Kimchi is a staple in every Korean home. In fact, the fermented cabbage is so vital to the Korean meal that it has its own kimchi refrigerator.
My affinity for kimchi came from teaching English in Korea in the early 2000’s. As a foodie, I thought making my own kimchi would put me touch in with Korean culture. So, I enlisted the help of my friend and co-worker Seo Young Joo.
Young Joo called her Mom and asked for her kimchi recipe. Her Mom responded as such, “Why does the way gook (foreigner) want to make kimchi? He can buy it.” Young Joo explained that I wanted to learn the process because I like to cook and wanted to learn Korean culture.
So, Young Joo’s Mom graciously wrote out a simplified version of her kimchi recipe.
Normally, preparing kimchi involves a process of making a paste and painstakingly smearing the paste on individual salted cabbage leaves. In addition, Korean cooks will often use ten heads of cabbage at a time and make ginormous quantities of kimchi.
Young Joo’s Mom streamlined the process by using one cabbage and having me cut up the leaves. Then, she instructed me to toss the leaves with the paste like a salad. It saves hours and the results are nearly identical to the original.
The recipe had a ripple effect. Young Joo liked the simplified recipe so much she stopped buying kimchi. Her Mom’s timesaving kimchi recipe is now a staple in Young Joo’s home.
Check out the video to see the kimchi process in action.
Note: Korean chile powder and sweet rice powder are available in most Asian grocery stores. They’re worth seeking out.
Makes three 32 ounce jars.
Step 1: Prep the cabbage
One 3 to 4 pound Napa cabbage
1/3 cup salt (Kosher or sea salt)
Separate the leaves from the cabbage and cut them into roughly 2 ½ to 3 inch pieces.
Place the leaves in a large pot and cover with cold water. Soak the leaves for an hour and drain the leaves.
Salt the cabbage. Alternate the cabbage and a little salt in several layers and mix. Toss the cabbage and salt mixture every 30 minutes for a total of 1 1/2 hours salting time. As the salt draws out moisture from the cabbage, the leaves will shrink in volume considerably.
Rinse the cabbage three times in cold water and set aside while you prepare the remaining steps.
Step 2: Make the Paste
1 cup cold water
1 ½ tablespoons sweet rice flour
1 tablespoon sugar
Mix the water and flour together. Bring it to a boil and cook 5 minutes, stirring vigorously. Remove from the heat. After 5 minutes, stir in the sugar and set aside to cool.
Step 3: The Purée
While the paste is cooling, use a mortar and pestle, blender or food processor to purée the following ingredients:
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) fish sauce
8-10 garlic chopped garlic cloves.
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
½ chopped onion
Step 4: The Mixture
In a large bowl, combine the paste with the purée and then mix in:
1 cup coarse Korean chile powder.
1 cup julienned Korean radish or daikon radish
½ cup julienned carrot
3 green onions sliced diagonally, about ½ inch long.
Step 5: Mixing
Put on food safe latex type gloves to avoid staining your hands. In the pot that contains the cabbage, thoroughly toss the chile powder/veggie/paste mixture with the cabbage.
Step 6: Putting everything in jars.
Pack the kimchi tightly into jars, removing as much as air as possible.
Seal the jars loosely and let them sit on the counter overnight to begin the fermentation. The next day, seal the jars and refrigerate. The kimchi will keep in the refrigerator indefinitely.
Have you ever altered a recipe to make it more time efficient? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments.
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