How to Make Authentic Korean Cabbage Kimchi
Korean housewives are busy around this time of the year. It is a season of serious kimchi making. You can't skip kimchi, especially the cabbage kimchi, on any Korean meals and we need to make sure that we have plenty of kimchi available during the winter time when the cabbage is not available.
Cabbage is at its best during the late fall and you should try to make authentic cabbage kimchi when you can. If you go to the Korean stores you will find boxful of cabbage on sale. You can get a whole box which contains 10 cabbage if you are serious about making kimchi and have a enough space in your fridge. Otherwise grab 2-3 cabbage and that will be enough to last at least a couple of month for a family of 4.
Kimchi making is very time consuming, so make sure you have a plenty of time to invest. However the reward is so great that you will want to make it again and again. Homemade kimchi is soooo much better than store-bought and healthier as well. With some hard work and time investment, you can enjoy the fruit of your labor for a long time.
I bought a box of cabbage which contains 10 heads of cabbage because it was so much cheaper. However I am going to give you a recipe for only 2 heads of cabbage, though. That should be enough for most of people to last through winter unless you want to eat kimchi everyday for the next 3-4 months.
Now let's start our kimchi class.
Cut the cabbage in half and give a short slit to the stem part. I won't give a lot of details on the salting part of cabbage at this post. I have explained on my blog regarding the salt brine and how to do it. Please go to this cabbage kimchi post and you will see the instructions. Give your self at least 8-10 hours to brine the cabbage in the salt solution. I did mine before I went to bed.
When cabbage looks wilted and lifeless, rinse 3 times and let them drain in a colander. You need to start the Kimchi seasoning paste now.
You will need to make seafood stock very first. I simmered the dried herring, dried pollock fish with dried sea kelp and Korean leeks. You can use dried anchovies and shrimps. Seafood stock give kimchi a depth as it ferments and offers quite nice flavor. It won;t be fish at all so don't worry. If you are allergic to fish or seafood in general, you can make fruit/vegetable stock instead. Just simmer mixture of 2-3 ingredients of apple, pear, persimmon, dried fruits, pumpkin, onion, leeks, and carrot. That will offers lighter flavor to the kimchi.
Strain the stock and reserve 1 cup to make rice glue. Whisk together 1 cups of stock and 1 tablespoon of sweet rice flour. Cook over medium heat, whisking continually, until it bubbles and thickens. Set aside to cool.
Rice glue is important part of kimchi making. It feeds good bacterias to grow during the fermentation and it also helps to bind the seasoning paste to the cabbage.
Slice Korean radish into a very thin match sticks. I highly recommend to use Korean radish to retain its crispness.
Puree onion, garlic, ginger, pear with a little bit of the stock until smooth.
You will need these three seafood sauces for this recipe. Korean anchovy sauce, fish sauce, and shrimp sauce.
In a mixing bowl, combine the radish, sliced green onion, Korean chili flakes, fish sauces, shrimp sauce, onion garlic puree, and the rice glue. Mix well.
Now, you are ready to assemble. I would suggest to get a pair of rubber globes to protect your hands. You will also need a large air-tight container to store kimchi. I suggest to line the container with a plastic bag (I used small trash liner, but you can use turkey oven bag as well).
Starting from the most outer leaf of the cabbage, spread a little bit of seasoning paste covering the entire leaf including the stem part. Don't put too much. Just enough to cover barely. Repeat the next leaf and layer them well.
Now one piece of cabbage is well seasoned. Fold over the 1/3 portion of leafy parts toward the center and take the most outer leaf of the cabbage and wrap around to make a bundle.
Stack them well inside the container.
Tie the bag to keep the air out. Cover with a lid and let it sit on the room temperature for 2 days, then transfer into the fridge and keep it for another 3-5 days. Your kimchi should be ideally fermented at this stage. The fermentation speed will slow down a lot in the fridge but slowly producing the sour taste as it sits longer.
Here is the cabbage kimchi that has been fermented for one week. It tastes so awesome and flavorful, calling for a bowl of rice.
Kimchi making is a hard work but the reward is endless. Think about all the great dishes, Korean or Korean fusion dishes, you can make with kimchi. That opens a whole new level of culinary adventure if you ask me. You will also be so proud of yourself that you made homemade kimchi all from scratch. That means a lot!
Hope you can try this recipe and share with someone who loves Korean food. You will be so glad that you spent hours to make this kimchi.
Authentic Korean Cabbage Kimchi
- 2 heads nappa cabbage (5-6 lb each)
- 3 green onion, sliced
For cabbage salt brine:
- 3 cups + 1/2 cup Korean coarse seas alt
- 30 cups water
For fish stock:
- 4-5 dried herring fish (or 6-7 dried large anchovies)
- a handful of dried pollock
- 1 leek
- 3 cups water
For rice glue
- 1 cup fish stock
- 1 tablespoon sweet rice flour
For Kimchi seasoning paste:
- 1/2 medium size Korean radish, peeled
- 1-1/2 cups Korean chili flakes
- 1/2 Asian pear, peeled seeded and diced
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 8-10 garlic cloves
- 1 inch ginger
- 1/4 cup fish stock
- 5 tablespoon Korean anchovy sauce
- 5 tablespoon Korean fish sauce
- 3 tablespoon Korean shrimp sauce
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- In a large container (or kimtchen sink) dissolve 3 cups salt in the water. Cut cabbage in half lengthwise, then give a short slit to the stem. Rinse the cabbage in the salted water first then sprinkle some salt over the white stem part. Put the cabbages into the salt solution and cover with a sheet of plastic. Put something heavy such as bricks or heavy pots on top so the cabbage won't float. Let the cabbage soak for 8-10 hours. It would be ideal to turn the cabbage around to get even brine. When the white stem part of cabbage bends willingly, then they are done. Rinse 2-3 times and place in a large colander to drain the excess water.
- To make fish stock, combine all the ingredients and bring to boil. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the stock and discard the rest.
- To make rice glue, whisk 1 cup of fish stock with sweet rice flour over medium heat. Bring them to a gentle boil and let it thicken whisking constantly. Set aside to cool.
- To make kimchi seasoning paste, Slice the radish into very thin disk, then cut into thin matchsticks, about 1/8-inch. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- In a blender puree pear, onion, garlic, ginger with 1/4 cup of fish stock until smooth. In a large mixing bowl combine the radish, chili flakes, pear onion puree, fish sauces, shrimp sauce, sugar, and green onion. Mix them well with a spoon and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- To assemble, take a piece of cabbage and place in a large shallow mixing bowl. From the most outer leaf, spread a little bit of the Kimchi seasoning paste on to the leaf covering entire leaf. Repeat on the next leaf to finish the entire cabbage. Fold the 1/3 portion of leafy part of cabbage toward the center and wrap with the most outer leaf to make bundle. Stack them in a airtight container. (I recommend to line the container with a plastic bag). When the entire cabbage are stacked up, put about 1/2 cup of fish stock to rinse out the mixing bowl to catch all the seasoning residue and pour over the kimchi. Tie the bag and to keep the air out and cover with lid.
- Let the kimchi sit on a room temperature for 2 days then transfer to a refrigerator. After 3-5 more days your kimchi should be idealy fermented. Store the kimchi in the fridge for as long as you want. It will continue to ferment and the flavor will intensify as time goes.