Easy to make Kimchi at home
I have a lot of love for kimchi – even before I learned about the remarkable health benefits of kimchi and other fermented foods I was a big fan. However when I first set out to make it at home I always struggled to make anything recognisable.
Well this recipe changes that – it is one of my favourites and is so easy to follow. It goes so well with everything from fried rice to dumplings, summer rolls, or even on its own as a guilt-free healthy snack between meals!
For those unfamiliar kimchi is made by lacto-fermentation, which is the same process that is used to make sauerkraut and many pickles.
How Kimchi is Made
In a similar way to making sauerkraut, in Kimchi the cabbage is initially soaked in a salty brine that kills any of the bad bacteria, enabling the Lactobacillus bacteria, a form of probiotic (or good) bacteria – to establish itself and multiply. The Lactobacillus bacteria feeds off the sugars in the cabbage and vegetables, converting these into lactic acid, which helps preserve the vegetables and gives the kimchi its special unique taste.
There are many different variations of recipes for Kimchi – from purists, traditionalists – for vegetarians – we welcome them all as it gives us more choice and recipes to experiment with – whatever tastes good for you!
Our only pieces of advice are 1) to experiment –don’t be afraid to fail – as this is how we learn and 2) Rely on your taste buds and sense of smell. If its tastes a bit bitter you may have overdone the garlic and if its too sticky – you may have over used the ginger.
Easy Kimchi Recipe with Cabbage
- 1 medium head – 1 kg (2 pounds) napa cabbage
- 3-4 tablespoons (¼ Cup) of sea salt, rock salt or kosher salt (see below)
- Water (distilled or spring water)
- 5 to 6 cloves of garlic, grated
- 1 teaspoon of grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 2 to 3 tablepoons of seafood flavouring (optional) or water
- 1 to 5 tablespoons Gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
- 250 grams (8-9 ounces) of Korean radish, cut and peeled to form matchsticks
- 4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 3 cm/ 1-inch pieces
1. Cut the cabbage into thin strips: Cut the cabbage lengthwise into 4 quarters before removing the core. Then slice horizontally across each quarter to cut the cabbage into 2-inch (6cm) wide strips.
2. Add salt to the cabbage: Add salt to the cabbage in a large mixing bowl. First clean your hands thoroughly and then massage the salt into the cabbage until you can feel it soften. Now add the water and cover the cabbage, put a plate on top and place a weight on top, like a glass jar or ceramic cup of bowl. Now leave it to stand for an hour or 2
3. Wash the cabbage: Now wash the cabbage in cold water 3 times, and then leave it to drain in a colander for 20 minutes.
4. Make the paste: Mix the garlic, ginger, sugar, and seafood flavor (or 2-3 tablespoons water) in a small bowl until it forms a smooth paste. Mix in the gochugaru, – use between 1- 5 tablespoons depending on your appetite for spice. I normally use 3-4 table spoons.
5. Add the vegetables and paste together: Make sure the mixing bowl used in step 1 has been washed. Then carefully squeeze out any remaining water from the cabbage and place it in the mixing bowl – adding in the radish, scallions, and seasoning paste.
6. Mix the paste into the vegetables: Using your hands, gently massage the seasoning paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly covered.
7. Pack the kimchi into the mason jar: Apply pressure to the kimchi until the brine rises to cover the vegetables, leaving an inch (3cm) or so of brine.
8. Now leave the Kimchi to ferment: Leave the jar to stand at room temperature (20-24 degrees C, 68-75 F) for between 2 to 6 days depending your preference – the longer you leave it the stronger the taste. If the jar is quite full I suggest you put a plate or bowl under the jar to catch any brine that may escape.
9. Keep an eye on it and refrigerate when ready: Check on the kimchi every day, and – with a clean hand pressing down on the vegetables to release any gasses produced during fermentation and to ensure the vegetables stay submerged under the brine. After a day or so start to taste the kimchi – and when it tastes ripe enough for your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. You may eat it right away, but it’s even better after another week or two.
Words of Advice
- Salt: Many commercial salts containing iodine and anti-caking agents can affect the fermentation. If you are unsure – look for natural salts such as sea salt and rock salt
- Water: A lot of tap water and bottles water is chlorinated and contains fluoride which can also affect fermentation. We suggest using spring water, distilled water, or failing which filtered water* for best results
- Seafood / vegetarian flavouring:
The distinct seafood flavour is produced using fish sauce, salted shrimp paste, oysters, and other seafood depending on the region. For this recipe we recommend 1- 2 tablespoons of fish sauce and or salted shrimp paste – depending on your taste. If you prefer a vegetarian kimchi you can simply replace this with 2-3 tablespoons of water.