After my first attempt at making kimchi, there very almost wasn’t a second attempt. Not because the end result wasn’t tasty, or because it was particularly hard to make… it was the smell. I thought I was adequately prepared for that funky fermentation whiff when I opened it for the first time, but I was not. And neither was a certain someone… from memory, he actually left the flat, for no other reason. So as you can imagine, once that batch was finished, it took me a while longer to work up the courage and olfactory fortitude to try again…
The second, third, fourth… I’ve lost count now… times that I’ve made kimchi since then, it’s turned out a lot less messy both in the mixing and the smell factor. Which is an absolute relief because we love the stuff and have taken to eating it any which way we can. The distinct sourness and gentle blend of sweetness and spice makes it a perfect accompaniment for more than you might realise. Of course it’s an absolute necessity in Korean dishes such as kimchi-jjigae (kimchi stew which you can add pork and/or tofu to), kimchi buchimgae (pancakes), or as a side to a bibimbap. But… it’s also absolutely delightful in a crispy chicken burger or a grilled cheese toastie. That, my friends, is why you need to start making your own with this easy kimchi recipe…
For the kimchi mix
- 1 whole Chinese cabbage (also known as napa cabbage or Chinese leaf)
- 1 large carrot, sliced into matchsticks
- 6 – 8 radishes, sliced in rounds
- 2 spring onions, light and dark green parts only, sliced into batons
- 2 tablespoons salt
- Sterilised jars – either one 1L – 1.5L size or several smaller jars
For the paste
- 1 shallot or 1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled (use less if you don’t want it too garlicky)
- 1 thumb size knob of ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup gochugaru/Korean red pepper flakes (use less if you want to reduce the heat)
Prepare your cabbage:
- Cut the cabbage into quarters, lengthways. Then chop each quarter into roughly 3cm pieces.
- Wash and drain the cabbage then transfer into a large bowl, mix in the salt, and cover with a plate or something to help weigh it down – this will help draw out the excess moisture.
- Set aside for 2-3 hours or until it has halved in volume, occasionally toss the cabbage in the bowl and push the plate/weight down.
Prepare your other vegetables:
- Wash and cut all the other vegetables, set aside until ready to mix everything together.
I have suggested carrots, radishes and spring onions, but you can use any other sturdy vegetables such as daikon, turnip, kohlrabi, beans… I find leafy greens don’t work well but you could give those a go!
Prepare your paste:
- Blitz together all the paste ingredients until a fine paste forms, set aside until ready to mix everything together.
I tend to add the gochugaru when I transfer it to a bowl as it stains my food processor, but you can do whatever works for you.
Combine it all together:
- Wash and drain the cabbage, then transfer back into the large bowl.
- Add the other vegetables into the large bowl.
- Add the paste into the large bowl.
- Mix everything together, trying to ensure the paste is evenly distributed and covering all the vegetables.
- Fill your jar(s) with the kimchi mixture, making sure you leave a bit of a gap at the top of the jar.
- Cover each jar with the lid (don’t tighten completely), and leave to ferment at room temperature for 3-5 days – depending on how quickly the flavour develops.
- During this time, I will open each jar everyday and use a clean spoon to push the vegetables down to ensure everything is covered with the liquid, and release the gas building up during fermentation.
- Give it a little taste… once it’s sour enough for you, then put it into the fridge!