Ok.I have a confession to make. I have not made kimchi at home since my honeymoon days. Partly because I was too busy attending graduate school and raising a baby. But mainly because of one experience.
Since my husband and I were both students, we had to save money whenever we could. And there were many student friends who were in the same boat. One early Saturday morning, a very active neighbor/Korean ajooma (married women) friend knocked at the door. Without asking, she decided that she would help me save money by buying a whole box of napa cabbage between the two of us to make kimchi. So she just dropped a 1/2 box of cabbages at my door. I said it was too much and she told me that this was a great deal and did not want to hear anything else.
Now, I was 3 months pregnant at the time. After I was done making so much kimchi (I think it was about 12 cabbages) I had pain in my stomach that evening. I was so worried that it might be something serious. Luckily, I was fine the next day. But, ‘never again’, I told myself -‘ this kimchi making is just too much work.’
But recently, I have been wanting to make Kimchi at home because they taste just so much better when it’s made at home. And when we decided to move to Korea, I realized it would be a great opportunity for me to learn the fine art of making Kimchi from my mother-in-law. She makes one of the best Kimchi I have ever tasted. It’s not too spicy or salty but just right.It tastes fresh but also has a deep and complex flavor in the background.
As the Kimjang(김장) [see my No Crazy Kimchi post for more info] season is just around the corner, I am really looking forward to making some real authentic kimchi with her very soon.
In the mean time, I will start my kimchi posts with a somewhat unconventional Kimchi that my mother-in-law will probably never make – Cabbage Kimchi.
Cabbage (the regular kind used to make cole slaw) kimchi appeared pretty recently in the Korean food scene, probably because many Koreans who lived outside of Korea could not get any authentic Korean Cabbage (Celery Cabbage is the exact but Napa Cabbage is very close). I first tasted cabbage kimchi in 1976 when when we moved to India. With no access to any kind of Korean vegetable, the only vegetable we could get was the good old cabbage. I actually did not like it as a kid. I thought it only made me miss the real Korean kimchi more. But now, I actually like it and enjoy it. There’s a lightness in flavor to it that makes it go better with some foods than regular kimchi which can sometimes overpower other dishes.
Making Cabbage kimchi is also pretty easy so I think it is a great one to start with if you have never made Kimchi before.
Servings: 10 Prep Time: 1 hr Cooking Time: 5 min Difficulty: Medium
- 1 head of Cabbage (approx. 2 lb)
- 2-3 green onions
- 1 small bunch Korean (Chinese) chives (optional)
- 4 T Sea Salt
- 3 C water
- For Yangnyum (Seasonings) :
- 2 fresh red chili pepper
- 1 head of garlic, peeled
- 1 piece of fresh ginger (cherry size)
- ½ onion
- 4 T fish sauce + 2 T (I added later because I thought my sea salt is really not as salty as some other sea salts)
- 1 T sugar
- 2 T dried red chili powder (adjust to taste)
- Cut cabbage into halves and cut out the core.
2. Cut into 1 to 1.5 in width pieces -> into squares.
3. Rinse cabbage and drain.
4. Salt the cabbage by mixing it with salt water.
- Mix 3 C water and 3 T sea salt.
- In a large bowl, put half of the cabbage and add the salt water.
- Sprinkle 1 T sea salt on top of the cabbage.
- Add remaining cabbage and toss.
- Let the cabbage sit in salt water for 1 hour. Tossing 2-3 times to make sure the salt water reaches the cabbages evenly.
- In the mean time, prepare the kimchi yangnyum (seasoning) by finely chopping garlic, onion, red pepper and ginger in a chopper. * If using a blender (as in my pic), add 4 T fish sauce because it will not chop without additional liquid.
When chopping the yangnyum, don’t kill it and make it into a smoothie :) . Stop when the you can still see each piece. Add 1 T sugar and 2 T dried red chili powder (고추가루 gochookaroo) and mix. Taste it. Add more or less red chili powder to your taste. It should taste quite spicy, salty and pungent. Don’t worry because this will be blended with the cabbage and the taste will get smoother with fermentation. You can also add more sugar if you like. But adding more sugar will make the kimchi sour faster.
- Wash and clean green onions and chives. Cut green onions and chives into similar length pieces (2 in or so) and set aside.
- In about 1 hour, check the cabbage to see if it is ready. Except for very thick pieces, it should easily bend like so –
- Rinse and drain cabbage.
- In a large bowl, add the cabbage, yangnyum, green onions and chives.
- Wear plastic gloves (or your hand will be smelling of kimchi all day) and mix everything together really well. Mix things lightly – trying not to damage the vegetables.
- Finally, taste the freshly mixed kimchi. It should taste very fresh but still pretty good. In my case, the cabbages were not salty enough (depending on the type of salt and cabbage, it comes out a little different each time) so I added extra fish sauce – 2 T. Unfortunately, Kimchi is not an exact science and you have to basically develop a feel for what it should taste like when it’s raw and then when it’s fully ripe and how you like the taste to be. Adjust yangnyum to taste.
- Put it in a container and let it ferment at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for few days. Refer to my No Crazy Kimchi post for more detailed info on fermentation.
For a more traditional flavor –
- Use 5 T Myulchi Ackjeot(멸치액젓) or 4 T Saewoojeot (새우젓) for more traditional kimchi taste. Because I wanted to make a kimchi with ingredients that you can hopefully buy from your local asian market, I used a commonly found Thai fish sauce and it turned out really good too!
- The great thing about this kimchi is that it taste great fresh or fermented. So enjoy it on the day you made it or few days after. But remember to avoid the Crazy stage!