Authentic & traditional Kimchi recipe!

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Kimchi (also spelt as kimchee), is a traditional Korean dish of fermented chilli peppers with a variety of vegetables, the most common being made with Chinese cabbage. It’s deeply ingrained into Korean culture and whilst it is mostly served as a side dish, it can also be used as a basis for other meals such as fried rice, broths and stews. Many Koreans, myself included, will only last a few days before the cravings kick in and kimchi must be eaten in some shape or form.

An example of how much we Koreans love kimchi? In 2005 a report was released that heavy consumption of kimchi could not be very good for your health…and as a result, the professor who released this statement received a variety of death threats.

Kimchi is serious business.

My mother’s kimchi is unlike any other that I’ve tasted, and whilst this is probably due to the care she takes with her particular recipe, it is extremely time-consuming (but very very worth it!). So, if you’ve got a spare weekend with absolutely nothing on your hands, try her family recipe for kimchi. By the end, your back will ache, your hands will be pruney and you’ll have salt and chilli flakes everywhere…but you’ll also have a little slice of fermented heaven.

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Mmm, spicy goodness!

Now, we usually use about 10 heads of Chinese cabbage (around 20kg of kimchi), but I’ve trimmed the recipe down for just 1 head of Chinese cabbage

Ingredients

1 fresh Chinese cabbage, dark green outer leaves removed
1 1/2 cup cooking salt
1L water
1 heaped tbsp glutinous rice starch (sticky rice powder, not regular rice powder)
1 cup Korean chilli powder – aka gochugaru (not flakes, look for it at your local Korean grocery store)
1/2 cup fish sauce
2 tbsp white sugar
6 spring onions, washed and sliced on an angle into slices about 1-2″ long
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 knob of ginger, grated
1/4 nashi pear, cored and peeled
1/4 brown onion, peeled
200g white/chinese radish (long and white as opposed to small, round and pink-tinged)

1. Cut the cabbage in halves or quarters, and cut into the stem to remove most of it.

2. Combine 1L water with 1/2 cup of cooking salt into a large bowl, then plunge one half or quarter of cabbage into the water at a time. Carefully seperate the leaves layer by layer and make sure that you get the salted water right to the base of the leaves.

3. Drain water from the cabbage segments, then sprinkle a light layer of cooking salt over each layer of leaves, making sure to get more towards the thick, white base of the leaf rather than the thinner, green end. This is usually done by coating the lower half of your fingers in salt and using a flicking motion. Don’t feel that you have to use the ENTIRE 1 cup of salt here – just as much as is needed to give the leaves a light sprinkling – its hard to judge how much salt you will need/use as it depends on how big and how ‘ripe’ your cabbage is.

4. Place the cabbage segments into a bowl and leave covered for 5-6 hours, or till cabbage is floppy enough so that the leaves can be bent over, but still make a crisp ‘snapping’ noise when snapped.

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20kg of Chinese/Napa cabbage that has been salted and is now ready to be washed and wrung out before the seasoning process begins!

5. After leaving for 5-6 hours, rinse the lettuce twice in clean water, then squeeze as much water out of the lettuce as humanly possible (yes, squishing the cabbage is perfectly alright), and leave on a strainer for another 15-30 mins to drain the last of the water out.

6. The ‘sauce’ can be made whilst you’re waiting for the cabbage to wilt (in step 4). Combine 1 heaped tbsp of glutinous rice powder with 1/2 cup water in a pot, stir vigorously over a low heat till the mixture has turned white, has a very thick consistancy and bubbles whilst being stirred.

7. Let the rice powder glue cool down, and while it’s cooling, blend together the garlic, ginger, nashi pear, onion and Chinese radish into a pulpy liquid. Once the rice powder glue is completely cool, stir in the chilli powder, sugar and fish sauce, then pear mix and spring onion and combine well.

8. Lay out the cabbage and coat the front and back of every leaf with this rice chilli paste, making sure that they’re well coated and you haven’t missed any bits.

