Tag Archives: kimchi

Vegetarian Lettuce Kimchi (상추김치 Sangchoo Kimchi)

Lettuce Kimchi (Sangchoo Kimchi 상추김치)

Lettuce Kimchi (Sangchoo Kimchi 상추김치)

Summer is starting and that means we can no longer eat our Kimjang Kimchi anymore..Sad sad.. It has become way too sour but is still edible though. I give it a good rinse and then use it in dishes where the Kimchi is cooked: such as Kimchi soft tofu stew, Kimchi fried rice, Budae Jjigae, and Kimchi jjigae. Just add extra red pepper powder, spoonful of gochujang, couple cloves of garlic and a bit of sugar to balance the sourness of the Kimchi that is too old and too sour to eat fresh. This is a great tip to know if you ever want to revive or save sour and old tasting Kimchi in your recipes.

At our farm, summer also means our green/red leaf lettuces are reaching the end of its cycle and is getting ready to bloom to spread seeds. This process where lettuces grow tall is called “bolting”.

Bolted lettuce for Kimchi

Bolted lettuce for Kimchi

The leaves at this point start to taste bitter and is considered unpalatable by many. However, you know Koreans..;) they really don’t let anything go to waste!

And so.. ‘When life gives you bitter lettuces, you make Kimchi with it!’ :)

“Lettuce Kimchi (Sangchoo Kimchi 상추김치)”  is a kimchi that I never heard of before coming to Korea. And even in Korea, it is still not very common. It is because Sangchoo Kimchi is still mostly made and eaten at temples (i.e. temple food).  Until recently, Korean temple food (Sachal Eumshik 사찰음식) was rarely available outside of temples. But with people wanting to eat more healthy, temple food is gaining more and more attraction. There are now cooking classes offered by monks and their protégés. These days, there are even few celebrity monk chefs that have their own shows on TV!!..hmm.. something about monks having their own TV show?! But why not, it is the age of the mass media.

Because buddhist monks do not eat any meat or fish and also avoid most aromatics such as garlic, ginger and onions (builds too much stamina for men), this Kimchi is also Vegan. What’s wonderful about Lettuce Kimchi is that it is mild enough that it can appeal to many foreigners and is an easier dish to make for many outside of Korea because no special Korean ingredients are needed. The only drawback to this Kimchi is that it will not keep as long as cabbage Kimchi – so try to eat it sooner than later!
Servings: 10+                Time: Prep 15 min + Cook 15 min          Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients                * gram weights are approximate

  • 2 lb (1 kg) green leaf lettuce (bolted or regular)
  • 5 oz (150g) potato (med size), peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 C water
  • 4 oz (100g) fresh Korean red chili pepper, minced
  • 2 T chopped garlic
  • 3 T Korean red chili powder (gochukaroo 고추가루)
  • 1 T sea salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 4 tsp sesame seeds
  • 2 fresh Korean green chili (putgochoo 풋고추), cut into slices
  • 2 fresh hot green chili (chungyang gochoo 청량고추), cut into slices
    • substitute thai chilis but cut very thin
  • 1 bunch Korean purplette onions or bunching onions (chokpa 쪽파)

** Notes about ingredients **

  • Korean chokpa 쪽파 is something I have really started to love. It is basically a cross between shallots and scallions. It’s not only cute and pretty but has a bit more sweeter flavor than regular scallions. Finding the exact English equivalent was hard but Alllium Wakegi is the closest one I could find. Some people say it is Japanese bunching onions but I don’t think it is an exact match. It is also called purplette onions by some and I think this is closer.

    Korean bunching onions, chokpa, 쪽파, Allium Wakegi, purplette onions

    Korean bunching onions, chokpa, 쪽파, Allium Wakegi, purplette onions


  1. Wash and rinse lettuces with the stems and all. If some of the stems are too woody, smash them once with a knife.
  2. Wash, peel about 5 oz weight of potato. 5 oz potato is about 1 medium size potato. Add 1 C of water and potato chunks to blender and blend until you get potato juice. ;)

    blended raw potato

    blended raw potato

  3. Put potato juice in pot, bring to boil and immediately lower heat to simmer. Stir the mixture often to prevent it from sticking to bottom of pot. Simmer for 10 min or so until the mixture tastes cooked and becomes potato paste.

    Potato paste for Kimchi

    Potato paste for Kimchi

  4. Prepare the seasonings – chop the fresh red chili pepper and garlic. Rinse and cut Korean bunching onions (chokpa).
  5. In a extra extra large mixing bowl (Koreans have this just for Kimchi making), add the potato paste (감자풀 Gamja Pool), chili powder, garlic, salt, sesame seeds and sugar. Mix well.

    Seasoning base for Summer Kimchi

    Seasoning base for Summer Kimchi

  6. Add the chopped fresh chili pepper and mix again.

    Kimchi seasoning + fresh chopped red chili

    Kimchi seasoning + fresh chopped red chili

  7. Add in the cut purplette onions and green chilis.

    Kimchi seasoning with bunching onions, green chilis

    Seasoning with purplette onions, green chilis for lettuce Kimchi

  8. Mix the lettuce and seasoning together. Be careful not to handle the lettuce too much. Just gently toss.

    Finished lettuce Kimchi (Sangchoo Kimchi 상추김치)

    Finished lettuce Kimchi (Sangchoo Kimchi 상추김치)

  9. You can eat lettuce Kimchi right away or eat 1-2 days after it has ripened in the fridge. Here is a closeup of how lettuce Kimchi looks when it’s fully ripe.
    Ripe Lettuce Kimchi

    Ripe Lettuce Kimchi

    Lettuce has lots of vitamin C and so do the red chilis so it’s a great dish to have in the hot summer! It’s also very clean tasting since no fish sauce was added. Enjoy~



No Crazy Kimchi chart featured in Yakima magazine

Recently I was asked by Yakima magazine (a wonderful local lifestyle magazine written for and by the local people in Yakima valley in the state of Washington) if I would allow my No Crazy Kimchi flowchart to be included in their upcoming article about eating and making Kimchi.

