Traditional Korean Kimchi
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:
Hi Ted, thanks for the great inspiration. I was wondering if you know why most of the kimchee available has msg and some have preservatives? I live in Hawaii where kimchee is popular, I am now making my own ferments and will try this one . I started using cauldwells starter, but now trying your recipes with brine. Have the brusell sprouts and radishes going now, and your lime pickles. I make lifer and kombucha also. Thanks, meriah
Hi Meriah, nice to hear you are fermenting so many goodies. Glad to be of help. As to MSG, it’s basically a flavor enhancer so manufacturers must think that their customers prefer it. Not this customer! I haven’t heard of pre-packaged kimchi having added preservatives, but it doesn’t surprise me. All I can honestly say is that a naturally fermented kimchi will last for many months (and perhaps years) when refrigerated, and it’s plenty tasty without MSG enhancement. Good luck and let us know if you have anything else you’d like to share that you discover in your fermenting adventures. Thanks.
I finally tried the korean kimchee. I seed a combination of recipes, and made a paste of the red pepper flakes, garlic and ginger. I used broth made from konbuka to make the paste and as part of the liquid, to add some sea flavor (without the animals). And it turned out well. Thanks for your posts and answer. Meriah
Hello Ted, Could you explain to me why the recipes I try printing leaves out so much information. Parts of the ingredient list as well as part of the directions. I really enjoy your website but it can be a pain to have to go back and fill in so many of your details. Thanks for all of the great information. Ruth/cannaholic
Sorry Ruth, just seeing this now.
This is the first I’ve heard of someone having this problem. I’ll look into this. I’ve been researching technologies for the website which will allow for more features with the recipes. I’ll make sure that whatever I implement has a good printing option included. Thanks!
I am just beginning to ferment. I usually can many different vegetables and fruit. Fermentation sounds very interesting and tasty.
Just thought you might be interested in this from my Chinese daughter-in-law and her mum: Mum, Fen Gi, adds a couple WHOLE garlic cloves, and slices, not ground, ginger, as well as a couple whole cinnamon sticks, whole peppercorns, sliced hot peppers (I use jalapeños) and a few entire anise stars in with whatever other veggies you wish. They don’t refrigerate it; a 2 qt kimchi pot always sits on the counter, ready for use. Every morning for breakfast, no matter what else is served, there is always a bowl of stir-fried potatoes (cut into thin strips, about 1-1.2 inches long, 1/8 inch thick, rinsed of starch) with some yummy kimchi added in. I could fill up on this, it’s so delicious! Their juice has been working & added to for several years, passed from Grandma to Mum to daughter – to me!
Love it! I’ll definitely try some of that. Sounds delicious, and I love the ritual of it too!
Just thought you might be interested in this from my Chinese daughter-in-law and her mum: Mum, Fen Gi, adds a couple WHOLE garlic cloves, and slices, not ground, ginger, as well as a couple whole cinnamon sticks, whole peppercorns, sliced hot peppers (I use jalapeños) and a few entire anise stars in with whatever other veggies you wish. They don’t refrigerate it; a 2 qt kimchi pot always sits on the counter, ready for use. Every morning for breakfast, no matter what else is served, there is always a bowl of stir-fried potatoes (cut into thin strips, about 1- 1.5 inches long, 1/8 inch thick, rinsed of starch) with some yummy kimchi added in. I could fill up on this, it’s so delicious! Their juice has been working & added to for several years, passed from Grandma to Mum to daughter – to me!
my bad: I neglected to mention a couple whole pods each of nutmeg and cardamom, and there’s no way to edit (hint, that might be a good addition, Ted )…!
Marina, that sounds amazingly delicious! And Ted, I love this site-so many great recipes. Definitely trying some of them out soon. 😊
I mix chopped salad shrimp with kimchi and roll it in egg roll wrappers and it makes a very tastey egg roll.
It also spices up a lunch bowl of Raman noodles, instead of just the powder packaged spices.
how do u know when fermentation has ceased
I don’t necessarily wait for fermentation to cease, which would mean there is no more “food” in the ingredients for the bacteria to feed on. I simply wait until the taste is as I like it. Kimchi has more zing to it, I find in the earlier days of fermentation (4-7 days). Fermentation can continue longer, but will continue to get more and more sour.
With the Kimchi recipe, you dispose of the liquid after putting it in the strainer? Then when you put it in the vessel, you try and extract new liquid from the cabbage?
Thanks for clarifying.
That is correct. Hope it came out well!
Is there another way to ferment WITHOUT the vessel?
Are you speaking specifically about kimchi? Tell me more of what you are thinking and I’ll do my best to answer.
A vegan twist
to add the oceanic funk…
we added 1/4 cup of minced dulse
(a la Sea Kraut)
instead of the fish sauce.
It’s a hit.
I LOVE that idea! Thanks for sharing. I’ll try with my next batch!