Kimchi is the signature dish of the Korean cuisine. It is only a side dish. And one might wonder, why it has become so hugely popular. There is a big range of amazing Korean recipes besides Kimchi. Still it is the one dish that maybe everyone has heard of. The reason for that might be the health benefits of Kimchi. I’m not very much into healthy eating. If you say steak I’ll always be game. Anyway, over time I got to appreciate the taste of Kimchi and its many ways of serving. I actually couldn’t live without Kimchi fried rice, the absolut soulfood.
Some facts: Kimchi has a long tradition in Korea and in the regions in China, where Koreans settled (like Mandchuria for example). Earliest proof of its existence dates some 3000 years back. Its presence in writings goes back to the time of the Three Kingdoms in Korea (dates vary according to source, about 37 BC – 7AD). Kimchi is a way of preserving vegetables by means of fermentation. It is comparable to German Sauerkraut. Interestingly, the longer the fermentation process lasts, the more vitamin C and A gets accumulated. So the older the Kimchi, the healthier it gets. Also, it is full of minerals and micronutrients.
Why you don’t need to have a Korean granny
When it comes to preparing Kimchi most people shy away. They think it is too difficult to make at home. Given the long tradition of this dish, it seems there are several thousand variations. You might think it takes lots of knowledge to even come close to the original thing. I can assure you: Kimchi can be prepared without earthenware pots buried in the ground and also without an Ajuma, a Korean granny with these old magic Kimchi making skills. It is quite simple to make at home. The only thing that might keep you from it, is the smell. My German mum literally runs from that. If you like it, you’ll quickly get used to it. I don’t even smell it anymore. You can survive without an extra Kimchi fridge.
It is easy to make because you can find most of the ingredients in your local grocery store or even your garden. Some of the seasonings like the chili paste, chili flakes or fermented shrimps can be ordered online or in the case of the shrimps replaced by simple fish sauce. You can even omit this for a purely vegetarian Kimchi. The rest is basic chopping and putting together.
The recipe has been originally informed by the amazing chefs from blogs like Kimchimari, Koreanbapsang or Maangchi. I developed my own version according to my taste and storage possibility in that tiny German fridge of mine. I hope you’ll have fun in experimenting with that recipe. Let me know how it worked! As for the seasoning: Anything goes! You may vary the ingeredients to obtain a more salted, umami taste or go with my passion for lots of fruitiness and ginger spice. As you like!
- Glass jars
- 1-1,5 kg Napa cabbage
- 3-4 tbsp Salt Korean salt is less salty. I used mediterranean coarse, wet seasalt.
- 1 Small daikon raddish
- 2 Nashi pear or sweat and sour apple, or one of each
- 3 Carrots
- 5-6 Cloves ofgarlic
- 6-8 cm Ginger
- 4-5 Green onions
- 2 tbsp Fish sauce
- 1-2 tsp Fermented shrimp If not available, use a bit more fish sauce.
- 3 tbsp Korean chili flakes
- 2-3 tbsp Korean chili paste (Gojuchang)
- 2 tbsp Brown sugar
- 200 ml Water
- 2 tbsp Sweet rice flour
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- Cabbage: Take away the outer leaves of the cabbage. Cut into quarters and slice the quartes in 2cm pieces (or cut to your liking). You can also ferment the quarters as wholes. Rinse cabbage with hot water, then pour the water. Salt the cabbage. The amount of salt I used is measured for mediterranean sea salt. Korean salt is less salty. In any case, that cabbage should be completely salted. Let it sit for about 2 hours in a bowl, covered by a heavy plate. Mix thoroughly every 30 minutes. Add julienned carrots after 1,5 hours. After 2 hours check if cabbage bends easily, then it is ready to be washed. Wash at least 3 times with cold water. If still too salty, let it sit for about ten minutes in clear water.
- Seasoning: Grate finely nashi pear, radish, apple, garlic and ginger. Chop green onions. Mix everything with fish sauce, fermented shrimps (chopped finely), chili flakes, gojuchang, sesame and sugar. I recommend tasting the sauce. You can add more of anything
you feel something is missing.
- The Brine: Bring water with the sweet rice flower to a boil. Keep stirring until the flour dissolves and the liquid becomes a nearly see-through and creamy, add sugar, boil slowly until it is dissolved.
- Kimchi: Combine sauce, brine and cabbage. Mix well. Fill the kimchi into air tight glass
containers and let it sit for 24-36 hours at room temperature (in summer 18-24 hours). The put it into the fridge and enjoy!