Korean fermented Napa cabbage – Baechu Kimchi
Classic Christmas songs, hitting radio stations, malls, and stores… You are definitely feeling the holiday spirit everywhere around here. Don’t you agree that people are just a bit happier in December, then everyone is back to grumpy selves in January, then back to happy around tax time?! :D
Now let’s talk about Kimchi!
The recipe finally made it on my blog, and the biggest reason is not only ’cause I love kimchi so much, but because I received an overwhelming number of requests in the last few months with the same question: “how do I knowingly make my own kimchi?” – So here it is!
I am also asked a lot, especially in stores when I purchase tofu-how does it, tastes, or can you make your own. I never tried naturally making tofu, but maybe I should do a little research and make my own. But that will wait for a while until then I will enjoy the store bought. Ok… I was positively off the subject for a bit there, let‘s continue thoughtfully…
What is kimchi?
Kimchi is a traditional as well as national fermented Korean side dish made of vegetables with a variety of ingredients. It is a staple of every Korean household, therefore it’s an important part of Korean culture. Kimchi can be eaten as an accompaniment to almost any meal, and it serves as a side dish with every meal.
There are many different variants of kimchi, that’s why I named it in the title “Napa cabbage”, to be specific what kind of kimchi I am presenting today. This particular one is called “mak baechu kimchi” because it is chopped into bite size pieces for quick fermentation, simpler serving, and easy consumption later.
The most popular and recognizable kimchi out of all varieties is made from napa OR Chinese cabbage (baechu)- however, cucumber, daikon or white radish, scallions kimchi and much more depending on the season are also loved and made by Koreans. Kimchi can be non-spicy, mild and very spicy depending on how much chili powder you are using. The taste of fermented kimchi has a pinch of sourness, slight burn in your mouth from the spiciness, prudent smell, and kimchi should have a crunch when you bite it.
NOTE* Napa cabbage is lighter in color than other Chinese cabbages such as Bok Choy, which is also sometimes called Chinese cabbage.
I can’t wait until my kimchi ferment for a few months, so I can make delicious stews such as Kimchi Jjigae, Budae Jjigae or use it in my Gourmet Ramen Soup, and of course kimchi pancakes, so good! I hope you will try it and please don’t be intimidated, because it is a simple “labor of love” recipe, full of flavor, nutrition and I must add pure deliciousness.
Korean Fermented Napa Cabbage - Baechu Kimchi
- 2 large Chinese Cabbage about 3 lb each (Napa Cabbage) or 3 smaller size
- 1/2 cup salt
- 6 cups water
- 1 small sized Korean white radish Moo or medium Daikon radish.
- 1 large carrot 80g, or two smaller ones *optional
- 3 Green onions chopped
- 4 Oz Chives 100g
- 1 Tbs. Sweet rice flour + 1/2 cup water
- 1 Cupful Red hot pepper powder use less for less spicy or more, or none for white kimchi
- 2 Tbs. Fish Sauce
- 1 Tbs. Oyster Sauce *optional or just use fish sauce
- 1 Tbs. Sugar
- 1/3 cup Salted shrimp brine shrimp
- 1/3 Onion medium
- 1 Asian pear
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1 Tbs. Crushed ginger
- Salt to taste if necessary
Cut the cabbage lengthwise and separate it with your hands. Then cut into quarters, then chop into bite-size pieces. Place in the big bucket and wash few (3-4) times to get it really clean. Prepare salt water, add 1/4 cups of salt with about 6 cups of water. Pour it over the cabbage and start mixing and turning your cabbage every 20-30 minutes for the next 1 1/2 to 2 hrs.
Make porridge by mixing water with sweet rice powder/flour on a medium temperature. Stir until it becomes a thick and smooth texture. Take it off the stove and set aside to cool down.
While cabbage Brin and porridge is cooling off, start with the sauce.
Julienne white radish, a large carrot, chop scallions, chives, scallions, brine shrimp and set aside
On the other side, roughly chop onion, peel garlic and use whole cloves, slice peeled pear and ginger. Put it in the food processor with sugar, oyster sauce, and (optional if allergic or vegan), add 1/2 cup of water and process until well combined. Add salt only if necessary to taste or more oyster sauce.
Add Chili powder (gochugaru) in cooled porridge, stir, then pour the sauce (from the step 5.) out of the food processor in the porridge. Stir again very well and mix in with Julienne vegetables. Set aside until ready to be used.
Once the Cabbage brained for at least hour and a half, wash a few times under cold water, drain really well and dry the bowl/bucket, then place cabbage back to the dry bowl/bucket. Cabbage will have a balance between sweetness and saltiness, it will get a bit softer, but still firm/crunchy enough.
Now the final step after washing the salt water off. Pour the sauce and other vegetables over the cabbage. Gently mix with your hands, massage it (use gloves).
Put it into airtight containers, but try to press down the cabbage because of the air.
Leave it in the room temp for 2-3 days, then place it in the fridge (the best if you use a glass container or a large jar/s)
After 7 days you will already have bit fermented cabbage and Kimchi juice will start to appear. But I love one after a month or so for salads, 3 months and after it's perfect for stews.
Yes, you can make kimchi without sweet rice porridge. I like to use it because it pulls all the ingredients together. But it is optional. No, you do not have to add any seafood products. If you are able to get it or eat it, I recommended, but it is optional. I like to keep it in the garage and I wrap the container with a plastic bag to eliminate the odor as much as possible. Even though it is sealed completely with the lid, the kimchi smell will escape. Usually, after 3 days, I put it in the fridge. All the products can be purchased online, or at Asian markets. Some ingredients could be found even in local grocery stores. I like TO ADD ABOUT SODIUM LEVEL if you never made kimchi before be careful if you are using salted shrimps and oyster sauce or fish sauce... all three ingredients are salty so please add a little bit at the time and taste. I found this one perfect for me, but we all have different taste buds. If you are not adding any of above, then use SALT to TASTE!