A few years back a good friend of mine, Eric, introduced me to a popular Korean side dish known as kimchi. We were tasting every different type we could find locally, identifying what we liked best about each one. Since I was new to this dish I started off with a ridiculous amount of research into the various types of kimchi, the basic and exotic ingredients, and the fermentation process. After many failed attempts to make kimchi, I finally made one that was on the right track (an adjusted version of Maangchi’s Easy Kimchi recipe).
Since I like my kimchi on the fresh side, I added more carrots (for sweetness) and a few of the other vegetables to round it out. Finally, the result was spot on – a fresh vegetable kimchi that ages well. I’ve only made it using this method ever since!
This kimchi takes about two hours to make, and it keeps very well packed in air-tight jars and refrigerated. Best of all, it is a very nutritious, low calorie, flavorful side dish or snack.
The Best Kimchi
Ingredients (makes about 3 to 4 liters/quarts of kimchi)
- 5 pounds Napa cabbage
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup carrot cut in matchsticks
- 1 cup daikon radish cut in matchsticks
- 1/2 cup green onion sliced
- 1 cup leek sliced
- 1.5 cups water
- 1/4 cup sweet rice flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/3 cup garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger sliced
- 1/2 cup onion
- 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1 cup Korean red pepper flakes spicy
- Slice the cabbage in half and remove the bottom core and any damaged leaves. Chop the cabbage into bite-sized pieces, about 1 1/2-inches. Submerge in a large bowl of cold water to rinse. Drain the water and very gently squeeze the cabbage to help remove more of the remaining liquid.
- Next, the salt needs to be applied to the cabbage. To do this, take a large empty bowl and place a single layer of cabbage at the bottom. Sprinkle some salt on that layer, and repeat layers of cabbage and salt until all cabbage and salt have been used. The goal is to coat all of the cabbage with all of the salt. When finished, let sit for 90 minutes, stirring the mixture very gently with your hands every 30 minutes.
- In a medium saucepan, stir together water and sweet rice flour. Once combined, put on the range over medium heat. Continue stirring until the mixture starts to boil. Once it begins to bubble, add sugar and continue stirring for a few minutes until it becomes slightly translucent. Remove from heat, set aside, and allow to cool (it can be slightly warm when you use it, but not hot).
- In a blender, add garlic, ginger, onion, and soy sauce. Blend until well mixed, about 1-2 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, add the mixture from the blender to the rice flour sauce and stir. Add the Korean red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Gently stir the carrots, green onion, daikon radish, and leeks into the paste and set aside.
- When the cabbage has finished sitting for 90 minutes, add cold water to the cabbage bowl and move just the cabbage (and not the salty liquid) to a new bowl. Perform this rinse a total of 3 times and after the third time, taste a piece of the cabbage. It should be pleasantly salty. If it is still too salty, and you will know if it is, repeat the rinsing procedure until it is palatable. Drain the final rinsing liquid from the cabbage.
- Add the cabbage to the hot pepper vegetable paste and gently mix with cooking grade gloves until the paste is well distributed with the cabbage. If you do not have cooking grade gloves, use a long spoon and mix very gently.
- In your jars of choice (old pickle, salsa, or mason jars work great) slowly scoop the fresh kimchi mixture into the jars, pressing down after each scoop to make sure no large air pockets exist beneath the kimchi. Leave about 1/2-inch of space at the top of each bottle. Repeat this until all of the kimchi is jarred. Seal the jar, rinse (if you make a mess like I always do), and dry the jars, then store them in the refrigerator.
- Depending on how you enjoy your kimchi, fermentation will begin to be apparent after a day or two – just open up a jar in the fridge and check for a slightly sour smell or fizzy bubbles.