Talking about kimchi, in most people eyes is the dish that defines Korean cuisine. Despite the fact, there are many other dishes in Korean cooking. However, kimchi is the first dish comes to mind when describing the national food. There are many kinds of kimchi and made with different vegetables and ingredients. Which we will be diving into the depth of the vast kimchi ocean in a future post.
Traditionally in Korea, kimchi making is a social event. Demonstrating a sense of tight-knit community with friends taking a turn helping their neighbors in kimchi processing. The purpose is to have food supply to last the whole winter season. Which we are talking about kimchi made with more than a hundred heads of cabbages at a time. The process all done by hands.
At this moment, we will be focusing on how to make classic spicy napa cabbage kimchi called tongbaechu-kimchi. The recipe we are looking at today will be utilizing whole napa cabbage. Furthermore; describing how to ferment it by using a plastic container or a glass container.
Lastly, please note that the substitution on the recipes is my take on flavor and ingredients in case you can not find certain items in your grocery store. The goal is to give you a simple to follow recipe and foundation for you to build on to make the unique flavor profile and eventually result in your own recipe.
Salting Napa Cabbage:
- 5 lbs whole napa cabbage
- 1 cup Kosher salt
Fermentation Starter Paste:
- 5 cups of water
- 5 tablespoons brown sugar
- 5 tablespoons glutinous rice flour or Mochigo brand
Mix of Vegetables:
- 2 cups minari or substituted with culantro chopped
- 3 cups daikon radish shredded
- 3 cups carrot matchsticks shredded
- 6 cups buchu or substituted with green onion chopped
Kimchi Seasonings Paste:
- 4 teaspoons ginger, finely chopped
- 2 whole white onion, finely chopped
- 3 cups gochugaru Korean hot pepper flakes (this is the critical item need to have it to make good kimchi)
- 1 cup garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup of good quality fish sauce
- 0.5 cup saeujeot optional or substitute with dried shrimp, chopped
Prepare Salting Napa Cabbage by:
- Clean the cabbage by trim the cores and split a cabbage in half by cut a short slit in the base of the cabbage. Using your hands to gently pull the halves apart to splits open the vegetable.
- Wash the cabbages thoroughly in cold water. Carefully not to damage the leaves. Drain the vegetables by not having excess water lodging inside the leaves too much. Therefore; the leaves should be damp but not soaking wet.
- Sprinkle Kosher salt between the leaves. Lifting up every leaf getting salt into the stems to ensure even coating. Then rest the salted cabbages. Turning over every 30 minutes, in a total of 2 hours.
- After that time, wash the cabbage under cold water. To remove the salt and impurities. Then place them in a strainer over to drain well. You can use a salad spinner to speed up the process.
Making Kimchi Paste by:
- First, making fermentation starter paste by combining well together water, sweet rice flour, and brown sugar in a pot. The cook over medium heat until it starts to bubble boil. Keep stirring for about 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let it completely cool down.
- Next, add all the kimchi seasoning paste ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Mix well with the fermentation starter paste until the mixture turns into a thin paste. However; if the paste is too thick a little more water can be added.
- Lastly, add the radish, carrot, green onion to the paste and mix well to combine.
To Make the Kimchi Napa Cabbage by:
- Spreading kimchi paste on each leaf of the cabbages. Once all the leaves are covered with the kimchi paste, then fold it into itself. This to form sort of mini cabbage that small enough to fit and stack lots of them into your jar or plastic container.
To wait or not to wait?
At this point, you can eat it right away. However; my recommendation is to have it sit for a week to ferment at room temperature.
Kimchi starting the fermentation process after a day or two at room temperature. The process going faster in a warm and humid environment. Moreover; the evidence of fermentation took place when you see the bubbles when pressing the top of the kimchi.
Kimchi napa cabbage develops its full complex flavor when it goes through the fermentation. The process jumped start by sugar and rice paste supplying good bacteria with carbohydrate. Once the bacteria starting it is no stopping.
After a week fermentation, I do recommend to store it in a refrigerator. This will slow down the fermentation. Kimchi will last in you almost forever. However; mine batch never last than 1 month since we put it on everything from pizza, fried rice, soup, pancake, burger, sandwiches, ‘OH MY!’ and the list goes on… Bon Appetit!!!