I just swung by a large Korean market on a trip to Oakland, CA to pick up some Korean red pepper as is commonly used in kimchi. I had started out my kimchi adventures using diced dried red peppers and switched to cayenne, but I’ve been itching to try with the traditional form of the spice so I made a run. I had a fun conversation about kimchi in the red pepper aisle (there is a LOT of red pepper in Korean markets) with a Korean shopper who helped me navigate the choices: some hotter, some sweeter, some with salt mixed in already. She told me she was a bit frustrated that her husband wants to just eat western food now that they are in America (I love conversations with random people sometimes). Her cart had about 5 heads of napa cabbage in it when we met so she obviously hasn’t given up the fight. I also learned that it can be rather difficult to buy prepared kimchi without MSG in a Korean market although I did find one after reading many labels.
Once home, I made my own batch trying to keep to something more traditionally Korean. Normally I add a paste which includes onion, but to this one, I stuck with the basics. I also did not include fish sauce or shrimp paste which is commonly used since I prefer to not eat animals in my diet. After only 5 days in the fermentation vessel, I gave it a try and whoa this is good stuff! I love when it tastes like it has a little buzz too it, like it’s been electrified. Made me shimmy. I’ll let it go another 3-4 more days probably just to see if perfection can be improved upon!
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Fermentation time: 1 week+
Yield: 6 cups
4T salt dissolved in 4 cups water
1 head napa cabbage (approx. 2 lbs)
1 medium daikon radish (approx 3/4 lb)
2 cloves garlic – peeled and finely diced
4T dried Korean red pepper flakes
2T diced fresh ginger
- Remove the outer layers of the cabbage to remove potential contaminants, or wash well
- Slice the cabbage into ribbons about 3/8″ wide
- Cut the daikon into matchsticks or ribbons (I usually cut to 1/16″ x 3/8″ x 2″)
- Dissolve the salt into the water to make a brine
- Place the cabbage and daikon in a large vessel (jar or bowl) and pour in the brine.
- Compress the cabbage and daikon until the liquid covers the vegetabes completely. It shouldn’t take too long for the salty brine to leach additional liquid from the vegetables to bring the liquid level higher.
- Let it sit in the brine for a 2-4 hours
- Pour the vegetables into a colander to drain
- Finely dice the garlic and ginger
- In a large bowl, mix the garlic, ginger and Korean red pepper with the drained vegetables
- If you want to include 1T shrimp paste or 1/4 cup fish sauce, now would be the time
- Place everything a wide-mouth glass jar or other fermenting vessel. Put some pressure on it with your fist to encourage compaction and to get the liquid level to rise higher.
- Place a weight of some sort on the veggies to keep pressure on them and to encourage the liquid level to rise above the veggies. I’ve started using a clear plastic produce bag with about 1 quart of water in it as a weight. It’s important when sealing it to leave some looseness in the bag rather than filling it tightly with air. The looseness will allow the bag to settle and conform to the shape of the fermenting vessel, thus making a perfect seal which keeps air out but allows gasses to escape. I’ve also used 1/2 gallon bottles filled with water as a weight too.
- Cover with a towel
- Let it sit for 7-14 days tasting regularly as you go to get a feel for how the flavor changes
- Refrigerate when you like it in order to significantly slow the fermentation
On the kimchi front, I noticed that the market had kimchi stuffed dumplings (or what some might call potstickers). Just another option for eating that delectable fermentation. Too much cooking heat of course would kill off the probiotic benefit one gets, but I’m sure it would be tasty none the less. I often toss my kimchi with cooked rice or put it in some soup broth when the broth has cooled a bit.
A subscriber recently wrote to me asking about making kimchi brussel sprouts. I haven’t tried that yet, but you can be sure I’ll give that a shot shortly as brussel sprouts are beginning to abound. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. (update: I did make kimchi brussel sprouts. Delicious!) You can find the recipe here: