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)
- 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)
- Clean and cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters.
- 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.
- Rinse the cabbage under cold water and drain by wringing by hand. The cabbage should be pliable and should not rip.
- Meanwhile, combine the seasoning ingredients until it becomes paste-like. Sample to taste and adjust as needed.
- Using your hands (gloves highly recommended), gently work the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated.
- Pack the kimchi into an air-tight jar or container, pressing down on it until the brine rises to cover the vegetables.
- 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.”