Monday, February 15, 2010


Some time last year, I became addicted to kimchi. It all started when I went to the best Korean restaurant in Chattanooga, which comps some kimchi with every meal. I was fated to try this at home. And now... well, can you resist?!?...

I've made this twice now (we're still working our way through the second batch), but both times, I forgot to take pictures during the second half of the process. Sorry about that. But after the past few days of ranting about food, I figured I should post some good food, so I'm not going to wait for the third batch to post the recipe. Here's what you need...

sea salt
two small cabbages (of any variety) or one large napa cabbage, coarsely chopped
two daikon radishes, julienned
1 large carrot*, julienned
1 tbsp ginger
5 chili peppers, seeded (or not!) and chopped
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp sesame seeds
handful of garlic chives, cut into 1" pieces
4 heaping tsp minced garlic
10 scallions, thinly sliced
10 springs watercress, chopped
1 asian pear, cored and julienned
generous dose of chili powder and/or sambal oelek and/or hot pepper paste
*and any other veggies -- like snow peas, seaweed, sunchokes or whatever -- if you want.

This is a very flexible recipe (the varieties of kimchi are almost endless!), so feel free to improvise and adjust! My recipe started from this article in Saveur, and also drew from the incredible wisdom of Sandor Katz in Wild Fermentation (see the Baechu Kimchi recipe on page 47 -- I've tried Sandy's kimchi and it is absolutely delicious!!).

In a large bowl, mix 4 cups water with 4 tbsp salt. Stir well to dissolve the salt. Add the cabbage, radish and carrots and use a plate or something to keep them submerged (add more saltwater if needed). Let them soak until soft -- for a few hours or overnight. I did the overnight soak -- I like cooking while I sleep! ;-D

Mix all the other stuff into a paste. Drain brine off veggies, reserving the liquid. Taste for saltiness -- you want them salty, but not too salty. Rinse off if they're too salty, sprinkle with a bit of salt if they're not salty enough. Mix the veggies with the paste.

Once they are mixed thoroughly, stuff it all into a jar (or four). Pack it tightly, pressing down until the brine rises. If necessary, add a bit of the reserved brine to keep the veggies submerged. Weight the veggies down, if they need it. If anything floats to the surface, it might get icky.

Cover and leave it to ferment at room temperature for four days (you can check it along the way, if you want). Then uncover to release some carbon dioxide (this part is really cool -- there will be sound effects!), recover and refrigerate for at least another four days, to let the flavors meld. Kimchi will keep for up to 6 months in the refrigerator.

These last two photos are from my first batches. In the first, I followed the Saveur recipe fairly faithfully and used the cabbages you see in this post's top photo. In the second, as you can probably tell, I added a LOT more chili powder/hot pepper paste, and I used a single (huge!) napa cabbage that I got at my local asian grocer [even better if you can get one at your local farmers market -- they're in season in Tennessee from May through November!]. Plus, I wasn't able to get any watercress for the second batch, so I improvised with something or other... and I think I used a greater variety of peppers...

Have fun! There is nothing quite so wonderful as kimchi that you've made yourself!!!


Buck said...

Kimchi will keep for up to 6 months in the refrigerator.

Nothing lasts for 6 months in my refriderator :-)

But seriously, that does look fantastic. Where do you get your groceries? I swear I don't believe you could find an Asian pear anywhere in my county.

alice said...

LOL! Well, yeah, it's not going to make it that long here, either.

You know, I thought the same thing about the pear, so I made a special trip to an Asian grocery to get supplies. But then I noticed some asian pears at the Publix one day and asked the produce guy if it was a fluke and he told me that they generally try to keep them in stock. I'd just never noticed them before.

I don't think I've seen fish sauce outside of the asian market, though. And watercress can be hard to find -- they carry it sometimes at the Publix, and most of the time at the Greenlife (a local natural foods market). I've also seen it at the Earth Fare (another natural market that just opened here in town). I got my daikons at the farmers market as part of my CSA subscription, but I've seen them in the stores as well.

But really, none of the ingredients is absolutely essential (not even the cabbage!), so you can work with what you can find. Fish sauce is supposed to aid the fermentation process, but Sandor Katz lists it as an optional ingredient, so apparently you can even get along without that.

I've done a batch of plain old sauerkraut and it was awesome as well, and quite a bit simpler, though it took a while longer to ferment to our satisfaction. Here're some instructions -- it's just cabbage and salt and water. It was fun to taste it every few days to see how it was coming along...

Buck said...

Well. I am sure you can't find a Publix in my county either :-)

I think I will take the list with me the next time I go grocery shopping and see what I can find and what I can't. That will probably be almost as much fun as making kimchi.

alice said...

It'll be like a scavenger hunt!!! ;-D Let me know how it goes! (At the very least, you should be able to do some sauerkraut, and your worst day with homemade sauerkraut is still bound to be better than your best day without...)

A Free Man said...

I love kimchi, but the smell. Woof. Your house must have been, um, fragrant for a wee while.

alice said...

I expected more fragrance than I got. I used mason jars with tight lids, so on the days when the kimchi was sitting out, the only time there was an odor was when I opened them to check the progress.

(Now that it's done, though... wow! It has quite the aura when it is sitting on my plate!)