Growing up, I was always so paranoid of going to school smelling like kimchi. It’s one of those foods that smell absolutely pungent, especially if you don’t really know what it is. Taste on the other hand, is full of flavor. It has so much flavor that it’s commonly eaten with plain white rice. It’s also full of probiotics (along side all other fermented foods), high in fiber, and is nutrient packed.
If you haven’t heard of kimchi before, it is a fermented cabbage dish that is a stable in the Korean culture. I was actually very surprised at how many people who tried it, loved it. Of course there is a large group of people who refuse to try anything that smells funny, but honestly, if you like garlic, then I’m about 90% sure you will like kimchi. It’s not even like it “smell like the sewer” like some of the other foods out there, it’s just got a very strong garlic smell that’s more like “I can smell it from all the way over here” sort of thing.
Well if you’re still reading, then it probably means
1) you love kimchi and would love to make some at home or
2) you’re intrigued and would like to try some.
Either way, I’m going to share with you my mom’s easy version of kimchi that is basically fool proof. It’s not completely traditional in the sense that it doesn’t use shrimp paste or whole cabbage, but it tastes so much better than the store bought stuff! Plus, proportions are only suggested because at the end, you will end up with kimchi no matter how far you stray from the recipe – well unless you use a completely different recipe, then I can’t help you.
As for the ingredients, I use Korean (anchovy) fish sauce and Korean pepper powder. My mom told me that the key to good kimchi is the quality of pepper powder. She actually brought the one I have in the photo below all the way from Korea. If you can find that brand at the local Korean market, then I would definitely go with that one. If not, no worries! You will still end up with kimchi that doesn’t even compare to the stuff in the stores.
*Side note: be careful when buying kimchi at the store, because a lot of them contain MSG and most of the time the cabbage isn’t even washed.
- 30 min
- Ready in:
- 1 h 30 min
- Cut the cabbage into 2 inch pieces.
- Was throughly and place in a large container.
- Season generously with the salt, making sure to get salt on all the pieces of cabbage.
- Let the cabbage sit in the salt for about 1 hour. I like to mix about every 15 minutes to make sure the cabbage is wilting evenly, but this is not necessary if you mixed the salt throughout the cabbage well.
- The cabbage is ready when you press into a thick part and it leaves an indent. You want the salt to soften it a little, but still keep it crisp.
- Drain the saltwater your cabbage is now sitting in.
- Blend together the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and ginger. We will call this mixture the kimchi sauce.
- Now you will take the kimchi sauce, fish sauce, and pepper powder and mix in with the cabbage according to taste. You may not use all the ingredients according to the recipe measurements, but should come close to it.
- Add enough fish sauce or fermented shrimp until it is slightly more salty than you prefer. As the kimchi ferments, it will release more water from the cabbage, diluting the flavor. (Fermented shrimp adds more depth of flavor but if you are out off by tiny little shrimp, you can blend it into your kimchi sauce).
- Add pepper powder according to how spicy you would like your kimchi.
- The kimchi sauce is then added to be able to mix and incorporate everything without dry pepper spots.
- Always add a little of everything at a time, tasting before adding more. Don't worry too much about the measurements, because if you follow this recipe even some what closely, it will turn out good!
- Place mixture into glass jars, pressing the kimchi down to pack it in. Fill to about 2 inches from the top.
- For fast fermentation, place on countertop for 1-2 days, depending on how sour you want the kimchi. Move to the fridge once your kimchi reaches desired sour-ness. For better flavor development, slowly ferment kimchi in the fridge for about 3 weeks. The longer it ferments, the more sour it will be.
- It is a personal preference whether kimchi is eaten almost raw (fresh) or sour (fermented).
- Be sure to place the jars on top of a plastic bag to protect countertops and reduce mess in the fridge. As the kimchi ferments, it will expand and release gases, causing juice to leak. Open full jar over the sink for the same reason.
- I like to use a storage container designated for my kimchi. This is the only container I have that is large enough to fit all the cabbage and have enough room to mix.
- If you store kimchi in any plastic, the container will smell like garlic forever.
- I recommend using gloves so you hands don’t smell like garlic for days.