Kimchi - Korean Fermented Vegetable
Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish of fermented vegetables usually served as part of a meal and can also be used in a variety of cooked dishes.
- napa cabbage · 2 pounds
- sea salt or kosher salt · 1/4 cup
- Garlic Flakes - Herbie's Spices · 1 tablespoon
- Ginger (ground) - Herbie's Spices · 1 teaspoon
- sugar · 1 teaspoon
- Korean Red Pepper Flakes - Herbie's Spices · 3 tablespoons
- Korean radish or daikon, julienned · 8 ounces
- scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces · 4
- Korean salted shrimp (optional) · 3 tablespoons
Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish of pungent, fermented cabbage and other vegetables, great with everything from fried rice to dumplings or with fresh oysters in it.
The most common is Baechu, or napa cabbage kimchi made by lacto-fermentation, the same process that creates sauerkraut and traditional dill pickles. In the first stage, the cabbage is soaked in a salty brine that kills off harmful bacteria. In the second stage, the remaining Lactobacillus bacteria (the good guys!) convert sugars into lactic acid, which preserves the vegetables and gives them that wonderful, tangy flavor.
In addition to being served as banchan, Korean side dishes presented as part of a meal, it can also be used in a variety of cooked dishes. Try it as a sauce for Brussels sprouts or braised with short ribs. The versatility of kimchi makes it great to use in everyday cooking.
Kimchi needs time to ferment, so we recommend starting a batch about a week before you plan to use it.
It is great to use saeujeot Korean salted shrimp, very small, naturally fermented shrimp that impart authentic flavor to kimchi. They are sold in jars and can be found in the refrigerator case of Korean markets.
Also known as saeujeot, Korean salted shrimp are very small, naturally fermented shrimp that impart authentic flavor to kimchi. They are sold in jars and can be found in the refrigerator case of Korean markets.
- Slice the cabbage: Cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters and remove the cores. Cut each quarter crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips.
- Salt the cabbage: Place the cabbage and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands (gloves optional), 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 and weigh it down with something heavy, like a jar or can of beans. Let stand for 1 to 2 hours.
- Rinse and drain the cabbage: Rinse the cabbage under cold water 3 times and drain in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting, and set it aside to use in step 5.
- Make the paste: Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, and seafood in a small bowl and mix to form a smooth paste. Mix in the gochugaru, using 1 tablespoon for mild and up to 5 tablespoons for spicy (I like about 3 1/2 tablespoons).
- 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 thoroughly: Using your hands, gently work the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated. The gloves are optional here but highly recommended to protect your hands from stings, stains, and smells!
- Pack the kimchi into the jar: 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 it ferment: Let the jar stand at room temperature for 1 to 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, too! 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.
Open the jar to let the gases escape, then reseal and refrigerate at least 48 hours before eating (kimchi is best after fermenting about 1 week). Refrigerate for up to 1 month.
- Too much garlic can make the kimchi bitter
- Too much ginger can make it sticky
- As for the Korean Red Pepper Flakes, adjust the amount (anywhere from 1 to 5 tablespoons) to your liking. Kimchi can be mild or hot, it's your choice.
- Salt: Use salt that is free of iodine and anti-caking agents, which can inhibit fermentation.
- Water: Chlorinated water can inhibit fermentation, so use spring, distilled, or filtered water.
- Seafood flavor and vegetarian alternatives: Seafood gives kimchi an umami flavor. Different regions and families may use fish sauce, salted shrimp paste, oysters, and other seafood. You can use about 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, salted shrimp paste, or a combination of the two