Kimchi is apparently a trendy food item right now, and as much as I try to resist that stuff I have to give it to trendsetters this time: kimchi is delicious, healthy, and cheap. It packs an amazing amount of flavor into every spoonful with a combination of spicy and sour, and although it can be quite salty it also is loaded with antioxidants. (There are even some reports that kimchi and other fermented foods can help lower blood sugar, although that’s still on the speculative side of science.)
Napa cabbage kimchi is the most common type, and is often made in huge quantities in Korean households during the fall cabbage season. For this reason it can be tough to find a good recipe for smaller quantities. This recipe uses a single medium head of cabbage. It does require some possibly unusual ingredients but you can easily find all of this stuff in your local Asian grocery. (If you absolutely can’t get to an Asian grocery in your area, Americans can order supplies online from Korean chain Hmart.)
All Together Now
Got your gochugaru, gochujang, and saeujeot? Here’s a full ingredient list with measurements. Kimchi is totally not an exact science, so go with what tastes good.
1 medium head of napa cabbage
1/2 cup of kosher salt
1/2 medium daikon radish, grated or sliced (I use my mandoline)
1 carrot, grated or in matchsticks
1 bunch of green onions, green and white both chopped
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon saeujeot
2 tablespoons gochujang
1/4 cup of gochugaru
1/4 cup of sriracha
a sprinkle of sugar
Let’s Make Kimchi!
Kimchi requires very little labor to make, but it is a multi-day process.
To start, cut up the whole head of cabbage. I usually cut it in half and then just chop each half down to the stem (I prefer larger pieces of cabbage). Put it all in a big bowl and mix in the kosher salt. Let the cabbage and the salt sit in the bowl for two hours — the cabbage will almost immediately start releasing water. After two hours fill the bowl with enough water to easily submerge all of the cabbage. You may have to add a weight to the top. I use a combination of cling wrap and a dinner plate. Let the bowl of cabbage, salt, and water sit on the counter for about 24 hours.
The next day, drain the cabbage. You want to get rid of as much of the water as possible, so you can even wring your cabbage out as you go. Add all of the other ingredients and stir. Cover your bowl and leave it on the counter for three days.
During this time you may start to doubt the process. “But Liore,” you might say, “you told me to leave a bowl of cabbage and shrimp on my counter for 72 hours. Are you trying to kill me?” But I am not! Occasionally it will even smell weird, although never gross or off. Keep the faith.
After three days, put your kimchi into containers (I use old washed yogurt containers because it can stain) and put those containers into the fridge. Ta-da!
Kimchi will last in the fridge probably forever. I’ve always eaten it too quickly to really find out. Newer kimchi is best suited as a side dish, while old kimchi is amazing in stews and soups.
Jessica, aka Liore, can usually be found griping about video games on her blog and podcast at Herding Cats, or on Twitter. She likes saying “flavor profile” and going light on the carbs, and dislikes measuring things. Jessica is currently obsessed with Korean cuisine.