In three days my family can gobble up a small jar of kimchi. The jar costs $8.99 – too much for a cabbage based side dish that we burn through so quickly.
My first taste of kimchi was at a Korean restaurant; the novelty of a complementary side dish appearing along with our black bean noodle created good associations, in spite of the unfamiliar tang and spice of the dish. After pandemic-related lockdowns began, we got more adventurous in the kitchen and shopped for a wider variety of groceries. We began eating kimchi at home. But the more we eat it, the more we like it. We’ve gone from only using kimchi as a side with Asian noodle dishes to throwing it on top of eggs, adding it to burritos, and eating it at every meal, when we can. Mostly we can’t. Because it’s expensive, and we eat it far too quickly.
So… I tried to make kimchi myself a few months ago… and failed terribly. First, I used the wrong kind of cabbage. Second, I used WAY too much salt. My kimchi was inedible. I threw it out.
I found a different you-tube video and bought the right kind of cabbage this time.
Let’s get started!
Cut your cabbage in quarters and then into bite-sized pieces. Wash, rinse and shake dry. Add salt and toss. Let it sit for half an hour and toss again. Repeat two or three times. In an hour or so, you’ll notice the cabbage letting go of water, as in the photo below.
While you wait for the cabbage to cure, chop up some green onion, leek (make sure to slit it down the middle and wash each layer well) and slivers of daikon radish (long and white, not round and red).
Then (this is weird, I think), create a goop on the stove using water and rice flour. The rice flour will thicken the water, like corn starch would. Add sugar to this.
Then, blend onion, garlic, ginger and fish sauce in a food processor. Add this to the goop (in the video they called this porridge, but it’s not like any porridge I’ve ever seen, so I’m calling it goop). Add red pepper powder. Warning: Don’t be tempted to substitute red pepper flakes or some other peppery ingredient for the real thing… this stuff is what gives your kimchi heat and its characteristic flavour – you have to use the real thing.
Pour your (now reddish) goop over your chopped veggies and stir well. Then, wash your salted cabbage two or three times. Next, combine the veggies and cabbage… and… we’re now utterly exhausted (I was) and very close to being done!
Pack your kimchi into mason jars or another airtight container. Kimchi is supposed to ferment, and to jumpstart this process, you should leave it out at room temperature for the first 24 hours. After this, you’ll notice that your cabbage looks much more wilted (which is what you’re going for) and you can transfer jars to the fridge, where they will keep for a long time, becoming more flavourful as time passes.
NOTE: This is where my initial post ended, but more needs to be said.
After 48 hours, my homemade kimchi was dry and dull – this time I erred on the side of caution (you can always add more spice, but once it’s in, it’s pretty hard to take it out!)
I made another pot of porridge goop and added to it about a quarter cup of red pepper powder, a number of glugs of fish sauce, and quite a few pinches of sea salt. Then, I emptied my mason jars back into the blue bowl, mixed the goop with my sad looking, sad tasting kimchi, and left this to soak on the counter all day, packing the cabbage down into the bowl so that it was under the level of the liquid in the bowl.
Now things are looking and tasting better! Here’s a new photo:
For the full recipe and video instructions, here is the video I used: