Kimchi is a traditional Korean food that people have eaten since as early as 37 BCE. Korean Kimchi is so essential in Korean food culture that it serves as an indicator for older generations to evaluate younger generations in Korea. If younger Koreans stop eating kimchi, Koreans grow concerned.
Kimchi is central to Korean food culture. Many Koreans eat kimchi daily, if not with every meal.
Kimchi has grown in popularity around the world, so much so that entire restaurant menus center around kimchi. If you were excited to learn how to make saurkraut and you love spicy food, making kimchi is the next step in your fermenting journey.
So, What is Korean Kimchi?
Kimchi is similar to sauerkraut in that fermented cabbage is the foundation of kimchi. Kimchi incorporates other vegetables, including radish, carrots, or green onions. The most notable difference between kimchi and sauerkraut is the addition of hot chilis and fish sauce, which create kimchi’s signature spicy taste and aroma.
The flavor combinations and vegetables used in kimchi vary, but the foundations of kimchi are salted napa cabbage, radishes, carrots, fish sauce (preferably homemade), and dried chilis or chili flakes.
Why Make Kimchi?
Kimchi is widely popular and readily available in stores, but store-bought kimchi is not always the real deal.
Fermenting your kimchi at home ensures that your kimchi is fermented to your exact tastes and contains all of those beautifully healthy microorganisms and beneficial bacteria. Your gut and your taste buds will thank you for learning how to make kimchi at home.
Health Benefits of Kimchi
Kimchi is a fermented cabbage dish, similar to sauerkraut. Like homemade sauerkraut, kimchi is full of gut-healthy bacteria that help improve and regulate your digestion.
Kimchi is full of vitamins and minerals. All of the added vegetables in kimchi create a low-calorie food that is high in vitamins, especially vitamins A and C. A one-cup serving of kimchi has only about 23 calories.
How to Make Korean Kimchi:
Kimchi is a fermented food. Fermentation is a process that helps make the food last for long-term storage. The fermentation process also makes foods easier to digest and healthier for us! Kimchi is also very easy to make at home, so let’s get you started!
- One small or medium head of Napa Cabbage ( shredded or cut into 1-inch chunks, traditionally Korean Kimchi is cut into chunks).
- 1/4 Cup of high-quality sea salt
- Room temperature, filtered water
- 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, grated
- 1/2 inch piece of ginger, freshly grated
- 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. ** you can use kelp powder mix with three tablespoons of water if you don’t want to use fish sauce in your kimchi**
- 1-4 tablespoons of red pepper flakes ( How spicey you want your kimchi is up to you).
- One large daikon radish, peeled and sliced into matchsticks. ** If you can’t find daikon radish, one bunch of red radishes will be perfect.**
- 4 green onions cleaned and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
- 1 teaspoon of sugar.
- 1-2 quart-sized mason jars.
- Food safe gloves or massaging the salt into the kimchi, you don’t want to get the red pepper flakes on your hands.
- Gather and prepare all of your ingredients.
- Place the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the sea salt. Massage the sea salt into your cabbage. Massaging your cabbage for 5 minutes or so will release some of the water from the cabbage. You will need enough water to cover the cabbage. You can add filtered water if you need more water.
- Cover your bowl and set salted cabbage aside for one hour.
- Drain and rinse your cabbage under cold water. Set aside your cabbage to drain in a colander while you make the kimchi paste.
- Combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, fish sauce, and enough water to make a smooth paste.
- Stir in your desired amount of red pepper flakes. Set aside. (5 tablespoons would be extremely spicy)
- In a large bowl, combine your cabbage with the rest of your vegetables.
- Put on your gloves and mix your kimchi paste into your vegetables. Make sure to massage the paste into your veggies and cover every bit of vegetables with your kimchi paste.
- Pack your kimchi tightly into your mason jars. Squish the kimchi down so the brine covers your kimchi. Leave 1/2 inch of space between the of the brine and the top of the jar. If you don’t have enough liquid to cover your kimchi, add more filtered water.
- Cover your jars loosely and let your kimchi ferment on your counter for up to a week. Your kimchi will start to bubble as it ferments. Start checking your kimchi after two days for taste. When your kimchi tastes sour enough for your liking, you can stick your jar in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process. Let your kimchi sit in the refrigerator for another week before eating for the best flavor.
Kimchi will last stored in the fridge for a few months!
Keep in mind that this is a basic recipe. Try adding other vegetables and seasonings to create variations of kimchi.
Uses for Kimchi:
Kimchi is delicious by itself if you’re looking for some creative ways to use your kimchi, try some of these!
- In soups and stews
- With ham and eggs
- As a topping on pizza
- Mixed into steamed rice
- In pancakes
- Kimchi dumplings or pierogi