I honestly think that the more time that passes, the more I’m becoming part Korean… at least deep down in my foodie soul. Over the last year, I’ve become a real kimchi addict (see proof here, here and here). I finally decided to make my own “traditional” napa cabbage kimchi for many reasons…
– traditional kimchi is typically not vegan (hello fish sauce or ground up fish);
– it can tend to be on the pricier side (even more so if you eat a lot of it) especially considering that it is made of such inexpensive ingredient;
– making it yourself ensures you make it to your liking (spicy/less spicy, with ginger or without, etc.;
– kimchi is a great probiotic food source which aids digestion; and
– spices up any meal you eat it with!
Aside from the many health factors, kimchi is simply damn delicious! There are so many variations you can make of it which I also love. If you want to omit some of the ingredients below, feel free, although I would recommend simply adjusting the amounts to your taste and even adding some ingredients such as daikon radish and pear. The process can seem intensive, but it really comes together quite easily. I would highly recommend making a somewhat big batch, the portions below resulted into just a little over two 1L mason jars of yummy kimchi (you could probably make it fit into the two big jars). Check-out some behind the scenes of my day making this recipe here.
To start the process, you first cut the napa cabbage and salt if heavily. Let it wilt for 30 minutes then mix it around. Repeat this process (30 minute waiting time and then mixing it around) a few times. While the cabbage is wilting, you can prepare the rest of the kimchi ingredients by slicing your green onions and carrots, mincing the garlic and ginger and measuring the spices listed below. You’ll also need to make the liquid component of the kimchi (see notes below). All of this should be done while the cabbage is wilting, preferably during the last 30 minutes. The total soaking time should vary between 1:30 to 2:00 depending on the size of the pieces and of the amount of salt you used. Once your pieces can bend easily without snapping, you’re good to move on to the next step!
Then, you will need to rinse the cabbage to remove all of that salt. To do so; fill the bowl that contains the cabbage with cold water and swirl everything around and then drain it in a large colander. I would recommend repeating this step at least 3 to 5 times to ensure all of the salt has been removed. During the last draining, place all of the remaining ingredients you have on stand-by to that big bowl you used previously and mix well using a glove to avoiding losing a finger (or two) to the Korean red pepper flakes. Finally, add in the cabbage and mix very well before placing the kimchi into clean glass containers. As you fill the containers, make sure you are still using that glove and press down on the cabbage so the kimchi is quite compact while leaving the top 1 inch of the jar clear (this cabbage will bubble up!).
From there, the fermentation process begins! Let the jars sit at room temperature for 24 to 72 hours depending on your taste, the more you let it sit outside of the fridge, the more it will be tangy and sour – I always leave it out for 48 hours. Make sure you leave the lids of the jars simply placed on top, not screwed shut to ensure air can escape. It is also recommended to leave the jars sitting inside a large plate or Tupperware in case the kimchi overflows (or even explodes – yikes!) which will catch any liquid disaster. Once the fermentation process is finished, seal the lids and place the kimchi in the fridge and enjoy for the next several months! To ensure your kimchi keeps for a long time in the fridge; press down the cabbage below the liquid line so it does not have contact with the air.
- 1 head of napa cabbage, cut into bite sized pieces
- ½ cup coarse or kosher salt (for wilting)
- ½ to ¾ cup gochugaru
- 1 large carrot, julienned
- 6-8 scallions
- 1 ½ cup water
- 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 sheet kombu or other seaweed of choice
- 1 tbs soy sauce (or ½ tsp white miso or ½ tsp of dark soy sauce)
- 2 tbs rice flour
- 8 cloves of garlic
- 1 inch size of ginger, peeled
- 1 tbs sugar
- 1 tbs salt (optional)
- Slice the napa cabbage in half length-wise starting at the base (core of the vegetable) and only cut about half way. Place your hands on both pieces and tear them apart.
- Repeat the same technique until you have 8 identical pieces.
- Cut each piece length-wise every 1-2 inch or so, the pieces should all be bite sized.
- Place the cabbage in a large mixing bowl, every time you complete cutting one of the 8 pieces, I would recommend sprinkling on some of the salt and mixing it around slightly.
- Once you have cut the entire cabbage, empty the remaining salt, if any, on the top and mix around the top layer slightly.
- Cover the bowl with a cloth and let it sit for 30 minutes.
- Return to the cabbage and mix around, then let it sit for another 30 minutes. Repeat this step until the entire rest time has amounted to 2 hours. At this point, the cabbage will be wilty but will still have some bite.
- During the last 30 minutes of the wilting process, place the water in a pan and bring it to a light simmer, then place the seaweed and mushrooms and turn off the heat. Let soak/rehydrate for 15 minutes.
- Once the 15 minutes has elapsed, remove the ingredients from the water and discard. Set aside.
- In the meantime, cut all of the other vegetables, in this case I julienned the carrots and cut the white parts of the green onions in halt length-wise and then cut the entire onion into 1-inch pieces. Mince the garlic and ginger. Set all of these aside until ready to use.
- Now that the cabbage has been sitting with the salt long enough, fill the bowl with cold water and mix the cabbage around, then drain. Repeat 3-5 times and let the cabbage drain completely.
- Place the ingredients you’ve prepped (carrots, green onions, garlic and ginger) in the large mixing bowl that originally contained the cabbage and set aside.
- To the seaweed and mushroom water, add in the soy sauce, sugar and salt (if using) to the broth and bring to a light simmer. Once the mixture is simmering, add in the rice flour and mix well. Remove from heat once the mixture has thickened and let cool slightly.
- Once cooled, add this mixture to the vegetables in the large mixing bowl and top it with the gochugaru. Mix well with your hand (using gloves).
- Once the mixture is evenly distributed, add in the napa cabbage (which you can squeeze even more moisture out if you wish by using your hands, although this is optional). Mix well and place into sterilized glass jars.
- Make sure there is 1 inch of empty space on top for the kimchi to have room to ferment and bubble up. Place the lids on loosely and place the jars in a container in case some liquid seeps out.
- Place on your counter top for 48hrs before closing the lids tightly and refrigerating.
- Keeps in your fridge for YEARS (if you can make it last that long)!