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This article serves as an illustrated guide to making kimchi in the traditional Korean style. Additional pages to this article include the various kinds of kimchi which can be made other than with Asian cabbage (Korean baechu, also known as wombok, napa or Chinese cabbage in other English-speaking countries). Other examples of produce that kimchi fermentation processes can be applied to include radish (leaves & tubers), cucumbers, onion/scallion (leaves), chive (leaves), garlic (stems), sweet potato (stems), perilla (leaves), soybean (leaves) and mustard (leaves & stems). Preparation will vary according to the produce used.

Kimchi developed as a way to store vegetables through Korea's often harsh and unforgiving winters and was kept outdoors, usually buried underground, in large clay jars. The most traditional kimchi, baek (white) kimchi, lacks chili powder which was not introduced to the peninsula until trading contact with the Dutch in the 16th century. Nowadays, however, kimchi is ubiquitous for its association with those spicy red peppers!

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Like almost all traditional Korean recipes, kimchi is quite time-consuming and utilises sometimes extensive processing of ingredients. If you do not have 3 hours to spare, perhaps kimchi making is not for you! Secondly, there are massive regional variations in both ingredients and process. Simply asking another family from the same town will get you a brand new recipe! What follows below are exclusively my wife's and her family's traditional recipes.

We will start with the most popular style.

Baechu (Asian/Napa Cabbage) Kimchi

Cabbage kimchi proceeds in three distinct steps. First is preparing and salting the cabbage. Second is preparing the mixing sauce. Third is combining the two and storing.

Stage 1: Preparing the Cabbages

Ingredients

One or two Asian (wombok or napa) cabbages*
Approx. 500g coarse kimchi sea salt**

*The poggi (whole cabbage) kimchi method may be better for mass kimchi making if you have excess produce to store. This recipe is for small batches of one or two cabbages.
** Any coarse-grained sea salt is fine.

Method

1. Separate each leaf from the cabbage by cutting or breaking it off near the base. This process can be repeated as you make your way up the stem.
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2. Inspect each leaf for insects/disease and retain healthy leaves. Cut off diseased or damaged parts.
OPTIONAL: separate yellow core leaves into a pile to be eaten fresh with boiled pork belly as Bo Ssam.
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3. Slice large, outer leaves in half lengthwise, then into 2-3 inch (5-7 cm) chunks. Smaller, inner leaves can be merely thirded, halved or left whole, depending on their size. This process can be done directly over a sink or bowl where you will wash the leaves (chopping board used for illustrative purposed only).
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4. Wash chopped leaves thoroughly and drain in a colander. We wash at least twice.
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4. Place a layer of sliced cabbage leaf into a large bowl or a sanitised stainless-steel kitchen sink. Douse cabbage liberally with a handful of coarse-grain salt.
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5. Add another layer of leaves and repeat the process until all the leaves are roughly salted. Below is approximately 6 layers and thus 6 handfuls of salt used.
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6. Let the leaves sit for 1 hour. Advance to stage 2 below at this point.

7. After 1 hour, use your hands to mix the leaves gently, rotating all the layers together. Let the cabbage sit for another 1 hour.

8. After 2 hours, thick cabbage stems should bend without snapping; salting is complete. Wash the salt off thoroughly (this is why we do it in our sink!) and drain well in a colander. Do not squeeze or squash the cabbage!
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Stage 2: Preparing the Mixing Sauce

Ingredients - Thickener

20g glutinous rice powder*
200ml water*

*1:10 ratio. Adjust quantities according to the number and size of your cabbages. Excess is fine and can be discarded if not required. It is possible to substitute with wheat flour, but this will make the recipe contain gluten.

Ingredients - Red Sauce (Approx. quantity per cabbage used in Stage 1 above)

10 tbs coarse chili powder [1]
4 tbs salted krill [2]
3 tbs anchovy fish sauce [3]
2 tbs plum syrup [4]
4 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs sugar (raw or white)
1/4 large onion, minced
OPTIONAL 2 tbs minced ginger
OPTIONAL 1/3 of an apple, peeled and minced.

[1] Example brand of Korean Chili Powder (go-chu ga-ru). We also made our own using dried and ground home-grown chilies.
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[2] Example brand of Salted Krill (sae-u jeot, pronounced say-oo jot). Available at Korean groceries.
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[3] Example brand of Anchovy Fish Sauce (myeol-chi ek-jeot). It is possible to substitute with another fish sauce, although the flavour may be different to anchovy.
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[4] Example brand of Plum Syrup (mae-sil cheong, pronounced meh-shil chong). Can be substituted with other dark or light syrups - honey, molasses, corn, sugarbeet, glucose.
08a Red Sauce Ingreds.jpg


Method

1. Mix 20g of glutinous rice powder into 200ml of cold water in a small saucepan. Slowly bring to a simmer from cold, stirring constantly until it is lump-free and glossy white. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool completely before use.
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2. Mince garlic, onion, salted krill (and OPTIONAL ginger and apple) together in a food processor.
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3. Move minced mixture into a bowl and add 10 tbs chili powder and 1 tbs sugar. Mix well until it forms a chunky paste.
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4. Mix rice powder thickener into the chili paste until it turns glossy and has a slightly sticky texture.
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5. Complete steps 7-8 of Stage 1 at this point.

Stage 3. Final Mixing

Ingredients

Washed and salted cabbage from Stage 1.
Red sauce from Stage 2.

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Method

1. Mix salted cabbage with the red sauce!
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2. Move kimchi into storage containers - glass, clay or tupperware.
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3. Refrigerate immediately.

4. Enjoy!

Kimchi can be eaten from the moment it has been mixed with its final sauce. Liquid will be drawn from the cabbage leaves and fill the containers without your intervention (refer to header image - the liquid layer in the container came out of the cabbage naturally). It will develop more fermentation 'funk' factor as it ages, usually from about day 4. Kimchi can be kept refrigerated for up to 2 years and the cabbage stems will slowly turn from white to yellow with age.

Fresh kimchi is best enjoyed with boiled meat (esp. pork belly), bbq meat and cooked white rice. Aged (funky) kimchi is excellent cooked in savoury pancakes, stir fries, fried rice (bokkum bap), soups (e.g. kimchi jjiggae), grilled on the bbq to serve with grilled meat, or eaten as a side dish with ramen noodles, amongst ten thousand other culinary uses!
Next page: Eolgari Kimchi