Making the flowchart was not at all easy but it is truly wonderful to know that it is appreciated and deemed useful by people. Thank YOU Yakima magazine for including my chart in your article!

Check out their great article Try Something Kimchi.

A little blurb about their magazine: Yakima magazine is the popular bi-monthly lifestyle publication that’s 100 percent locally written by dedicated writers. Yakima magazine focuses on the people and places that make the Yakima Valley unique, featuring original stories about local homes and gardens, local entertainment, going out on the town, local food and wine, the outdoors, fun day trips and interesting places to spend a weekend that aren’t that far away.

Be sure to check them out – especially if you are going to visit the area of Yakima, Washington.


My first Kimjang at home! (Tips on brining cabbage for Kimchi)

cbrined cabbages for Kimjang Kimchi

brined/salted Korean napa cabbages for Kimjang Kimchi

About this time last year I helped my mother-in-law’s Kimjang at her house and in return, I brought home couple containers of her yummy Kimjang. This year, I decided that it was time I tried it all on my own. I was a bit worried that I may not be able to handle the large amount of ingredients but hey, you have to take risks in life, right?

In late September, after my potato harvest, we planted Korean cabbages (배추 Baechoo), radishes (무우 Moo), Korean leeks (대파 Daepa) and mustard greens(갓 kaat) at our family farm for Kimjang.

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After about 2 months, they were ready for picking. These pictures were taken around 11/20 or so. I came home with 16 cabbages, 9 radishes and a huge bunch of mustard greens. Also about two large bunches of Korean leeks.  I bought the rest from the market.

Because I basically used the same Kimjang kimchi recipe from last year I will not list it again here. However, I will write more in depth about prep work- especially brining/salting cabbages. I know I mentioned in my last year’s post how most people just buy already brined cabbages (절임 배추 jeorim baechoo) because people say that’s the most difficult part of Kimjang both in terms of complexity and effort. You can use these tips for pickling cabbages in making regular small batch Kimchi at home.

How to brine (pickle) Korean napa cabbage (배추 baechoo) for Kimchi:


  • 5 KOREAN NAPA CABBAGES (about 6 lb/2.7 kg each)
  • 7 1/4 Cups or 2.5 lb/1.2 kg coarse SEA SALT (bitterns removed)
  • 13 1/2 Cups cold or lukewarm WATER
  • 1 gallon size bowl
  • 1 giant container or bathtub to hold cabbages while they are brined
  • 1 giant strainer/colander to drain brined cabbages



  1. Clean cabbage – Clean and cut away any outer leaves that are too damaged, brown or dirty. Most likely, your local market will sell already cleaned cabbages in which case need to do nothing.                                                        **Make sure you leave some good greenish outer leaves so you can use it to wrap the kimchi at the end.
    Cleaning cabbage for Kimjang kimchi

    Cleaning cabbage for Kimjang kimchi

    Note how large the baechoo is on the left compared to the cleaned and cut ones on the right.

  2. Cut each cabbage in half. Tip for cutting cabbage for Kimchi: just cut about 1/3 of the bottom half (from the root end) and rip apart by hand. Like so –
    How to cut Kimjang cabbage baechoo in half

    How to cut Kimjang cabbage baechoo in half

    It won’t be a huge disaster if you cut it all the way with a knife but it’s just easier this way and also you will not end up wasting cabbage pieces.

  3. In a large container, dissolve about 5 C of salt and 13 1/2 C of cold or lukewarm water for the brine. Reserve remaining 2 1/4 C salt for sprinkling. Please read my Kimjang tips post on discussion about salt. Solar sea salt is best if you can get them.
  4. Put cabbages in brine (made in step 3) – make sure the brine seeps fully into the cabbage by spreading out the leaves with your hands and swirling it around.

    soaking cabbage in brine for Kimchi

    soaking cabbage in brine for Kimchi

  5. Leave cabbages in brine for 2~3 hrs until the leaves start to get soft.
  6. When leaves are soft, For each 1/2 cabbage, REPEAT the following 3 steps:
    1. Take each cabbage out and let it drain for couple seconds and put in a bowl. DO NOT discard the brine because you will be putting cabbages back later on.
    2. Get a handful of salt from the remaining 2 C and sprinkle (more like spraying) the salt in between leaves of each 1/2 cabbage, starting from the outer leaves.  Aiming the salt mostly on the thick, white fleshy part of the cabbage.
    3. Put salted cabbages back into the brine.
    • Salting cabbage for Kimchi

      Salting cabbage for Kimchi

      ** We do this because the thick white fleshy part takes longer and more salt to pickle. You only need about 2 T for each 1/2 cabbage. You may not need to do this if your cabbage has very thin white flesh.

7. Let cabbages sit in brine for another 10~12 hrs. Making sure cabbages are evenly pickled by rotating the ones on the top with the ones in the bottom, every 4 hrs or so.

salted cabbage in tub for Kimchi

salted cabbage in tub for Kimchi

8. Next morning, the white part of the cabbage should be fully bendable like so-

soft pickled cabbage

soft pickled cabbage

9. Rinse cabbages 2~3 times thoroughly. Let cabbages drain for 1 hr or so. Place the cut side down when draining.

Now you are ready to make the seasoning and finish up the Kimchi!

