August 24, 2011


 I love kimchi.

The first time a tried it, I didn't like it, but while we were living in Korea, it grew on me, and now it is one of my favorite things to eat. It's just really refreshing. And it has a lot of health benefits too. If you've never tried it, or have tried it and didn't like it, don't give up on it. You may just become a kimchi addict some day. And if you make it yourself, you can keep adjusting the recipe until you get it just right. Of course, there are a lot of other great foods out there, so I'll stop trying to pressure you into eating kimchi. I just had to put a plug in for it since I've got an entire post here about how to make it. :) 

I was so happy when my friend at church, who is Korean, asked me if I wanted her to teach me how to make kimchi. I told her that I most definitely did, so she brought all the ingredients over one morning and we made a big batch of kimchi, which hub and I ate within a week. I guess we'd been kimchi deprived for too long.  It's hard to find good store-bought kimchi around here. It was actually not that hard to make. I made another batch the next week and took step-by-step photos. So, just in case anybody else out there happens to want to make some kimchi, here's how to do it.

*Keep in mind, this is not an exact recipe. I can't tell you the exact amounts of everything... it's just all to taste. And everybody's kimchi tastes a little different and may have some different ingredients.

 The ingredients:

1 Napa Cabbage
1 Asian Radish (optional)
About 2 T. grated Ginger
A few cloves of Garlic
Hot Pepper Flakes
Kosher Salt
Sweet Rice Flour
Fish Sauce (or Soy Sauce)
not pictured:
Onion (white, green or both)
You can also add carrots, leeks or other veggies if you want.

You will also need one very large bowl, one medium bowl, a small saucepan, a cutting board, a knife, something to grate ginger with, and an airtight container that you don't mind not be able to use for anything other than kimchi ever again.

 This is what the hot pepper flakes look like. You probably won't find them in your regular grocery store. If you live in or near a bigger city, try to find an Asian grocery store, or even better, a Korean store. You will probably find the pepper flakes there. I haven't had to buy any yet because my friend gave me enough to make a few batches of Kimchi, but she told me that after you buy it, keep it in the freezer or it will go bad soon.

 After you have washed and chopped your cabbage, sprinkle salt all over it. Mix it up with your hands to make sure that all the cabbage leaves have salt on them. Don't worry about using too much salt... you are going to be rinsing it off later. Let it sit in the salt for about 1 - 2 hours, until you can bend a thick cabbage leaf in half without it breaking. I've also read that before you do this step you can soak the chopped cabbage in cold water for awhile and it will help speed up this process. Just be sure to drain it before you add the salt.

 Chop your radish however you want to, just keep in mind that the thinner the pieces, the quicker they'll be ready to work with. Thin strips would wilt faster than these half circles. Now add some salt and sugar to your radish. You won't be rinsing them off, so you want to be a little more careful with how much you use in this step. You want to create a flavor that's salty and sweet, but not too salty or too sweet. You are going to use the salty/sweet water that is drawn out of the radish in your spicy sauce. Let the radish sit for about as long as the cabbage, until the radish is flexible and you have some water at the bottom of the bowl.

 Now make your sauce.
Put 1 1/2 cups water into a saucepan and whisk in 1/4 cup Sweet Rice Flour. Cook until thickened to pudding consistency. If you want a little more sweetness, you can also add some sugar or honey to it. Then just let it sit and cool, whisking occasionally to keep a film from forming on top.

 While your sauce cools, and your cabbage and radish wilt, grate your ginger (my friend has this handy little Japanese ginger grater, that made it so easy... I want one), mince your garlic, and chop your onion (and other veggies if you are using them).

 Once the cabbage is nice and flexible, rinse the salt off. Taste it to see it if tastes too salty to you or not.

 See the nice sweet and salty water at the bottom of the bowl?
 Once your radish is bendable, and your rice flour sauce is cool, add this sweet/salty water to the rice flour sauce. Again, it doesn't really matter how much. Just hold the radishes back, and dump the water in.

 Also mix the ginger, garlic, and onion (and other veggies), and fish sauce or soy sauce into the sauce. For the fish sauce or soy sauce, you really don't need very much. Maybe a couple tablespoons, but you can adjust it to taste. I don't like a fishy flavor, so I don't add much fish sauce. If you're really sensitive to fishy flavors or want to make it vegan, use soy sauce.

 Now for those hot pepper flakes.
 You want to add enough to make the sauce a nice rich red color. But, the more you add, the more spicy it will be, so of course this step is not exact. Just add a tablespoonful at a time until it is nice and red, and then add more if you want it really, really spicy.

Now for the final step. 
Mix the cabbage and radish together and then dump the sauce over it. Mix it with your hands until the cabbage and radish are all well coated with sauce. My friend told me that it is a good idea to wear gloves to do this mixing because your hands might burn later if you don't. I haven't used gloves because I don't have any, and so far I haven't had a problem with burning hands. Maybe because I don't make mine super spicy.

Put the Kimchi into an airtight container and leave it out for several hours or up to a few days to get the fermentation process going, then store it in the fridge. If you'd rather have it fresh (I like it both ways), just put it in the fridge immediately. Either way, as long as you keep it in an airtight container, it should last for weeks in the fridge. Oh, and just so you know, whatever container you use will forever be your kimchi container because it will forever smell like kimchi... forever. I use a large Ziploc plastic container and haven't had any problems with my entire fridge smelling like kimchi, which is also a good thing to try to avoid.

Happy kimchi eating!

1 comment:

  1. Your pictures make it look so good, but I'm still scared of kimchi! I need to get brave and at least taste it. Who knows?

    I was scared of sushi for awhile then forced myself to try it. Don't like it but at least I overcame my fear!