Slimy Kimchi?? No.. we don’t want NO SLIMY KIMCHI!!
Hope all of you had a good summer!
I did and then also kinda I didn’t.. well, that’s just life, isn’t it?
I had a great summer with family, with my mom visiting for the first part and then visiting Korea in August to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 80th Birthday. We also got to squeeze in a quick trip to Jeju Island (yes, posts about that coming soon!) with my daughter so that was really nice. But spending a lot of time with family (which I don’t regret at all) also implies that I got lazy and kinda behind in my blogging. So in that sense, as far as work goes, it was not the best summer. But… it was a really full and busy summer with lots of family time. 😍
Now, onto our main topic of SLIMY KIMCHI.
So, my friend Judith recently visited me with her mul kimchi 물김치 that she made with my recipe. By the way, she was so sweet when she came to my home with a bottle of her mul kimchi – she said, “I gave you every chance for us not to meet today so you wouldn’t have to deal with this….” HAHAHA.. Judith, you are just too nice! 😉
Throughout the years we were friends, this was the first time she mentioned anything about my recipe not turning out right for her. So naturally, I was quite surprised and a little bit anxious to find out why. Judith, I’m thankful that you were honest with me and gave me a chance to redeem myself!
Judith said she followed my mul kimchi recipe to the tee but it somehow came out slimy. It tasted fine but it had a pretty slimy feel to the kimchi liquid. What?? Strange…But then again, Kimchi is really fussy (I told Judith) and you never know why it doesn’t turn out exactly the way it did as before. If there’s one thing that you hear a lot from Korean moms who make Kimchi, it is – “hmm.. not sure why, but my kimchi didn’t turn out as well as last time.”
There are so many things that can go wrong in making Kimchi- radish can be bitter; cabbage can be too thin, too thick, too fibrous, or even bitter; bad salt (bitter, not flavorful); bad gochukaru (chili powder is too spicy, not flavorful, too old..); veggies are brined too long or too short.. I mean there can be thousand reasons why.
But, for now, let’s just try to answer the question –
Why does kimchi become slimy??
Your slimy Kimchi is due to unwanted microorganisms that is outgrowing other wanted ones.
Factors that may result in overgrowth of unwanted microorganisms and Kimchi being slimy:
- SALT – Not enough salt. Kimchi was much more saltier in the good ol’ days before we learned that salt is bad for your high blood pressure and other conditions.
- SUGAR – Too much sugar (esp. to salt ratio) seems to make Kimchi slimy. For this reason, some Koreans and Seolleongtang restaurants don’t like using regular sugar but artificial sweeteners like New Sugar (95% glucose + 5 %saccharine) instead. But I don’t like using these artificial products and I try to use natural ingredients as much as possible. BTW, I never had slimy kimchi so far using sugar. It seems to just depend on how much you use and how much salt there is to balance it (sugar) off.
- DAEPA (Korean LEEK) – Korean leeks can have a lot of mucous in them and some believe this can cause kimchi to become slimy so don’t use daepa/leek but use only spring green onions.
- RICE or FLOUR PASTE – Too much paste can make your kimchi slimy. Paste is NOT always necessary in Kimchi making. See my Kimjang Ingredients and Tips post for more.
- TEMPERATURE – Too warm a temperature. Kimchi is known to initially ferment best cooler temperatures, as low as 4°C (39°F) up to 17°C (62°F). Up to 22°C (72°F) is still OK but any temperatures above that, it is recommended that you add more salt to your kimchi and monitor your closely because it will ferment and change quickly. Interestingly, a Sauerkraut maker also recommends very similar temperatures – best to keep it below 72°F. Refer to my NO CRAZY KIMCHI post for more details on how to ripen Kimchi properly.
What is the slime in Kimchi?
According to fermentation experts, this is because there’s too much of one kind of bacteria. They are not harmful for you but certainly not a pleasant texture to eat and an unbalanced bacteria growth nonetheless. The sliminess can sometimes go away once Kimchi is fully fermented and the acidity goes up.
BTW, kkakdugi is one kimchi where a bit of sliminess is expected and it actually tastes fine that way.
How did Judith end up with a Slimy Water Kimchi?
Honestly, I am still not 100% sure why it came out slimy for Judith and not for me. But my suspicion is that it may have something to do with one or more of the following 3: salt, sugar and perhaps temperature.
Because when we tasted Judith’s Kimchi, somehow it tasted a little less salty than mine. Because we did not use the same exact salt, I wonder if hers was a little less salty. Who knows..Also, if I remember correctly, I think Judith said that she wondered if the room temperature was too warm in her place (I do remember the weather being quite warm around that time). And then one last thing she mentioned was that she couldn’t buy the Korean pear so bought an Asian pear from the market and used that.
I think all 3 might have contributed to the slime… it’s as if the stars aligned just perfectly for it to go the slimy way. Of course, Judith tried to make me feel better by saying that she was going through some bad kimchi karma(?) and that’s probably why. HAHAHA.
FYI, I tested this particular mul kimchi recipe 3 times and it never turned out slimy for me. In fact, I have never had slimy kimchi before.
But still, what could be the problem??
When I look back, the first 2 times I made the mul kimchi, I adjusted the salt and sugar amount by adding a bit more later. The 3rd time, I DID add all the salt and sugar in the beginning and it still turned out fine – so that’s why I thought my recipe was good to go. But I think we can adjust it a little more to reduce the possibility of it turning slimy as much as possible.
Oh, yeah.. so on that day, Judith and I went out and bought radishes and other ingredients to make 2 batches of mul kimchi with same recipe as below but one with the pear and one without. And then we let it ferment in our homes. Both of us still have our water kimchi and I can happily report that they have not turned out slimy and tastes refreshing and delicious!!
So I will update it on my recipe post, but just in case, here’s what I’m changing:
- Korean Cheonilyeom 3 Tbs + 1 tsp => 4 Tbs
- Sugar 2 Tbs => 1 Tbs
- And then, at time of serving, add about 1/2 tsp sugar (adjust to taste) per 1 cup of water kimchi
No SLIMY Kimchi TIP: To avoid slimy water kimchi, adjust sweetness by adding more sugar right before serving water kimchi.
How to adjust Water Kimchi to taste: Try adding a bit of bubbly like sprite or 7 up which adds zing + sweet flavor. If it’s too salty, add a bit of ice.
Thank you for being understanding, always!