Most modern Kimchi recipes tell you to brine cabbages for 6-8 hrs (at room temp) but traditionally, Kimjang cabbages were pickled overnight in cold winter weather. In my opinion brining overnight works better simply in terms of scheduling because you can start brining cabbages at night time and then finish making Kimjang kimchi the next morning. If you brine them for only 6-8 hrs, then you either end up making Kimchi at wee hours of the night or you end up starting the pickling process after midnight.

None of which is fun..

So in my case, I washed and cleaned all the vegetables first during the day and then started pickling the baechoo (cabbage) in our bathtub around 7pm. Which meant I could rinse it around 8 am next morning.

Well, now you have it! With my tips on how to pickle/brine Korean cabbages for Kimchi, you should be able to make a very delicious Kimchi anytime!

About the BRINE:

  • Pickling in 15% salt solution is the traditional standard for Kimchi cabbages. e.g. If you want to make a 10 C brine solution, you need to mix 8 1/2 C of water and 1 1/2 C salt. The 15% salt solution is pretty much similar to sea water. In fact, in some coastal areas, Koreans pickle their cabbages in sea water instead.

Kimchi Sausage Stew (부대찌게 Budae Jjigae)

Korean Kimchi Stew (부대찌게 Budae Jjigae)

Korean Kimchi Stew (부대찌게 Budae Jjigae)

After the Korean war, the US military stayed behind and setup bases in several locations throughout Korea. Usually near these bases,  one could buy American products -especially canned foods like, yes, the infamous SPAM!! So what to do with SPAM?  Well..what else? Add Kimchi!! Kimchi makes everything taste better!! And so this Kimchi Sausage Stew (aka 부대찌게 Budae or Boodae Jjigae) was born.  The name Budae means Army Base in Korean and by now you know Jjigae means stew. This dish is still very popular today and there is even a franchise restaurant that serves only Budae Jjigae. I wouldn’t say they serve the best but it’s not horrible either. Most Koreans say the area for the best Budae Jjigae is actually 의정부 (Uijeongbu) -the place of origin.

Talking about American foods from these army bases…One memory I have about SPAM and other American goodies is that even when I was a kid (in the late 60’s early 70’s, many years after the war) this one lady (ajoomas) came  to our house and secretly sold various foods that were basically smuggled out of the army bases.  I remember getting excited every time this 양키 아줌마 (Yankee Ajooma – haha.. get it? ) would visit, to see what yummy goodies came out of her bag! Because, at that time, things like peanut butter, grape jelly, SPAM, American Kraft Cheese singles, corn beef, baked beans and chocolates were not available anywhere else.

There are many variations to Budae Jjigae and the recipe here is the very basic one. I will list other variations at the end.


Servings: 4                          Cooking Time: 30 min                           Difficulty: Easy (very)


  • 2 large half cabbage kimchi (4 C sliced)
  • 1/2 can SPAM, sliced
  • 2 hotdog sausages, sliced
  • 4 oz ground pork
  • 4-6 oz firm tofu, sliced
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 2/3 C rice cake slices (optional)
  • 3 C water
  • 1 T gochujang (Korean red chili paste)


1. Selecting a good quality, sour Kimchi is very important. The kimchi I used here is actually the Kimchi I made as part of my Kimjang last year. Can you believe that it’s still good? It’s way too sour to eat fresh but totally tasty in jjigaes or fried rice. Here’s a pic of how it looks now-

kimjang kimchi in August

kimjang kimchi in August

Notice how the flesh has become kind of translucent – this is a definite sign that the kimchi has become quite sour. Normally you don’t want to buy this unless you are buying overly ripe, old kimchi (묵은지 Mookeunji) on purpose to make stews or fried rice.

Now, cut the kimchi into slices like so..

Kimchi sliced for Budae Jjigae

Kimchi sliced for Budae Jjigae

2. Prepare remaining ingredients by washing, cutting slicing…

budae kimchi jjigae ingredients

budae kimchi jjigae ingredients

3. Now, get a pot or skillet with a cover and first layer Kimchi at the bottom and then the remaining ingredients on top except for the garlic. Pour water, cover and start cooking on Med High heat until it starts to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15 min.

jjigae in pot with water

jjigae in pot with water

4. Add the chopped garlic and simmer for another 10 min or so. Taste the broth and adjust if necessary. If it’s too sour, add a little bit of sugar. For more spicy or stronger flavor, add more gochujang and garlic.

Budae Jjigae close up

Budae Jjigae close up

And it should be ready to eat!~ :)) Yum, yum..

Serve with some rice and you have a complete easy one dish meal! For a great side dish make stir fried string potatoes and serve it with mayonnaise.

Budae Jjigae (부대찌게) and Rice

Budae Jjigae (부대찌게) and Rice

For variations, you can add one or more of the following:

  • a slice of American cheese on top
  • ramen noodles – just add dried noodles to the pot in the middle of cooking. Be sure to add more water because noodles will absorb a lot of water (If you think you will have leftovers, don’t add ramen noodles to the pot since the noodles will continue to soak up any excess liquid).
  • baked beans
  • bacon
  • chrysanthemum leaves (쑥갓 sookat)


Budae Jjigae keeps well in the fridge and tastes even better when reheated. Just be sure to leave out noodles or rice cakes when storing. It also tastes good cold with hot rice – when you don’t feel like going through the trouble of reheating.. :)

Kimjang Day: Part 1- How it’s done

kimjang kimchi

kimjang kimchi

The last time I took part in Kimjang (Korean tradition for making a lot of Kimchi to last through the winter months) was when I was still living at home in Seoul. Our family was quite large back then and we lived in a home where our back yard actually had buried kimchi jars. If my memory serves me right, I think we pickled 100~200 cabbages each winter which meant it was really a several day event – couple days to wash and salt the cabbages + prepare the yangnyum and other ingredients, another couple days to rinse and stuff the cabbages.

Many people will say Kimjang is hard work but for me it was a very fun and exciting time. Fun because family and friends got together, worked all day long (even sometimes outside in the cold) but also shared some good food and good times with each other. I remember a particular joke adults played on each other – wrapping up a big piece of ginger inside a piece of freshly made cabbage kimchi and offering it to another to taste. Yikes!!!

My family usually made at least 3-4 kinds of kimchi: the original stuffed whole cabbage(배추김치 baechoo kimchi), radish kimchi in water (동치미 dongchimi – this is a North Korean favorite), kimchi wrapped in cabbage parcels (보쌈김치 bossam kimchi) and young radish kimchi (총각김치 chonggak kimchi aka ‘bachelor’ kimchi). This year, my mother-in-law made white cabbage kimchi (백김치 white kimchi), two kinds of traditional cabbage kimchi (one with fermented anchovies and another with fermented shrimps).

Please note: This Part 1 post is a rough overview of what happened during Kimjang Day. Part 2 will contain a more detailed discussion of ingredients and tips on how to make a great tasting kimchi.



Time: 2 days                                  Servings:  10-12 servings                                  Difficulty: difficult

Ingredients for traditional cabbage Kimjang Kimchi

* these measurements are approximate and should be adjusted to taste

  • 2 Korean Napa cabbage (배추 baechoo)
  • 1 large Korean radish (무우 moo)
  • 3~4 C sea salt with bittern removed
  • 20 C water (for brine)
  • 1 C ~ 1 1/2 C Korean chili powder (adjust to taste – even up to 2 C)
  • 1/2 C chopped garlic
  • 1 T chopped ginger
  • 8 green onions, sliced thin 1 1/2 in long
  • 7 oz water parsely/water dropwort (미나리 minari), cut 1 1/2 in long
  • 1 bunch Korean mustard greens (갓 Gaat)
  • 1/2 C total fermented seafood sauce (one or more of the following)
    • fermented anchovies (멸치젓 myulchijeot)
    • fermented shrimps (새우젓 saewoojeot)
    • fermented yellow croaker (조기젓 jokijeot)
    • fermented sand lance (까나리젓 kkanarijeot)
  • 1/3 C chopped fresh shrimp or fresh oysters (optional)
  • OPTIONAL (really, this is extra)
    • Korean or Asian pear
    • persimmon (the hard kind)


  1. Prepare cabbages: First, set aside about 1/2 C of the sea salt to sprinkle directly in between cabbage leaves. Dissolve remaining sea salt with 20 C water to make brine. Cut cabbages into 2-4 pieces and  soak in brine for 30 minutes. Drain (save the brine) and then sprinkle salt between leaves focusing on the thicker, white fleshy part. Soak the cabbages overnight or 8-10 hrs in the brine again. Turning 1-2 times to evenly pickle the cabbage. When properly salted, the cabbages should look something like this..
    salted cabbages for kimchi

    salted cabbages rinsed for kimchi

    Rinse the salted cabbages in water 2-3 times and let it drain fully (1 hr or so).

    ** Salting cabbages correctly is pretty tricky and some people say it’s actually the most difficult part of making kimchi. So these days, many cabbage farms sell already salted cabbages which makes the whole process so much easier.

  2. Prepare yangnyum :
julieneed radishj

julieneed radish

add chili powder to radish

add chili powder to radish and mix

Mix the radish with chili powder until radish pieces are completely coated.

mixed radish and chili powder

mixed radish and chili powder

Wash and cut green onions, dropwort and mustard leaves. In volume it’s about equal amount to radish.
Mix the greens into the yangnyum.

green onions, dropwort, mustard leaves

add cut green onions, drop wort

Mustard leaves (갓 Gaat)

Korean mustard leaves (갓 Gaat)

These miniature shrimps are the same shrimp used to make fermented shrimps (새우젓 saewoojeot). Using fresh shrimp is totally optional but many like to add them because it makes Kimchi taste better – a little sweeter? If you can’t find miniature shrimps, you can just add regular minced shrimp meat and it will taste just as good.

fresh mini shrimps

fresh mini shrimps (each is about 1 in long)

Now add the fermented stuff. I listed several options but the basic one to use is either the anchovies or shrimps. You can add both or just one.  Add the liquid from fermented anchovies (멸치젓 myulchijeot) or fermented shrimps (새우젓 saewoojeot) by pressing them through a sieve or squeeze the juice by hand. My picture of anchovies was pretty bad so I’m just posting the shrimps and yellow croaker here.

fermented yellow croaker (조기젓 jokeejeot) - draining just the liquid

fermented yellow croaker (조기젓 jokeejeot) – drain just the liquid

fermented mini shrimps (새우젓 saewoojeot)

fermented mini shrimps (새우젓 saewoojeot)

Optionally add sliced pear (thicker strips than radish since pear breaks easily) and/or persimmon to yangnyum. Just a handful of pear/persimmon will do fine. The fruits add natural sweetness to Kimchi without additional sugar.

Taste the yangnyum. It should taste saltier, spicier and more pungent than how a ripe kimchi tastes. But it should still taste pretty good overall. Add more fermented shrimp or anchovy liquid if it’s not salty enough. You can also add regular sea salt instead. The saltiness and spiciness will lessen (maybe about 20% less?) with fermentation.

yangnyeom for kimjang

add pear as a finishing touch to yangnyum


3. Now it’s time to stuff the cabbage:

Insert stuffing to cabbage Kimchi

Insert stuffing to cabbage Kimchi

Take each cabbage halves or quarters and insert about a heaping tablespoon amount of stuffing in between each of the leaves. Start from the larger leaves and work your way up to the smaller leaves. Don’t worry about coating the whole leaf but concentrate on the thicker white parts of the cabbage.

wrap cabbage after stuffing kimchi yangnyeom

wrap cabbage after stuffing kimchi yangnyeom (this is white kimchi)

When you are done stuffing all layers, take the outermost leaf and wrap the cabbage to keep the stuffed yangnyum from falling out. In a large container big enough to hold all the cabbages, start packing in each of the stuffed cabbages as tightly as possible.

kimjang kimchi in container

kimjang kimchi in container

This is a large rectangular container that comes with my Kimchi fridge. But you are welcome to use one of those large pickle jars or any container that suits you. The goal is to pack the cabbages tightly so that they can ferment in their own juices as much as possible.

4. Because Kimjang Kimchi is meant to last through the winter, it should ripe slowly in the most ideal temperature. See my No Crazy Kimchi post for more detailed info on ripening kimchi.

In this year of 2012, a survey showed only 52% of Korean families plan to do their own Kimjang – down from last year’s 57%. 20 years ago, my guess would be that over 90% of Korean families did their own Kimjang. Unless you were too poor or too sick to do it, it was a must for every Korean family. With families getting smaller and young people’s taste becoming more westernized, the trend will likely continue. Which made me cherish this year’s Kimjang even more…

Nov. 24th is Kimjang Day!

Yes.. I know.. Nov. 24th is Thanksgiving weekend but in Korea I will be making kimchi all day at my in-laws for Kimjang/Gimang. Kimjang is a longtime Korean tradition where families get together and make enough kimchi to last them through the freezing winter. It used to take 2- 3 days but now it’s usually done in one day (Read my No Crazy Kimchi post for more). I hope to take pictures and learn as much as I can from my mother-in-law and will be posting soon! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Kimchi Mari (김치말이) – Cold Kimchi Rice

cold kimchi rice

kimchimari (cold kimchi and rice)

Yesterday was one of those days when I really did not feel like cooking anything but still wanted to have something good to eat for lunch. And then it hit me…Kimchimari. I almost forgot how great this is! I LOVE how easy this is to make and how light and refreshing it is. I used to make this all the time when I lived in Korea. And thus, this now inspired me to name my blog domain – Kimchimari.com!

Now, if you don’t have any friends or family who came from North Korea during the Korean war, you probably have not heard of this dish before. Kimchimari is very uniquely North Korean, similar to Naengmyun(냉면) or Bossam Kimchi(보쌈김치). And unlike the latter dishes, very few restaurants serve Kimchimari. I think I have rarely seen it in menus in all the restaurants I have visited in Seoul.

Because both sides of my family are originally from North Korea (both my parents escaped separately to South Korea during the war and met up again afterwards-talk about destiny..), I grew up eating many North Korean dishes such as the ones above. As a kid, I often had sleep overs at my cousins home and my aunt made Kimchimari for us as a night time snack! When I first saw it, I thought they were crazy – eating a full rice meal as a snack. But once I tasted it, I could not stop eating it. Kimchimari is especially refreshing and delicious when it is made with ice cold Kimjang kimchi(김장김치) during the winter months. But not many of us have that luxury so just use the best quality, well fermented kimchi you can get and it will still be good.

The word ‘mari(말이)’ comes from the verb ‘malda(말다)’ which refers to the act of adding and mixing rice in  a broth or soup. So, Kimchimari by definition is rice mixed into kimchi soup. However, the version I introduce here is a dry version without the soup. I am not sure why my family made this version without the soup but I actually prefer this version when rice is used because it’s kind of hard to find the rice once they are swimming in the soup! So I guess this recipe is a unique family recipe.

Print Recipe


Servings:  1                                            Prep Time: 5 min                                   Difficulty: very easy

Ingredients for kimchimari

Ingredients for kimchimari


  • 1 C cooked rice
  • 1/3 C sliced baechu(napa cabbage) kimchi
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • sprinkling of sesame seeds


1. Measure about 1 C of cooked rice. Room temperature rice works best. Use leftover, old rice if you have any. If using freshly cooked rice, let it cool and come to room temperature.

2. Slice baechu(napa cabbage) kimchi into bite sizes pieces (about 1/3 in wide). Measure about 1/3 C. Use more if you want it to be more flavorful and spicy.

3. Add kimchi, sesame oil, sugar and sesame seeds to rice. Mix everything together with a spoon.

kimchi and rice

kimchi and rice

4. That’s it! Taste it and adjust sugar, sesame oil and sesame seeds. My mouth is watering just looking at these pictures…

This is all you need to make a nice, simple meal. Banchan such as myulchi bokkeum, sauteed burdock, sauteed dried shrimp will all go really well with this dish.


  • Substitute or add radish or other kind of kimchi to vary the flavor
  • Add some kimchi juice or dongchimi 동치미 juice to the rice if you want to make it moist. If you are making it very soupy, add some ice to make it extra crispy and zingy.


Kimchimari Guksoo (김치말이 국수) is a cold kimchi noodle soup that is similar to the soupy rice version. This is easier to find at restaurants than the rice dish.

Kimchi stew with pork belly

Kimchi Stew (Jjigae/Chigae)

Kimchi Stew (Jjigae/Chigae)

I still remember the very first time I made Kimchi Jjigae all by myself – it was when I was visiting my brother in Virginia. The winter snow storm that year (1984? 1985?) was so bad that we were stuck in his apartment for almost a week with no means of getting to a store. The first time I stepped outside,  the snow had accumulated up to my thigh level! We were running out of things to eat and we were really getting tired of eating pastrami sandwiches and chips…And then we found some old kimchi in the fridge! My kimchi jjigae turned out surprisingly delicious (it could have been that we were both pretty desperate for some real food) and so I have been a fan of Kimchi Jjigae ever since.

Kimchi Jjigae is very simple to make. As long as you use a good quality, well ripe (VERY IMPORTANT!) kimchi, it is really hard to mess things up. However, there are some ways to make a better tasting kimchi jjigae so hopefully this post will help you make some amazing kimchi stew!

For more discussions about Kimchi (the history and how to ripen them), please read my previous post – No Crazy Kimchi.

The recipe below is for Pork Kimchi Jjigae which is the “standard.” Restaurants serve this variation the most – probably because pork and kimchi are just magical together. I do have issues with many restaurant jjigaes though – they often use kimchi that is not sour enough and also not enough of it. It produces jjigae that really does not have much depth of flavor.


Servings: 2-3         Prep Time:  10 min   Cooking Time: 30      Diffculty: easy

Ingredients for Pork Kimchi Jjigae (돼지고기 김치찌게 Dwejikogi Kimchi Jjigae)

  • 3 -4 C (7 to 8 oz) chopped sour kimchi (신김치 shin kimchi) or aged kimchi (묵은지 Moogeunji)
  • 8 oz pork belly or shoulder (should have some fat)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped or crushed)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 packet of anchovy stock or 5 large anchovies for stock
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 3 C water

    • 1 T mirin (rice wine)
    • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
    • 1/2 onion, sliced
    • 1/4 tsp gook kanjang
    • 1 tsp sesame oil


You need kimchi that is overly ripe and sour. You really cannot make good kimchi jjigae if the kimchi is not sour enough. You can also use aged kimchi (kimchi that has been fermenting for 30+ days). This will produce a very sour jjigae that some people just love. I prefer my kimchi jjigae to be not too sour, so I usually just save leftover kimchi from the table (you should never put leftover kimchi from the table back into the original jar) and keep in the fridge for 2 weeks or so (less than 30 days) and use in my stew.

aged kimchi vs ripe kimchi

aged (sour) kimchi vs ripe kimchi

If you look at the image above, you can see how kimchi looks very different based on how ripe they are. The kimchi on the left is quite old, overly ripe, sour and has almost a translucent look to it. The color is also no longer white but more yellowish brown. The kimchi on the right is perfectly ripe, very slightly sour and is about 2 weeks old. The color is white and opaque. The kimchi on the right is probably not overly ripe enough to make good jjigae (I just put in this picture to give a comparison). Use kimchi that is more close to the left picture.

1. If you have a whole cabbage kimchi, cut into smaller pieces.

2. Cut pork against the grain into bite size pieces.

cut pork into small pieces

cut pork into small pieces (pork should have some fat)

3. Heat oil in a pot and saute the pork on medium high heat until slightly cooked.

sauteeing pork for kimchi jjigae

sauteeing pork for kimchi jjigae

4. Add the kimchi and sauté for another 7 – 8 min.

sauteeing kimchi and pork

sauteeing kimchi and pork

5. Add water, rice wine, chopped garlic, garlic powder and the dried anchovies (or anchovy stock packet).  Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 min. Halfway through the simmer (15 min), taste the soup. If you think it could use some additional seasoning, add the red chili powder and gook kanjang. You can also add some the of the kimchi juice if you feel it is tasting a bit bland. I usually find that it turns out too spicy and salty if I add the juice but it all depends on how spicy and salty your kimchi is. So taste it along the way and adjust the seasonings.

kimchi jjigae before

kimchi jjigae before it’s fully cooked

simply delicious kimchi jjigae

simply delicious kimchi jjigae

It is ready! Just serve with some rice and with some meat or fish. Since kimchi jjigae is quite salty and spicy, it goes really well with heavier dishes such as grilled meats (kalbi, bulgogi, pork belly) . Try Kimchi Jjigae cold (room temp) with some hot rice – the contrast in temperature somehow makes it really taste good.


If your kimchi is too sour, try adding a tsp or two of sugar. If your kimchi is not sour enough and you are really desperate for some good kimchi jjigae, try adding some vinegar or sauerkraut in addition to your kimchi.


  • Plain Kimchi Jjigae – This has become my favorite. I love the clean taste of this jjigae. Just sauté the kimchi and onions in 2 T oil, add water, garlic powder and dried anchovies.
  • Tofu Kimchi Jjigae – Add tofu to the plain version or to any other type of kimchi jjigae.
  • Tuna Kimchi Jjigae – Add tuna to the plain version.
  • Beef Kimchi Jjigae – Substitute beef for pork.
  • Spike Mackerel Kimchi Jjigae – Add a can of spike mackerel. Add some gochujang in addition to the plain version.
  • Combo Kimchi Jjigae –  Mix different kinds of kimchi-including radish kimchis such as young radish kimchi (총각김치 chonggak kimchi) or cubed radish kimchi (깍두기 kkakttooki) which is one of my favorite. Radishes add another dimension of taste and texture- so try it!


Kimchi Jjigae will keep in room temperature for 2-3 days because it is so salty. Remember to reheat once a day. Many people say that it actually tastes better the next day when you reheat it, and I completely agree. When you reheat it, add 1 T of water to prevent it from getting too salty. Keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

No Crazy Kimchi (How to ripen Kimchi)

cabbage kimchi (배추김치 baechu kimchi)

cabbage kimchi (배추김치 baechu kimchi)- source (http://blog.naver.com/wefhpop/60143368957)

Everyone has a different preference as to when Kimchi(김치) tastes the best – some love eating freshly made, raw kimchi (kind of tastes like a salad); some love eating it when it is just perfectly ripe and then there are those who love sour kimchi (신김치 shin kimchi) which has basically over fermented and obviously tastes quite sour. But one thing is for sure – no one likes the stage when it is in the in-between stages of being raw and ripe. Kimchi really does not taste good at all when it is in the process of getting ripe – I had an aunt who used to call this the time when kimchi has gone CRAZY! And you certainly don’t want to eat the kimchi when it’s crazy! :) So here’s how to avoid CRAZY kimchi.

Since most of us now buy kimchi from the store, let me first write about the best way to eat a store bought kimchi. Too often, I hear people say that the kimchi served at our house tastes great, but when they try the same brand themselves, they think it doesn’t  taste nearly as good. I realized it was because they don’t take the time to ripen it properly and then also forget to serve it cold (right out of the fridge).  I found that most kimchi (even the poorly made ones) will taste quite palatable when they have had time to ripen properly.
Now, the hard part about buying kimchi from a store is that it is hard to tell at what stage of the fermentation process they are in. One clue is the appearance of the vegetables. They will look more shriveled up if they are further along in the fermentation process. The chances are it will also have lost a bit of the juice because the content will start to bubble and balloon up when it ferments which ends up usually overflowing out of the jar. This is actually too bad because kimchi should always be immersed in its own juices for it to taste the best. The best way is to buy the freshest kimchi possible and bring it home and ripen it from the beginning. But this is usually not possible…So far, I have found the best tasting kimchi that you can buy are actually the ones that are directly imported from Korea (종가집Jongajip is my favorite). It is expensive but worth it in my opinion as long as it hasn’t traveled too far or stayed on the shelf too long at your store. Other than that, the next best thing is to try to buy kimchi that is made locally if it’s available (less chance of it over ripening) and when you bring it home, open it, smell it or better yet, taste it. If your store has a fast turnaround, it is probably in the “crazy” stage. If it’s already fully ripe, put it in the fridge in the coldest possible setting. If it’s not yet fully ripened and you can wait, let it ripen in your fridge. This will take about 2 weeks in your fridge. Also note that the juice may overflow so either move the kimchi into a bigger container or take some out (1/5th) and leave some room for the kimchi to expand. If your kimchi is still very fresh, not at all ripe and you need to eat it quickly, you can ferment it at room temperature. In the summer, it will ripen in 12 ~ 18 hrs and in cooler weather it can take about 24 – 48 hrs. Just check every 4-6 hrs. If this is all too much info for you to digest, I have a chart at the bottom of this post that can help you with the process. (Boy, it’s been ages since I drew up a flowchart…brings back memories from my college days of hand drawing the charts using graphic rulers..)

So.. what is the ultimate best way to ripen or ferment kimchi? The most delicious and fantastic kimchi is made when it is fermented the old fashioned way…In a traditional Korean clay jar, buried in the ground in winter time. Even though the ground freezes in the winter, the jar and the saltiness of the kimchi keep it from freezing completely. This is called 김장김치 (kimjang kimchi). Kimjang kimchi is usually made around the ‘start of winter’ (입동 ipdong) in the lunar calendar which is just about now (Nov 7-8th in Gregorian calendar).

row of kimchi jars in the ground

row of kimchi jars in the ground – source (http://cafe.naver.com/ovenwon/30851)

I remember when I was a kid, we spent days preparing and making kimjang kimchi so that it could last us through the winter and into spring. We first dug big holes in the ground big enough to hold our huge clay jars (so big that a child can fall in). In the meantime, we spent the day washing and brining 100+  napa cabbages and also preparing the ingredients for the stuffing. The next day we took these salted napa cabbages and inserted the stuffing in between each cabbage leaf. It was an enormous amount of work but boy…was it worth it. All winter long, we got to eat these amazingly crunchy and zingy and sometimes even ever so slightly frozen kimchi that came out of these jars in the ground. So why was it so tasty? According to research, when it is buried in the ground, the temperature remains quite constant – at 32 – 35 F all winter long. At this temperature it takes about 20 days for the kimchi to fully ripen but it is definitely worth the wait.

The clay jars are glazed to hold the moisture in but it can still breathe which allows just the right amount of air circulation to take away any heat produced from the fermentation (keeping the temperature stable).   It also keeps the air tight enough for the bacteria to not grow too fast which helps the kimchi maintain its peak flavor for a longer period. The history of kimchi can be dated back almost 2000 years to the Goguryo Dynasty according to some historians, so you can see how long Koreans had time to refine the technique of kimchi making.

