Spicy, fermented kimchi is wonderful, but have you tried making it at home?  Homemade kimchi is surprisingly easy.  The “hardest” part is getting a few ingredients from your Asian market.  But honestly that could be the best part too.  Not only will you pick up your kimchi ingredients, you may also buy fresh udon noodles, interesting Asian candies and snacks, the freshest produce and seafood, and a Korean sheet mask or two.

What is kimchi?  Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish (often served as a side) of fermented vegetables, the most common of which are napa cabbage and daikon radish.  Not only is it delicious, it is very healthy.  Because it is a fermented food, it contains lots of probiotics, which have been found to improve immunity, control inflammation, and help maintain a healthy digestive system.

What can you do with kimchi besides eat it straight from the jar with a fork (my method)?  Of course kimchi is always good mixed with rice as a side dish.  Stir it in ramen soup or top it on scrambled eggs.  Try it as Korean fusion:  topped on hotdogs or packed in cheese quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, pulled pork, tacos, burritos, or omlettes.  As you can see, there are many spicy possibilities.

Visit your local Asian market, allow at least one to two weeks of fermentation time, and you are on your way!

Here are the items you will need:

2-quart sterilized glass jar with tight fitting lid (or 2 1-quart glass jars with lids).  Do not use plastic as the stains and odors will never wash away.

1 large head Chinese cabbage cored and cut into 2-inch pieces (or substitute Napa cabbage)

5 tsp course sea salt (or substitute Kosher salt)

10-20 cloves garlic depending on your taste preference, peeled

1/2 cup Korean chili powder

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup fish sauce

salted shrimp
salted shrimp

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 1/2″ fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon salted shrimp (see picture of jar)

16 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 large leek, white and light green parts only, cut into 1 by 1/4″ strips and washed thoroughly

1 daikon radish, about 8 oz, peeled and cut into 2″ long matchsticks

Combine cabbage and salt in a large bowl.  Let sit at room temperature for one hour, or cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.  Drain cabbage in a colander and squeeze out excess liquid.  Tranfer to a large, clean bowl.kimchipaste

Process garlic, chili powder, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger and shrimp in food processor until no large pieces of garlic or ginger remain, about 30 seconds.  Add chili mixture, scallions, leek and radish to cabbage and toss to combine.

Transfer to sterilized jar(s) with tight-fitting lids, cover, and refrigerate.  Let ferment until kimchi has reached desired level of fermentation, at least 4 hours or up to 2 weeks.  When I open kimchi for the first time I like to open it over a sink in case it bubbles over (which means your kimchi has fermented well and will taste fabulous!)  Some say kimchi can be kept refrigerated for a year or more, but to be safe I eat mine within one month.

Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchern “D.I.Y. Cookbook”