Kimchi is probably the most famous Korean food. To make kimchi at home, I used Maangchi’s recipe for traditional napa cabbage kimchi. What makes the recipe ‘traditional’ is to leave the cabbage leaves whole rather than chopping them. The only ingredient I could not find is saeujeot, Korean fermented salted shrimp in a salty brine. According to other online sources that ingredient can be omitted, and so I did. I made this batch of kimchi with my friend Melvin, who is great at Asian cooking.
For 1 napa cabbage of about 800 grams (1.8 lbs)
1 napa cabbage
salt as needed
150 ml (2/3 cup) water
2/3 Tbsp sticky rice flour
2/3 Tbsp sugar
1/3 cup carrot julienne
2/3 cup daikon julienne
3 scallions, sliced
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1 small onion (70 grams), minced
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1/3 cup Korean hot pepper flakes (Korean style means without seeds)
Make a slit of about 5 cm (2 inches) in the bottom of the cabbage.
Split the cabbage using your hands.
Make a slit in each half, and split them again.
Dip each quarter cabbage in cold water to rinse, shaking off excess water.
Now it is time to salt the cabbages.
Put salt in on all of the leaves on both sides, lifting up the leaves as needed.
As soon as they are salted, place the cabbage quarters in a container.
Close the container and allow the cabbage to rest for 2 hours, turning every 30 minutes for even salting.
In the meantime, prepare the porridge. Put the water in a saucepan together with the sticky rice flour…
…whisk to mix, and bring to a boil.
Add the sugar as soon as it boils, and allow to boil for another minute. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.
Prepare all the other ingredients.
Combine the fish sauce, garlic, chilli flakes, onions, and ginger with the rice porridge in a bowl.
Stir to mix.
Add the daikon, carrot, and scallions.
Stir to mix.
After resting for two hours, the cabbage will have released quite some water from the salting.
Rinse the cabbage under cold running water to remove any excess salt.
Dry the cabbage.
Now apply the mixture to both sides of all leaves, lifting up the leaves as needed. Use gloves to protect your hands.
Make sure the mixture is everywhere on the cabbage. Then fold each quarter in half…
…and arrange it into a container in which the cabbage fits snugly.
Cover and allow to ferment at room temperature until it smells sour. As it was winter time, that took about a week. In summer it would probably only take a couple of days. Move the kimchi to the refrigerator and allow the fermentation to continue slowly for at least a couple of weeks.
When it is time to use the kimchi, take a quarter cabbage out of the container. Cut off the stem and discard. Chop the kimchi and it is ready to use.
Transfer any remaining kimchi into a container in which it again fits snugly, so that the kimchi remains (barely) submerged in its own brine. It will keep for a long time in the refrigerator, where it will continue to ferment slowly.