading good food, and thank you for the preaching of the Korean food and the knowledge behalf of the culture! I just hope the wrong ideas get spread, because your blog seems popular and quite indeed fancy. Please forgive me I have been nosy and offensive. :)

      • Rua

        Okay. it turns out I did not read it carefully. However, the “tossing” is not merely enough, the water needs to be as salty as sea water with coarse salt. I think it deserve more focus on it.

  • Caroline

    I looove kimchi. I make a 2kg batch every 2-3 weeks and always try a new recipe when I find one. Yours is slightly different from the one I usually make and I will definitely give it a try this week because it looks really good. Thanks for posting it!

  • http://twitter.com/SydRealDealFood Feasting in the Know

    Your kimchi looks delectable. I appreciate the convenient use of cooked rice instead of having to cook a stir-intensive glutinous rice flour mixture. I live in Sydney, Australia where kimchi is readily available, and I’m doing my darndest to spread the good word about it and its explosive levels of good bacteria. Pic of kimchi stall from Seoul’s Gwangjang Market, just for fun.

  • Rowaida Flayhan

    Greetings from London I would love to try this dish it looks delicious. Any Korean restaurant here you recommend me to try? Thanks Marc

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Rowaida, I haven’t been to London in about 10 years and don’t think I’ve ever been to a Korean restaurant while there so I’m afraid I can’t be of much help.

  • steve

    Marc,

    Have you tried Trader Joe’s kimchi? I like it. I’m thinking of combining the approach of its Korean partner with yours, leaving out the saeujeot and myeolchijeot and adding powdered shitaki mushrooms as they do, for that umami punch.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Nope, haven’t tried Trader Joe’s, but shiitake mushroom would be a nice vegan alternative to adding fish based sauces.

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  • ej

    it is yummy to eat?

  • taegubus

    If your kimchi is too mild for your taste, try asking the Korean grocer for some “chong-yang kochu”, but be aware, those peppers are brutally hot but oh-so tasty :).

  • Blueprice00

    Hi Marc, do I rinse the cabbage after the salt bath?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Nope, no need to rinse the cabbage. —
      Sent from Mailbox

  • Lorena

    Does it taste good? I have never tried it before .

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Lorena, “taste good” is relative to your tastes and what you like. It has a strong garlic taste and has a fermented taste like sauerkraut so if you like both of those, you’ll probably like this.

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!