For some reason I forwent kimchi for long. I had read and heard a lot about it, but somehow it didn’t sound – and look – appealing to me. Fermenting in general always frightens me a bit, I guess. In retrospect this is quite funny cause it was only a bit later that I realized that our – and my – beloved German Sauerkraut is prepared actually the same way…
It took Julia from “Chestnut&Sage” – a blogger that I trust – to let my curiosity prevail and get me going…
…first of all to the Asian food shop cause this was something I learned quickly: Kimchi wouldn’t be kimchi without gochugaru (the package should be labeled 고추가루) – korean chili flakes with a slightly sweet and smoky flavour.
After reading a lot of recipes and instructions how to make and to store kimchi I decided to go for the ‘easy kimchi‘ or mak kimchi.
To be clear from the beginning: Although I made this recipe three times now I am far away from calling me an expert in kimchi making. If you are looking for real pros you should turn to “Maangchi” or “Missboulette”.
Despite all variations in preparation and ingredients there is one essential step: salting the cabbage (or other vegetable) – this is basically what the name kimchi refers to. You can chop the cabbage or leave it as a whole, you can add water or not – as long as you soak it thoroughly in salt. It is the basis of the lactic acid fermentation.
…and of course there is the mentioned gochugaru. Yes, this is the point where I have to admit that I am – at least in asian terms – a real sissy when it comes to heat of food. Oh my God, an ingredible lot of these chili flakes find their way into kimchi! I adjusted the amount to my sensitive taste buds … but feel free to go for the full chili power.
So far, my favourite way to enjoy kimchi is stirring into a simple fried rice lunch with scrambled eggs, some vegetables that I happen to have in the house, some chopped coriander (I always keep some in my freezer) and a nice splash of lime juice. Chamchi kimbap (Korean “sushi“) also wouldn’t be the same without being served with kimchi.
1 napa cabbage (1 kg), 100g salt
3 garlic cloves, 1 small onion, 3 slices of ginger (about 15 g), 2 tablespoons fish sauce (substitute with soy sauce for a vegetarian kimchi), 1 tablespoon sugar, 100 ml water, 15 g rice flour, 3 tablespoons gochugaru (15 g) [Go up to 30 g if you’re seeking the challenge.]
1 carrot, 2 spring onions
Remove outer leaves of napa cabbage. Cut cabbage lengthwise into quarters, remove cores and cut into bite-sized pieces. Soak in cold water.
Put soaked cabbage pieces into large pot and add salt. Mix well and press them down. Let cabbage pieces soak for 1½ hours – turning them about every 20 minutes and carefully pressing them down again to make sure that the salt is evenly distributed. After 1½ hour the cabbage should be shrunk in size, the pieces should be elastic if you try to bend them between two fingers. (If not wait another 15-30 minutes and try again). Transfer to a sieve and rinse 3 times. Drain for about 10 minutes.
During the salting process you have time to make the kimchi paste:
Make “porridge”: In a small pot bring water to boil and whisk in rice flour. Set aside when it has thickened. (Alternatively you can blend about 50 g of cooked rice.)
Peel and roughly cut garlic, onion and ginger. Blend together with fish sauce, sugar and porridge. Trnasfer to a big bowl and add gochugaru flakes. (Note that you don’t blend the gochugaru – like I did in the batch I made for this post :(. )
Wash carrots and spring onions and cut into juliennes. Combine with the spicy paste.
Now add drained cabbage and thoroughly mix everything – either by hand or with a large spoon.
Fill into sterilized jars and press down. You can eat this kimchi fresh, right away or wait – as I recommend – until it’s fermented. This will go faster at room temperature and is slowed down when storing in the fridge. I prefer to fill the kimchi in 2-3 jars, leave one of them for 24-48 hours at room temperature and put it then in the fridge. The others are stored in the fridge right away. When the first jar is empty usually the others are fermented, too. If not I take them out of the fridge for a few hours.
You can see that the fermentation is going on from the liquid that has developed an little bubbles. You can smell the sour flavour. The kimchi keeps a few months in the fridge – you don’t want to eat it anymore if it tastes too sour.
If you need some more advice concerning fermenting and storing read this explanation on Kimchimari which is accomplished by a chart on “How to ripen your kimchi properly” 😉