The Many Faces of Kimchi

Let me count the ways I love you, kimchi. With rice, on your own, in homemade soft tofu soup, I can’t get enough of you. Ever since the Fermentation Workshop at The Cog, I’ve been dipping into the kimchi jar like it was hooch. I’ve discovered that it’s great for lunch with brown rice, with canned herring and brown rice, in homemade soft tofu soup. A little dab of kimchi just seems to make my brain work better in the afternoon. Who knew kimchi could make a person smarter and more productive?


I adapted the recipe below from one I got in a workshop at The Asian Culinary Forum with Huynjoo Albrecht, of I changed it a little because when I emailed for permission to share I never heard back, so I didn’t feel right using it verbatim. It’s a great recipe from a great Korean chef.  Enjoy!

Basic Kimchi
2 cups sea salt, divided
2 quarts water
1 head (about 2 1/2 pounds) Napa cabbage, untrimmed

2 1/2 tablespoons chopped scallion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/4 cup Korean red pepper powder (gochu-garu)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon chopped salted shrimp pickle (sae-woo-jeot)
1 teaspoon toasted hulled (white) sesame seeds, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar

Dissolve 1 cup of sea salt in the 2 quarts water. The water should taste as salty as sea water. To test proper amount of salt in water, put an egg in the salted water. If the egg doesn’t float, you need to add more salt until it does.

Leaving the cabbage untrimmed, quarter it lengthwise through the root end, so the root holds each quarter together. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup sea salt on the cabbage. Lift each layer of cabbage leaves, starting from the very outer layer. Sprinkle salt on each leaf. Make sure the white, thick part of the cabbage leaves get a good amount of salt. Put the cabbage in the salted water and place a heavy weight on top to keep the cabbage submerged.

Soaking takes about 3 to 4 hours, depending on the temperature of the room. It will take less time on a hot day. More on a cold day. Check to see if the cabbage is wilted enough by trying to break the white part of the cabbage closest to the root end.  If it breaks, the cabbage needs to soak longer. If the cabbage folds in half very softly with no resistance, it has soaked too long. Ideally, you should be able to fold the white part of the cabbage in half with a little resistance but no breaking. If the cabbage is not salted enough, the kimchi turns out too watery and tastes plain. If the cabbage is salted too long, it doesn’t get too salty but you end up with kimchi that is mushy. Perfectly salted cabbage will create a crisp, clean, and refreshing feel on your palate.

Remove the cabbage from the salted water. Rinse under running water several times. Squeeze slightly and drain for 1 hour. Meanwhile, combine all the kimchi seasonings.

After draining the cabbage, squeeze it again to get as much water out as possible. Cut the cabbage into pieces about 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide. In a big bowl, combine the cabbage and all the other ingredients. Mix well.

Put the kimchi in an air tight glass jar and push it down a bit. Pour any leftover seasoning liquid on top of the cabbage and seal well.

Set the jar aside at room temperature for 4 to 5 hours and then put in the refrigerator for two or three days to let flavors develop.

The bonus pictures are just for fun. This is the before picture of the dried wood ear mushroom that went in the soup.



After soaking. mmmm. fleshy.

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  1. Garlic Man
    Posted March 6, 2009 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Just found your pizza recipe. thanks,

    Garlic Man

  2. sara
    Posted March 23, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    yum! yay for korean food, from a non-korean korean girl… wish i could find that red pepper in new zealand! kim chee is addictive! especially good with bi bim bap… i will have to see if i can hunt some down. you’ve inspired me! when i was in korea, it was amazing to see the huge ceramic pots outside on all the porches filled with gallons and gallons of fermenting kimchee! miss you my friend!

  3. Posted October 6, 2009 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    It looks yummy. I have always thought that it might be difficult to cook so I have postponed it until now. Thanks for your recipe that I will cook accordingly soon. Good creative pictures about the wood ear fungus.

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