Two sealable jars. Napa cabbage, cut/rip into large bits, soak in a light brine solution for up to 24 hrs. Cut one bunch green onions. Puree half of a small onion. Puree ~1 tsp of ginger. In a large bowl, add and mix following: red pepper powder (gochujaru), sugar, salt. To bowl, add green onions, onion paste, ginger paste; mix until coated. Drain cabbage. Cut medallions of daikon radish, then cut those into halves. Mix everything together. Use a little water to pick up the remaining spices and add that water to the cabbage mix. You should slightly taste salt. Jar it, seal it, leave on the counter for up to 48 hours on top of a plate to catch any spillage from bubbling.Fridge it.
Kimchi is a surprisingly diverse dish for the ubiquitous nature it plays in Korean cooking. You can make different forms from cabbage, turnips, cucumbers, and probably lots of other things, and “the official recipe” varies from person to person. Within cabbage recipes, variations include adding radishes, fish sauce, seaweed, ginger, onion, and lots of other things to increase the pungency of the dish. Also, you can easily adjust the spice level depending on the audience (for my mom and I, we eat it super spicy, whereas most other places tend to back off). At the end of the day, tastes come down to “whatever mom did” or “my first kimchi experience”, more or less. And that’s ok.
Typically, you would see kimchi as part of the spread of small plates served as part of a Korean meal, “panchang”, but you may not know that it also can be a key component in classic Korean dishes like fried rice, “bibimbap” (basically rice with stuff in it), “chigae” (stew with stuff in it), and, to be honest, everything else. However, as I’ve realized with my culinary fusion addiction, kimchi is incredibly useful whenever you need to add sour/spicy flavor to pretty much anything. Food trucks have got this concept on lock, with things like kimchi burgers and kimchi tacos. I also wouldn’t be shocked if you could use kimchi as a one-for-one replacement with anything that calls for sauerkraut, as Ed claims they are the same (they are).
So here is my work-in-progress recipe for kimchi, as relayed over the phone by my mom basically while I was at the store buying things and right before I got my hands soaked in brilliant red juice.
- Large pot (to hold the cabbage while brining)
- 2+ screwtop glass quart jars (depends on the size of the cabbage, I got a large one and needed 2 + a little extra)
- 1 Napa cabbage
- 1 bunch green onions
- 1/2 small onion
- Fresh ginger root (only a small amount required)
- 1/2 C Korean red pepper powder (others may substitute, but it needs to be very fine)
- 3-5 tbsp white sugar
- 1 bulb garlic
- 1 Daikon radish
The night before…
- Rinse the cabbage.
- Fill large pot halfway with water. Dissolve in a low amount of salt (~3-5 tbsp), until you can lightly taste the salt.
- Cut cabbage into large chunks (~2-5 cm). You can choose to discard or keep the root (I discarded it cause I hate eating it)
- Add cut cabbage to salt solution. Make sure that the liquid fully covers the cabbage, then cover the pot and let rest for 4-24 hours.
The day of
- Drain the cabbage. If you let it rest for closer to 24 hours, you should begin to smell some of the fermentation products.
- Set aside two medium/large bowls.
- In the first bowl, mix together red pepper powder, sugar, and salt. The more sugar you add, the faster the fermentation will occur, but you risk producing alcohol/making the kimchi sweet. Set aside.
- Cut green onions into 1 cm sections, discarding the roots and any wilted bits. Add to second bowl.
- Puree onion (or get as close as you can). Add to second bowl.
- Peel and puree ginger. Add to second bowl.
- Mince garlic. Add to second bowl.
- Mix everything together in second bowl until relatively homogeneous.
- Combine the two bowls, mixing until everything is coated with the powder mixture.
- Cut approximately 1/2 cup of daikon radish medallions. I recommend cutting these further at least in half, if not in quarters.\
- Now comes the dirty part. If you have long rubber gloves, consider putting them on. Otherwise, DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES UNTIL YOU WASH THEM FOR THE LOVE OF anyway.
- Mix everything together in the large pot.
- Add some water (~1/2 C) to the bowls to pick up any remaining items, then add that to the pot.
- Put your elbows into it! Make sure everything is covered with the mixture.
- Jar those suckers! Pack ’em in tight. Add any remaining liquid until the jars only have ~2 cm remaining space at the top. Then close them up!
- Put everything on a plate to catch any bubbling or general leakage.
- Leave it for 48 hours. Don’t open it.
- Fridge it.
The kimchi will of course develop over time, and it may not be everything you dreamed directly after 48 hours. At that point, it’s still in the “fresh kimchi” state. The longer you keep it, the more flavorful it will get. However, if you feel it is lacking salt or you want to add umami compounds like seaweed or fish sauce, you can do this at this point. I recommend draining the liquid into a separate container, dissolving $COMPOUND into said liquid, then re-adding the liquid to the kimchi. Then let it sit for some more time.