Since most Koreans now live in apartments and have no backyards to bury the jars, they have invented what is called a kimchi refrigerator. This fridge is different from the conventional refrigerator because the interior walls of the fridge are cooled instead of the air which helps to keep the interior at a more constant temperature. I own one and I have to say it is the next best thing to having your own kimchi jar in the ground. It even has temperature options for fermenting and then just storing it to prolong its freshness.

How to tell if Kimchi is ripe and ready to eat?

When a kimchi is not fully ripe, you are able to smell and kind of taste the individual ingredients – garlic, cabbage, radish, green onion, fish sauce, etc – as they have yet to fully integrate with each other. When it is fully ripened, the tastes of all the ingredients are well blended together and there is full flavor embedded in each cabbage leaf or vegetable pieces. There is also a slight sour taste with an added zing at the end. You can also no longer smell the raw ingredients individually but rather have a combined, wonderful slightly stinky smell that is unique to kimchi. Below is the chart that I promised earlier -

How To Ripen Kimchi Properly

How To Ripen Kimchi Properly

*** CORRECTION : When slow fermenting your home made kimchi in the fridge, please leave your very freshly made kimchi outside at room temp for 1/2 day to overnight BEFORE putting it in and letting it ripen for 4-7 days.  A reader pointed it out to me – thank you MOMO!

So how long will Kimchi keep?

When stored at the ideal temperature that’s close to the freezing point of 32 F, kimchi will keep for 3 months or more. If the temperature of your fridge is higher (which is normally the case), it will probably keep for at least a month or more. Kimchi will start to taste just too sour when it starts to go bad at which point, the best way to eat them is by cooking them. Kimchi will go bad – it will have this whitish kind of film when it has been really too long and will also smell very pungently sour. You don’t want to eat it at this stage.

Kimchi Soondubu Jjigae (Spicy Soft Tofu Stew with Kimchi)

kimchi soondubu jjigae (kimchi soft tofu stew)

kimchi soondubu jjigae (kimchi soft tofu stew)

Kimchi Soondubu Jjigae is one of the variations of the spicy soft tofu stew  (순두부 찌게 Soondubu Jjigae) that I wrote about some time ago. I know that my original recipe may taste a bit bland to some people and if that’s the case for you, you really have to try this version with kimchi and beef. As with many things, adding kimchi makes the jjigae explode with flavors that are just beyond words. How anyone can live without kimchi, I’ll never know… :)

However, if you cannot get kimchi or feel that it is too strong, sauerkraut is a good substitute for kimchi. It does not have all the full complex flavors of the garlic and the fermented fish sauces but it does provide the sourness similar to that of kimchi. At one of our family reunions several years ago–we did not have access to a Korean grocery store– and my sis #3 made a pseudo kimchi jjigae by using sauerkraut, pork, garlic and tons of red chili pepper and it was actually really good.

I used the gochu yangnyum (chili sauce) that I already made before so it was really simple.  I have to confess that I still had the leftover yangnyum from the time I made it for my post in MAY! I thought it would have spoiled by now but surprisingly it was still good! Oh, how I love my sub-zero fridge…if it wasn’t for my sub-zero fridge, I’m quite sure the yangnyum would not be useable by now. A Sub-zero fridge really keeps everything fresh for a much longer period. Fruits and vegetables also don’t get shriveled up for at least a couple weeks -which I love.


  • 1 pack (11 oz) of extra soft tofu (순두부 Soondubu)
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 T gochu yangnyum (chili sauce – see original soondubu jjigae post for recipe)
  • 2- 3 oz beef (stew meat) or pork(belly), cubed – optional
  • 4 oz kimchi (about 1/2 C), roughly chopped
  • 1 egg (optional)


Once you have the gochu yangnyum (chili sauce) already made, it really is very simple to make.

1. Measure about 1/2 C of well fermented kimchi (a handful) and chop it roughly into small pieces or slice into thin strips. It’s always best to use fully fermented, ripe kimchi when it’s used for cooking. When the kimchi is fully fermented, the smell is more pungent but the taste is smoother than when it’s freshly made. A ripe kimchi is slightly sour but has a zing to it that you just cannot taste in any other dish.  The sourness will increase as the fermentation process continues and it’s just a matter of personal taste how sour you want your kimchi to be.

2. Cut up beef or pork into small cubes. The amount of meat doesn’t have to be exact. Use either a similar amount or less of meat when compared to the amount of kimchi. In my opinion, pork goes better with kimchi. There is just something about pork that makes kimchi taste 10 times better. And so if you like pork, by all means use pork! I used beef here  because my hubby is allergic to pork…sigh..

3. Add the kimchi and the meat to your hot pot and cook over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes until meat is slightly cooked.

kimchi and beef cooking in hot pot

kimchi and beef cooking in hot pot

4. Add 1/2 C water and tofu. Break up the tofu into smaller pieces so the tofu gets seasoned evenly. Add 1 T gochu yangnyum and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary. When kimchi is added, you will most likely not need any additional soy sauce or salt or saewoojeot because kimchi is already quite salty.

If you like eggs, crack an egg and add it to the pot when you are ready to eat. You can break up the egg if you like or leave it whole. If you like it fully cooked, let it cook fully on the stove. If you like your eggs to be soft in the middle, take the jjigae off the heat as soon as you add the egg and let it cook slowly in the residual heat.

So that’s how you make kimchi soondubu jjigae! Serve it with some rice, some less spicy, savory jeons or meat dishes like bulgogi. Add a refreshing salad or fresh vegetable dish and it should be a very healthy and tummy warming meal.

spicy soft tofu stew with kimchi and beef

spicy soft tofu stew with kimchi and beef


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