Kimchi is a wonderful food native to South Korea, known for its punch. If you’ve never tasted it before then get ready for a taste explosion in your mouth!
This national dish of Koreas is a traditional fermented food, and tends to serve as a side dish – known as banchan – to most meals in the country. Incredibly there over 300 variations of it! That means that there’s no escaping the dish over there! But you certainly wouldn’t want to.
It’s a tangy, spicy, crunch dish, not too dissimilar to sauerkraut or pickles, and can in fact go well with Western dishes like barbecued hamburgers, hot dogs or sandwiches.
Kimchi’s is packed full of spices and vegetables, like napa cabbage and daikon radish, and is in fact lacto fermented. This means that it’s up to the eyeballs (no it doesn’t have eyeballs, don’t worry) with healthy probiotics to help boost your immune system and digestion.
Lacto fermented foods like kimchi have more than a hundred times more probiotics than most supplements.
In other words, it’s a superfood that goes with all Korean food… and it deserves a place in your diet!
Ready-to-eat kimchi is widely available, particularly in Asian supermarkets, but the majority of these are so loaded with artificial flavorings and preservatives that you’d be much better creating your own. Luckily, homemade kimchi is fresh, delicious and healthy!
So how do you make kimchi?
There are a few key ingredients that you will need that are fairly unique to Korean food, and as such will require a trip to your local Asian supermarket. This is always a an opportunity to check out some of the wonderful things you can only get there… but perhaps that’s a post for another time!
Half a cup of kochukaru
This is the crucial element in giving kimchi its spiciness! It’s red pepper powder and is usually available in different levels of spice, so choose one that suits your preference. Perhaps err on the side of caution though, as Asian food is known to pack a punch!
2 teaspoons of sauejeot
These are tiny, fermented shrimp that are usually available in jars. It might sound a little bit strange, but these disperse the unique flavour that gives kimchi its kick! Not to be missed out on.
1 napa cabbage
Sometimes known as ‘Chinese cabbage’, it’s easily recognizable as a slightly more oblong version of the kinds of cabbages that a lot of us are used to. South Koreans use napa for everything, and so we’re going to use it for our kimchi.
8oz of daikon radish
Daikon is magic stuff. It’s naturally spicy and tart, and so matches perfectly with the flavors we want to envoke with our kimchi. Also, for you health nuts out there: the white pigment in daikon is called anthoxanthin, which is an antioxidant that has been linked with lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Prepare this peeled and cut into 2-inch-long sticks.
- Half a cup of salt
- 4 medium scallions, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch-long pieces
- Quarter cup of fish sauce
- Quarter cup of minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon of minced garlic cloves
- 1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
Large glass jars
Ok, not an ingredient, but having these in your arsenal is crucial! I suggest liter-sized jars as the best way to go, with sealable lids to help aid the fermenting process.
Do not use plastic! The odors from the fermenting will stain the material and… just trust me… you don’t want that smell to linger. You also run the risk of the food being contaminated with bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates. Also, steer clear of anything metallic as the salts from the ingredients (including natural salts) could corrode the metal.
Plenty of time
You won’t be able to turn this stuff around on a whim; it takes a bit of planning and organisation… but the payoff will be worth it! Start your batch about a week before you need it, and that will give it good time to ferment and be ready for use.
So, on with the kimchi recipe!
1. Cut the cabbage into two-inch long pieces, and throw away that annoying root end.
2. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt, and toss until the cabbage is evenly coated. Add enough cold water to just about submerge the cabbage.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and leave it to sit at room temperature for somewhere between 12 and 24 hours.
4. Drain the cabbage in a colander and rinse with cold water. Softly let out the excess liquid and transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.
5. Chuck the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.
6. Throw in the cabbage and toss with your hands until evenly mixed and the cabbage is evenly covered in the mixture.
7. Pack the mixture tightly into a clean 2-quart or 2-liter glass jar with a tightfitting lid and seal the jar.
8. Let sit in a cool, dark place for 24 hours (the mixture may bubble). Open the jar to let the gases escape, then reseal and refrigerate at least 48 hours before eating (kimchi is best after fermenting for about a week). Refrigerate for up to a month.
And you’re set!
Here are some tips to help get the most out of your kimchi recipe:
- Use only fresh and organic vegetables
- Try to choose cabbages that are have densely packed leaves. The lighter varieties of the vegtable tend to turn into mush and won’t ferment well.
- Throw in some seaweed to increase the mineral, vitamin, and fiber content of your kimchi
- Try using a starter culture (check out this guide) to prompt the fermentation process and to help make sure that your ferment gets packed with essential probiotics.
- Put the lids on the jars slightly loose, as they will expand due to the gases produced in fermentation.
What are your tips for making kimchi? Let us know in the comments below!