9. Once all the cabbage has been coated, press down into an airtight container and store in a cool, dark place for 3 days to aid the fermentation process. Taste it after 3 days, and if the lettuce tastes slightly tangy, soft but with some crunch and spicy, then place in your fridge. This can be stored in your fridge for up to 3 months (if it lasts that long!)

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If you’ve never tried eating this before, I’d suggest going to a Korean restaurant to try it first befrore making it, but once you taste this, I guarantee you’ll come back for more!

So, the recipe is time consuming, requires a lot of effort and is very hands on. You have to really be a fan to make it often, but we go through a 10-head batch in about 4-6 weeks, so it’s usually a monthly process for me and mom :)

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As for how serious we are about our kimchi – I’d like to introduce you to our ‘kimchi refrigerator’. That’s right, a refrigerator dedicated to storing your kimchi and keeping it as tasty as possible. Mr Woofy models next to it to provide a bit of a size comparison.

Have you actually read this entire entry? Good grief – I demand you go pour yourself a glass of wine and congratulate yourself on suffering through the length of this :) Please, anyone who tries this, please let me know how you go as me and mom would love to know of anyone trying this most favourite food of ours!


Others who have tried this recipe:

Comments

  1. Hi Ellie,

    Im staying in spore so placing the kimchi in such a warm and humid country, will my dish turn bad? ;)

    • It’ll ripen quicker and will in fact go bad quicker in that sort of temperature – but you’d still look at about a month before this happens! To be safe, once it’s ripened, I’d store it in the fridge :)

  2. Hey Ellie,

    I really enjoy your blog and korean cuisine.
    I always say that recipes are not only a list of ingredients and procedures to be follow. Also there are stories, persons, feelings and culture behind every recipe.
    Thanks a lot for sharing all of this with us. :mrgreen:
    Yasu.

  3. Hi Ellie,
    Thanks for the recipe. I actually made your recipe some months ago, and was a huge fan. It was really delicious. I had some of the chili paste left over so I smeared it on some extra sliced daikon radish and pickled that too. I found that the daikon slices made a delicious martini garnish. When I use them I call the drink a Kimchitini. Thanks again for the recipe.

    Cheers

  4. Hi Ellie,
    I saw some traditional recipes where they don’t use the glutinous rice starch. Does the rice starch accelerate the fermentation process or it’s just a matter of flavour?
    Thanks in advance for your reply.
    Yasu.

  5. Kimchi is amazing. My batch is bubblin away in the garage. Finally nailed the recipe with sugar syrup. Next time I will add the rice starch and I think I will have 100% perfection. Only other thing Id tinker with is adding oysters for added ooomph.
    Korean food is catching on slowly in Scotland, but I predict in the future it will be popular here. We have a cold climate so a lot of Scots like food with a kick. There are so many varieties of kimchi its mindbogglin. The most full-on I tried once was burdock-root kimchi – it was not for the faint of heart I can tell you. Good luck with your efforts.

  6. Tony F. says:

    I’ve made this recipe several times, and each time it has been amazing. I don’t have a point of reference, never having had anybody else’s kimchi, but this stuff is delicious. It is amazing on brats as a sauerkraut substitute, and peppers it up some. I should mention that when you salt the cabbage for 6 hours, do so in a bowl, not in a colander – this was slightly unclear in the text (at least to me). If you salt in the bowl, the cabbage will sit in its own juices for the six hours and be perfect. If you let it sit in a colander and drain, if ends up being too salty in the end – I did this and the fermentation never took off. Gonna make some more this weekend. I hesitate to omit the fish sauce this time, but the wife is not overly fond of the smell and I thought it might make it more agreeable to her senses if it was left out. Or she could just deal with it.

  7. I made this recipe one time so far. I replaced 3/4 of the gochugaru with Costco bulk chile powder and 1/4 with cayenne. It came out extremely hot, hard to eat, but we still finished off a double batch. Everyone I shared it with loved the flavor despite the excessive spicesness. I was a little disappointed with the mexican smoked tast of the McCormick Chili Powder. It will make a much better enchilada sauce. I am starting a new 4 head batch this time with a different chili.

  8. I’ve been wanting to try this for so long! My dad bought store-bought, canned kimchi & … needless to say, I’m never eating it canned again. It wasn’t crisp & was more sour than spicy. I haven’t tried your recipe yet, but I’m really looking forward to it (making sure I give an update on how it tastes). I just wanted to let you know that in steps 5 & 9, you put “lettuce” instead of “cabbage.” Most people don’t think there’s a difference, but there is; cabbage is a lot crunchier & thicker than lettuce.

  9. I am so excited to try this recipe! Thank you AND YOUR MOM for sharing this with all of us. I know it’s a sort of ‘family secret’, so I ( as well as all the other readers) truly appreciate this! I have been trying to master kimchi for several years now and although I’ve come close, it still just never tastes quite the same. I have no idea what I am doing wrong, or if it’s just the recipes that I have tried. I am very hopeful that you will help me make it work though! :)

  10. Jonathan Hood says:

    Ahn-Nyeong Ellie! Just packed all of my cabbage into jars and I’m really looking forward to trying it out three days from now. I searched through many recipes before staying with your families. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe with the world. I had to drive 40 miles to find the Korean chili powder and rice powder, but I totally think it’s gonna be worth it!

  11. Hi! I’m a Swedish girl and I’m in love with Korean food!! Kimchi is heaven! I use it a lot in cooking. But I’ve been buying it. So I thought I have to start making my own xD much cheaper. My friend tried you’re recipe and it is amazing!! I’ll make this asap!
    Take care!

  12. Hi,
    I printed your recipe off about 2 years ago, and my husband and I just made it! We found gochugaru and the glutinous rice starch in a Korean market in Edmonton, Alberta. The sauce is perfect, and in that regard it is the best kimchi we’ve ever had.
    I just have one comment. Maybe in the ingredients list you could state that 2kg of cabbage should be used. One head of cabbage was only about 3/4 of a kg. So in salting it, we found it to be much too salty, and there was plenty of sauce left over after using it generously to cover each cabbage leaf. We are salting more cabbage now to use the rest of the paste. So just for others wanting to try your fantastic recipe, it might help if 2kg is noted for the cabbage amount. You use 10 heads (20kg). We saw this after our first salty batch.
    Aside from that, it’s a great recipe. Thanks for posting, and we hope everyone has success with it. :)

  13. I’ve made this twice now and really enjoyed it. My kimchi addiction is getting pretty severe. :)

    One thing I notice is that my kimchi is a bit less salty than others I’ve had. I’ve been using Thai fish sauce. Do you have a brand you’d recommend switching to? I’ve had a hard time finding Korean fish sauce. Also, how salty or not salty should the cabbage taste after you do all the rinsing? I was washing out all the salty flavor. Finally, what’s the longest you can leave this out of the fridge for in the room temperature fermentation stage?

    Thanks again for the wonderful recipe!

  14. Hi~ Can I just say, I love this recipe and how you wrote everything out?
    I made kimchi using your recipe about a year ago and shared it with my best friend and sister, who both loooove trying different brands and styles of kimchi and they raved about it! I would make it more often, but as you said, it is time-consuming and leaves me in a bit of pain after the deed is done. It was well worth it though and I’m in the mood to make it again, so I tracked down your recipe! I had a screenshot of just the ingredients and like a dummy, didn’t bookmark this page originally, but I did now!
    I made kimchi one time before with a different recipe, and it was okay, but not nearly as good as when I made it following this recipe~ Kudos to you and your mom for developing and sharing this amazing recipe!

    I am curious to know if you have a kkakdugi recipe though? I love radish and made kkakdugi once before and it was good, but not great. I would love to see other banchan recipes as well, if you ever have time to make more posts~

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe~ Again, you guys are amazing!!! ^_^

  15. Just finished my second double batch. The first one didn’t last us long enough. I had a lot of the paste left over so I’ve stored it in the freezer for the third round. Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe.

  16. Thanks for sharing your moms recipe. Im from the Netherlands and i love Kimchi. I’ve tried to make my own Kimchi a couple of times and although i like it, it still lacks…well, something lol, so cant wait to try this recipe, im sure i will love it.

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