It is likely that you are familiar with sauerkraut. You probably enjoy it on your hot dogs, reuben sandwiches, and your bratwursts. Well, let me introduce you to sauerkrauts hotter older sister, kimchi.
Kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean side dish with a spicy, sour flavor that has won over the hearts of many. It is traditionally fermented in jars underground for months. There are hundreds of varieties, using napa cabbage, radish, scallion, or cucumber as the main ingredient.
The first documentation of kimchi is in East Asia during the 12th century. It was adopted in Korea in the 1590’s and flourished as a staple leading it to become Korea’s national dish. Koreans consume 40 pounds per year per person, and is kimchi is now popping up in trendy restaurants across the U.S.
Kimchi contains healthy bacteria and probiotics for the overall wellness of your body. It produces healthy hair and skin, while slowing the aging process. Kimchi also helps you lose weight by boosting your metabolism.
So, kimchi is sounding pretty dang good right now, right? But…how do you eat kimchi? Well, for breakfast you could enjoy it in your scrambled eggs. For lunch you might enjoy in in your grilled cheese, on your pizza, or on a hotdog. As for dinner, kimchi is also very tasty on hamburgers, in stew, as pork and kimchi dumplings, or in a bowl of kimchi fried rice.
This recipe for kimchi calls for napa cabbage, Korean radish, and scallions (or green onions), well as a seasoning paste made from red pepper flakes, garlic, ginger, sugar, and seafood flavoring. Your seafood flavoring could be fish sauce, salted shrimp, or kelp powder. If you don’t have any of these items you could just use water, but I keep a bottle of fish sauce in the house just for kimchi.
When choosing your vegetables, keep in mind that you only get out of kimchi what you put in. If you choose healthy looking crisp vegetables, you will get a better quality kimchi.
There is a 1-2 hour gap between using the napa cabbage, and using the other vegetables. However, I still cut them all up at the same time, and have them waiting in containers in the fridge until they are needed. This way I only have to break out the cutting board once.
Cut the napa cabbage into quarters, lengthwise.
Cut each quarter of the napa cabbage into chunks. Base the size of the chunks on what you will be using it for. For example, if you are using it in a stew you would need to make them bite sized, but if you are putting it on a hotdog it will need to be cut a little finer.
Break your napa cabbage chunks up into a large glass bowl, and toss with the salt. Massage the salt into the cabbage until it is softened a bit.
Add water to cover the cabbage, and put a plate over it to keep the cabbage submerged. Let it sit for 1-2 hours in the water before draining thoroughly. Dry out the bowl to be used in a later step.
Combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, and seafood flavor of choice in a small bowl, and mix to form a paste.
In a glass bowl, combine the cabbage, Korean radish, scallions, and the seasoning paste. Add in the red pepper flakes; one tablespoon for a milder kimchi, and 5 tablespoons for a really spicy kimchi.
Using your hands, gently work the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated. Even after everything is coated, keep tossing until there are no clumps of a specific vegetable. Try to get it pretty even. You could use a glove if you wanted to keep your hands clean.
Tightly pack the kimchi into a mason jar. Make sure you pour any extra sauce from the bottom of the bowl into the jar. Leave about an inch of space between the kimchi and the lid.
Let the jar stand at room temperature for 1-5 days. You may see bubbles inside the jar and brine may seep out of the lid; place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch any overflow.
Check it daily and refrigerate when ready. Check the kimchi once a day, pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon to keep them submerged under the brine. (This also releases gases produced during fermentation.) Taste a little at this point to see if it is to your liking. When the kimchi tastes ripe enough for your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. You may eat it right away, but it’s best after another week or two.
Easy Homemade Kimchi
- 1 two-pound head napa cabbage
- 1/4 cup sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon grated garlic (about 4-5 cloves)
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons seafood flavor or water
- 1-5 tablespoons Korean red pepper flakes
- 8 ounces Korean radish or daikon, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- Cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters and remove the cores. Cut each quarter crosswise into 1-2” wide chunks.
- Place the cabbage and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften a bit, then add water to cover the cabbage. Put a plate on top. Let stand for 1-2 hours.
- Drain and rinse the cabbage well. Let drain in the colander for a few minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, and seafood flavor (or 3 tablespoons water) in a small bowl and mix to form a paste.
- Combine the vegetables and paste. Gently squeeze any remaining water from the cabbage and return it to the bowl along with the radish, scallions, and seasoning paste. Mix in the red pepper flakes, using 1 tablespoon for mild and up to 5 tablespoons for spicy.
- Using your hands, gently work the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated.
- Pack the kimchi into the jar, pressing down on it until the brine rises to cover the vegetables. Leave at least 1-inch of headspace. Seal the jar with the lid.
- Let the jar stand at room temperature for 1-5 days. You may see bubbles inside the jar and brine may seep out of the lid; place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch any overflow.
- Check it daily and refrigerate when ready. Check the kimchi once a day, pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon to keep them submerged under the brine. (This also releases gases produced during fermentation.) Taste a little at this point to see if it is to you liking. When the kimchi tastes ripe enough for your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. You may eat it right away, but it’s best after another week or two.
- For the best results use sea salt, and non-chlorinated water.
- If you can’t tolerate spicy food, you could omit the red pepper flakes altogether.
- You can use gloves for mixing and packing the kimchi to keep your hands clean.
How will you enjoy your kimchi?