Recipe: Napa Cabbage Kimchi
While Kimchi can be made from any vegetable (and is), it’s likely what you first came across is baechu kimchi. It’s the funky, red-hot, napa cabbage and daikon radish version faithfully served up alongside nearly all Korean meals and worked into burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, tacos and all sorts of kimchi-loving Korean cross-over dishes.
The fiery-red color and heat comes from gochugaru, a coarsely-ground Korean chili powder, and its funky flavors comes from garlic, ginger, fish sauce and the process of lacto-fermentation, which both preserves the vegetables and adds an intense pickle-like tang.
When traditionally making kimchi, each cabbage leaf is treated and carefully stuffed with kimchi paste before being placed in a fermenter and stored. When we’re making it, we often opt for the quicker mak style kimchi (which translates to rough or careless). With mak style, the cabbage is cut into larger pieces, brined and tossed with kimchi paste before fermentation.
This method saves lots of time; both when making it, and when eating it (since it’s already in perfect bite-sized pieces). But most of all, it makes it easier to keep your fridge stocked with kimchi.
1 large napa cabbage
1/8 cup salt
1 bunch scallions, green parts only cut into 1" pieces
1 cup diakon radish cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, finely grated
1 tablespoon sugar
5 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
Remove and discard any outer damaged or wilted leaves from napa cabbage. Cut into quarters and remove core. Cut each quarter crosswise into 1.5 inch-wide strips. In a large bowl toss with salt and then cover with 1 quart of water. Let brine for 2 hours.
Prepare the kimchi paste. Combine garlic, ginger and sugar in a mortar or mixing bowl and mash together. Add in gochugaru and fish sauce and continue to blend until a paste forms.
When cabbage is done brining, drain and rinse with cold water 2-3 times. Cabbage should taste lightly and pleasantly salty. If too salty continue to rinse. Return cabbage to bowl and add scallions, radish and cilantro. Add kimchi paste and using your hands mix until evenly coated. The gochugaru will quickly turn your hands a bright red so kitchen gloves are handy.
Pack kimchi into fermentation jar and then add the fermentation weight. The brined cabbage will release a lot of liquid as it's packed in. You want the kimchi to be completely submerged when weighted.
Top with lid and airlock (Need help? Check out our How to Assemble Airlock Video). Let ferment for 3 days at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Transfer finished kimchi to jars and move to the refrigerator. Kimchi is ready to eat immediately but we like the flavor even more after a week in the fridge. Kimchi will keep refrigerated for at least 2 months.