According to Britannica.com, there are at least 10 kimchi varieties. (OK, if you REALLY want to go deep, there are hundreds of kimchi variety, from spicy to not spicy, from dry to wet). The most popular kimchi sold in the US is Napa Cabbage kimchi, which is also the kimchi we’re making here. If you live in a major metropolitan city like San Francisco or Southern California, you might have also had cubed radish kimchi as well.
I can’t say I sought out kimchi as a side dish growing up, but as I mature as an adult, my appreciation for kimchi grew. It doesn’t help that my partner LOVES kimchi. In fact, he eats kimchi as a snack!! So, we would frequent Korean grocery stores and buy kimchi in bulk.
As soon as I learned that kimchi is probiotic and is great for your GI tract*, I started looking into it more. Now, just because you order a side of kimchi at the Korean restaurant, it doesn’t mean that it is fermented. Depending on their restaurant, there are unfermented ones called beach Geotjeori. If you are interested, feel free to Google that recipe. From what I gathered, it only takes 15 minutes to make one. However, the flavor profile is a lot simpler than the fermented ones.
This recipe is an adaptation from Bon Appetite Brad Leone’s kimchi recipe. There are several things you need to know about making Kimchi – use good ingredients, it’s messy, it takes time, and the variables involved in making kimchi will change its flavor profile. I’m not going to go into different flavor profiles, but I just want to share with you my recipe. The more you make, the more you can adjust the ingredients and the amount to your liking.
Ingredients (I’m cooking for 2 people):
1 Medium size Napa cabbage (around 2.7lb)
Kosher salt (10 grams per lb)
5 sprigs of green onion
1 small onion
11 cloves of garlic
2.5-inch piece of ginger
¾ to 1 cup of Korean chili powder (Gochugaru)
1 tbs of shrimp paste
1.5-2 tbs of Fish sauce
1 cup of water
1 tbs of sugar
Under 1 tbs of sweet rice flour
2 sticks of carrots
Prepare the cabbage
1. Cut the cabbage into quarters (do not cut the stems yet)
2. Massage the salt into the cabbage; make sure to get into the leaves
3. Leave it alone for at least 30 minutes.
4. The salt will help release the moisture in the cabbage
Prepare for the seasoning
- Chop garlic and ginger in a food processor until they are finely chopped
- Add Godugang and shrimp paste into the garlic/ginger mix. Pulse it several times until everything is incorporated
- In a small pan or pot, boil 1 cup of water. Once it begins to boil, add rice flour and stir vigorously so the flour doesn’t clump up. Then stir in the sugar
- Pour the flour-sugar mixture into the garlic/ginger/godugong mix. Pulse it several times until fully incorporated.
- Add fish sauce; pulse it again several times. Now your kimchi mix is ready!
Prepare the vegetables
- By now, your cabbage should be ready. Squeeze out excess water. Set aside the liquid, as we’ll use it later.
- Cut up the cabbage into 3-4 inch pieces, or as large as you usually like your kimchi. Discard the stems. Add the cut-up cabbage into a large mixing bowl.
- Cut up carrots into small cubes and add them into the same mixing bowl
- Cut up green onion into 3-inch slices and add them into the mixing bowl
- Mix all the vegetables up
Prepare the kimchi
Pour half of the seasoning into the mixing bowl with the vegetables and massage the sauce in, making sure each piece is coated. Then add the rest and toss the vegetables like you’re making a salad.
Use your hand to stuff the kimchi into a sterilized mason jar. You do want to stuff the kimchi down as much as possible. In the end, you want your vegetables to be completely submerged in liquid. If it’s not completely covered in liquid, this is when you can bring in the cabbage brine, add one tablespoon of that and add some filtered water until it’s fully covered.
I prefer using a fermentation lid when I make kimchi because it lets the air that occurs during the fermentation process to get out without letting air in. And depending on the temperature at your home, it may take several days, and in my case, I usually need to ferment it for 1.5 weeks before it’s ready. You may also want to check on your kimchi every 2 days or so. The gas formed during the fermentation process tends to push the liquid out and make a mess. So check on it and dump out the liquid that sits on top of your lid if that’s the case and wipes the top clean. You don’t need to open the lid or change it.
*I’m clearly not a doctor and can not provide any information about the strings of probiotic kimchi presents. I can personally attest to how kimchi can have an immediate effect on my irregularities (ok, TMI 😉