Quick & Easy Kimchi

I wasn’t planning on making kimchi this year since living on an island has made me pretty lazy (sad excuse but totally true). However, by default, I decided to make a small batch because we ran out of our huge supply that had been regularly shipped over from the mainland by my partner’s parents (thank you partner’s parents!). And since it is still technically kimjang season (annual kimchi-making ritual), my girlfriend and I decided to make just a few pounds of this quick, easy, and delicious kimchi.

If I remember correctly, it’s been a few years since I’ve made kimchi, but having watched my mom make it throughout my childhood it’s no different than riding a bicycle—you never forget once you learn the first time. With this particular recipe, we used smaller Napa cabbages for not only its firmness and crispier texture, but so we could enjoy eating them lengthwise, kind of the old-school way. It’s a pretty standard recipe except that we tweaked some of the ingredients to our preference. For example, we used fish sauce instead of the salted shrimp (saewujeot) and rice flour without any issues (actually tasted better in my opinion). We also added some delicious Asian pear as a supporting ingredient along with the green onions and julienned radish pieces. The final result was a nice combination of spicy, garlicky, slightly sweet, and totally refreshing kimchi that we ate completely before it even had a chance to ferment. lol. With that, I can skip explaining all the extra health benefits resulting from the fermentation process and let you read about it here.

For those who are familiar with freshly made kimchi (also known as gutjeori) during kimjang season, it’s a tradition to eat it with suyuk or bossam, both of which are boiled pork varieties. Recently, I was fortunate enough to participate in a community kimjang festival and was once again blown away how delicious this combination can be (serious foodgasm with each bite!). Pictures provided down below.

Everything you need to know about kimchi can be found here: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/FO/FO_EN_6_1_2_1.jsp

Korean Vocabulary Explained:
Kim-jang 김장 - annual kimchi-making ritual held in late autumn, early winter 
Bo-ssam 보쌈 - boiled pork belly usually eaten with lettuce wraps, garlic, dipping sauce, and fermented shrimp
Su-yuk 수육 - boiled pork meat usually eaten with freshly made kimchi during kimjang
Sae-wu-jeot 새우젓 - fermented, salted baby shrimp used as a condiment or dipping sauce 
Gut-jeo-ri 겉절이 - slightly salted or freshly made vegetables (non-fermented variety)

 

The more you eat, the less flavor; the less you eat, the more flavor.  ~ Asian Proverb
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The left is the normal napa cabbage that you will find in most Asian groceries, while the right is a baby version used sometimes for Korean BBQ as a wrap. You can use either one for this recipe.
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Salt the cabbage with coarse salt. Massage into individual pieces and then add water to cover the cabbage. Weigh down with a plate to completely submerge cabbage pieces. Let it sit for at least a few hours, overnight is ideal.
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This was a standard overnight brine, resulting in the leaves returning back to life (in color at least). Rinse the cabbage under cold water, set aside.
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After the brine, the cabbage will become quite pliable like this, allowing you to squeeze out the excess water.
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There are several options before adding the seasoning to the cabbage and it totally depends on personal preference. 1) Cut into easy to eat, bite-size pieces. 2) Cut off the core and keep the leaves lengthwise. 3) Do nothing and mix as is (our preferred method).
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Return the cabbage to the large pot and prepare the seasoning.
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Combine all the seasoning ingredients and mix until a semi-paste is formed. We substituted the saewujeot (salted baby shrimp) and rice flour paste with some fish sauce. There wasn’t a noticeable difference and actually tasted better. Also, we added a Korean pear for some sweetness (optional).
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Add the green onion, radish, and pear to the mix. A few toasted sesame seeds will help too.
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This can get a little messy, but using your hands mix the paste into the cabbage until fully coated. Gloves strongly recommended. For traditional, fermented kimchi (and the more healthier version), pack the kimchi tight into an air-tight container and seal tightly. Let it ferment at room temperature for a minimum of a few days, 3 days at most. Refrigerate before eating.
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Baechu Kimchi up close and personal. Since we used smaller cabbages, there was no need to cut them down into bite-size pieces.
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Community kimjang festival in full effect. Adding to all this awesomeness, most of the kimchi were donated to families in need.

 

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After all that hard work, people (including myself) got to enjoy the fruits of our labor: Kimchi + Suyuk (Boiled Pork).
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Cute halmoni thoroughly enjoying the food.
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Who can resist when an ajumma offers you some kimchi?
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Just one of many batches getting ready to be packed in containers to ferment during the winter season.
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No kimjang is complete without some suyuk (boiled pork) and strips of kimchi.

 

 

Quick n Easy Kimchi
 
Prep time
Total time
 
This small batch lasted us (two adults) about two weeks as banchan (side dish). I highly recommend you make more if you have enough storage space in your refrigerator.
Author:
Recipe type: Traditional
Ingredients
  • Ingredients:
  • 2 large heads napa cabbage (aka baechu)
  • 1 cup coarse salt
  • ¾ cup gochugaru (red pepper flakes)
  • 1 cup radish, julienned into matchstick pieces
  • 6 scallions/green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 Asian pear, cut into matchstick pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp saewu jeot, salted shrimp (use if available)
  • ½ carrot, julienned (optional)
Instructions
  1. Clean and cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters.
  2. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and have the coarse salt ready. Sprinkle and massage the salt into the cabbage individually. Then add enough water to cover the cabbage. Put a plate on top and weigh it down with something heavy to keep it submerged. Let brine for at least a few hours, overnight is ideal.
  3. Rinse the cabbage under cold water and drain by wringing by hand. The cabbage should be pliable and should not rip.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the seasoning ingredients until it becomes paste-like. Sample to taste and adjust as needed.
  5. Using your hands (gloves highly recommended), gently work the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated.
  6. Pack the kimchi into an air-tight jar or container, pressing down on it until the brine rises to cover the vegetables.
  7. Let it ferment at room temperature at least a few days, 4 days maximum. Bubbles will form, which is natural in fermentation, and should be refrigerated before eating.

 

Note to readers: All recipes, or more specifically seasoning and spice measurements, contained in MYKOREANEATS are approximations. Growing up in an old-school Korean kitchen where everything was measured by hand, there was a strict but important rule called “son-maat” (손맛), literally meaning “taste from one’s hand.” My mom would swear by this and always cooked all the dishes using her raw cooking instincts to provide comfort food at its finest. This concept of “son-maat” is pretty important in Korean cooking, so I’ve always wanted to keep that tradition alive even with the blog. Another aspect that I love about “son-maat” is the idea of putting one’s signature or stamp on a dish. What makes your food taste like yours, not like anyone else’s, is literally and figuratively the “taste of one’s hands.” As a side note, most Korean dishes like stews, stir fries, and banchan (side dishes) are cooked to taste, meaning that the addition of extra spices is, more often than not, added during the cooking process itself. In that sense, don’t fuss and worry about exact measurements, but rather focus on developing your own “son-maat.”
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