How to Make Kimchi
I. LOVE. KIMCHI. I love it on rice, in tacos (and just for the record, I did this before Kogi even!), I love it with seaweed, rice and spam (okay, don’t roll your eyes….it’s GOOD!), in soups (Kimchi Jigae) and to spice up midnight instant noodles. But I’ve never made kimchi myself before, which is why i asked Amy Kim of Kimchi Mom to help me out and teach you all how to make kimchi! She’s even made a little video to show you. ~jaden
I’m Amy Kim of Kimchi Mom, and my blog is a collection of stories and family recipes from my kitchen. As a kid, I watched my mom cook Korean food everyday but never paid attention to any of it even when she tried to teach me (ah, those teen years). But I do remember being at the dinner table every night at 5 o’clock and having totally consumed dinner 20 minutes later. Yes, it was that good! Fast forward to a couple of years ago. My parents stayed with us for several months to help when my second child was born. And by “help”, she cooked! The dishes she made were flavorful, easy to make, and most importantly, voraciously devoured by my toddler son! I was intent on learning how to make these dishes and Kimchi Mom was born!
I am still a newbie when it comes to making kimchi. Growing up, I watched my mom make green cabbage kimchi every couple of months, and as with every dish she ever made, no measuring implements were used. I had always wanted to make a batch from scratch, and so I called my mom last summer and asked her to measure all the ingredients the next time she made her own batch of kimchi. I was surprised at how easy it was to assemble everything, but it certainly took a few tries to get the desirable flavors. As for my mom, her recipes have evolved over the past 40 or so years as various ingredients were made more accessible and also because, well, she likes to experiment. So this recipe for mak kimchi is her latest, and I think one of her best kimchi recipes.
There are essentially two types of cabbage kimchi – poggi kimchi and mak kimchi. Poggi kimchi is nappa cabbage kimchi where the cabbage is seasoned whole and sliced when ready to be eaten. Its presentation is “prettier” when served in tidy little stacks, and it lasts longer than mak kimchi mostly because of the way it is packed and stored in the jar. Mak kimchi is the more “casual” counterpart to poggi kimchi. The cabbage is cut into slices before it’s seasoned. It’s much easier to make – everything is thrown in together versus carefully layering the seasoning and cabbage leaves – and the presentation is certainly not as formal as poggi kimchi .
The recipe detailed below is a variation on my green cabbage kimchi recipe. The components for the sauce are essentially the same, but instead of the rice purée (my grandmother’s touch), I used sweet rice flour paste. Although my kimchi-making experience is limited, I believe this paste has made ALL the difference. The resulting kimchi juice is smooth, balanced, and luscious. I could drink this red elixir. Oh yes I could! I also found that this glutinous component has made a marked difference in my kimchi jigae and kimchi fried rice.
I also made a video on how to make mak kimchi, and you’ll see how easy it is. I now make my own kimchi at least once every couple of months! Every time I’ve made kimchi, it comes out slightly different each time, so it’s critical to adjust the seasoning of the sauce before incorporating everything together. Enjoy the video!
How to make kimchi – recipe video
Mak Kimchi Recipe
Servings: Yields about a gallon
about 1/3 cup kosher salt
1 cup sweet rice flour (Mochiko is a popular brand)
2 cups water
3/4 cup red pepper flakes, medium coarseness
1/4 cup chopped saewoo jjut (salted shrimp)
3 tablespoons fish sauce
A scant 1/2 cup sugar
5-7 green onion stalks, chopped
2 oz. ginger (2-inch long, 1-inch diameter piece), minced
8-9 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 medium carrots, julienned
1 medium-sized daikon or 1 small mu (Korean radish), thinly sliced in 2-inch sections
Preparing the sweet rice flour paste:
Whisk together the sweet rice flour and water in a small saucepan. Keep whisking the mixture until bubbles form on the surface. Once this occurs, take the saucepan off the heat and set aside to cool.
Preparing the cabbage:
Discard any wilted or discolored leaves. Starting at the base of the stem, cut the cabbage about one-third of the way down. Then pull apart the cabbage halves to completely separate them. Do the same with the halved portions - cut and pull apart. Repeat for all the cabbage heads. At this point, you can give the quarters a quick rinse under running water and shake off any excess water.
Trim the core at a diagonal. Cut the quarters into 2-inch wide pieces and place in an oversized bowl (I used a 12 qt. bowl) or use a couple of large bowls. Sprinkle generously with salt. Alternate layers of cabbage and salt. Once all the cabbage is cut, give the cabbage a toss and sprinkle more salt on top. Place a weight on top of the cabbage. Two dinner plates works well for me.
Let the salted cabbage sit for at least 3 hours. Don't worry if you go over (in the video, I let mine sit overnight since I couldn't tend to it at 3 hours). After 1 hour, give the cabbage another toss.
Preparing the sauce:
While the cabbage is close to being ready, prepare the red pepper sauce. In a medium bowl, mix kochukaru (red pepper flakes), water, saewoo jjut, fish sauce, green onions, sugar, ginger, garlic, rice flour paste, and about a 1/2 cup water. Mix thoroughly. Taste. It should be balanced – not too salty, not too fishy, not to spicy and not too sweet. Adjust seasonings at this point. The consistently should be akin to very thick batter. Add a bit more water if necessary. Mix in carrots and radish. Set aside.
Once the cabbage is ready (the volume of the cabbage should have decreased, and it should be a bit wilted), rinse the cabbage under cold running water and let drain in a colander. Once drained, place the cabbage in a large bowl.
At this point you may want to put clean plastic gloves on especially if you have sensitive skin. Add the sauce to the cabbage. Thoroughly mix the sauce and cabbage and make sure every piece of cabbage is coated with the red pepper sauce. Taste. If it needs more salt, add a bit of fish sauce. But you don’t want it to be too salty.
Transfer the cabbage mixture into a large glass jar. Press down on the cabbage as you are filling the jar. Leave about 1-inch of space from the top.
Don’t throw the empty bowl in the sink just yet. Pour in about 1 cup of water into the bowl. Add about a teaspoon of salt to start, and stir. Swirl the water around to make sure you get all the remaining pepper mixture. Taste. Again, you don’t want it too salty – just a hint of salt. Fill the jar with the water until it barely covers the cabbage.
Press down on the cabbage again and make sure the liquid has made its way throughout the jar. Close the lid tightly.
Leave the jars at room temperature** for about a day away from direct sunlight. I leave mine out for about 24-30 hours. This is when the magic happens. You may want to place the jar in a shallow bowl or plate in case there is leakage.
After those 24 or so excruciating hours, sample the kimchi. There should be a slight tang. At this point it is ready to be refrigerated. You can eat the kimchi right away, but I prefer to wait at least a week to indulge. The kimchi will continue to ferment at a much slower pace in the refrigerator and will keep for about 4 weeks. The kimchi will turn really sour at this point and if you have any left in the jar, it will be perfect for jigae, fried rice, ramen or jun.
**What is “room temperature”? Wikipedia says it’s the temperature indicated by general human comfort, about 68°F to 77°F.