Thursday, November 29, 2012

Easy Cabbage Kimchi for Beginners

This is my 2nd korean dish in 2 days, or rather in my entire life. Yeah, clap clap!

I finally mustered enough courage to make kimchi, and it was not as difficult as I thought! Why didn't I make it earlier? Hehe, it is always easier said than done, and hindsight is always easier than foresight, isn't it?

This is a very long post, so bear with me for a while. I adapted my Easy Kimchi recipe from 2 recipes from Aeri's kitchen (here and here), and now I am trying to combine them and write down my step-by-step instructions before I start to forget. My kimchi is now bottled up in 4 glass jars, standing in the kitchen overnight. I intend to let them stand for at least 24 hours at room temperature, and thursday night I will transfer them to my garage. Yes, my garage, not my fridge. I do have a fridge but my garage is COLDER than my fridge, and it will get colder and colder....cos it is nearly winter!

Now, what do you need for making kimchi? Well, you need 3 main things - napa cabbage (otherwise known as chinese cabbage), coarse sea salt and korean hot pepper flakes. Let me show you some fotos so you can see for yourself.

Coarse sea salt (grof zeezout) is a key ingredient for making kimchi. You 
should never use fine salt as a replacement. You should also only use korean hot pepper flakes/powder and not other types of hot pepper powder or chilli powder. Please also do not get confused with "gochujang" which is korean hot pepper paste in a tub! You cannot use "gochujang" for kimchi.

You also need other ingredients such as fish sauce, glutinous rice flour (also known as sweet rice flour), spring onions, garlic chives, chillies, sesame seeds, garlic, onion, ginger, pear, and sugar. If you like radish, you can add radish too.

Main Ingredients
1 large napa cabbage/chinese cabbage (chinese kool)
5 stalks of spring onions (jonge uitjes)
1 cup of garlic chives (bieslook)
2 big chillies or 6 small chillies
1 onion

Salt Solution Ingredients
2/3 cup of coarse sea salt (grof zeezout) ~ for sprinkling on the cabbage
10 cups of water + 1/2 cup of coarse sea salt ~ for the salt solution
(2/3 cup coarse sea salt is about 180g, while 1/2 cup is about 140g)

Kimchi Paste Ingredients
2 cups water + (3 tbsp glutinous rice flour + 3 tbsp water)
1/2 pear + 1/4 onion, blended in a food blender
1 cup korean hot pepper flakes 
3 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 cup thai or korean fish sauce (originally 1/2 cup)
2 tbsp white sesame seeds

(Note certain ingredients are called different names in different countries, for example, napa cabbage = chinese cabbage, spring onions = scallions or green onions, chillies = hot peppers, glutinous rice flour = sweet rice flour)

1. Wash the cabbage and remove any decaying parts. Use only napa cabbage / chinese cabbage and not any other cabbage. Use a sharp knife to cut lengthwise into 4 parts. Remove the core or the heart of the cabbage from each part. Then cut the cabbage into 2-inch pieces. This will help reduce the soaking time and makes it easier to mix it with the kimchi paste.

2. Prepare a very big bowl or pot (you really need the biggest pot in your kitchen) and 2/3 cup of coarse sea salt (about 180g). Spread one layer of the cut cabbage (one layer=1/4 cabbage) and sprinkle a handful of the salt. Do it for the next layer and sprinkle some salt and continue to do so until all the cabbage and salt are used up.

3. Prepare the salt solution by pouring 10 cups of water and 1/2 cup of coarse sea salt (about 140g) into a big pot. Stir until all the salt has dissolved.

4. Pour the salt solution into the pot of cabbage, and allow the cabbage to soak for 3 hours. After every 1 hour, use your hand to mix the cabbage up and down so that the pieces of cabbage get evenly salted. You can place a smaller pot on top of the cabbage in order to immerse them completely in the salt solution.


5. After 3 hours, rinse the cabbage in cold water 3 times and using a colander, let the water drain from the cabbage for 2 hours. You can feel that the cabbage has become soft and limb.

6. To prepare the rice porridge, mix 3 tbsp of glutinous rice flour (also called sweet rice flour) with 3 tbsp of water. Then pour the mixture into a small pot over medium heat and add 2 cups of water. Let the mixture come to a boil and keep stirring until it starts turning into a translucent, sticky, glue-like mixture. Switch off the heat and set it aside to cool down.

7. Meanwhile, you can start chopping the vegetable ingredients. 
  • Mince some garlic to obtain 3 tbsp of minced garlic.
  • Mince some ginger to obtain 1/2 tbsp of minced ginger.
  • Slice 2 big chillies thinly.
  • Cut 5 stalks of spring onions into 2-inch pieces.
  • Cut 1 cup of garlic chives into 2-inch pieces.
  • Place 1/2 of a pear (or apple) and 1/4 of an onion into the food blender to blend into juice. 
  • Slice the remaining 3/4 of an onion thinly.
Everything nicely cut, just before the big mixing action. Do remember to wear your gloves. :p

8. Mix the rice porridge with 1 cup of korean hot pepper flakes/powder, then pour it over the cabbage which is already drained of water. If you are adding cut radish (about 2 cups, thinly sliced like matchsticks), you should add them at this stage, and mix it with the rice porridge and hot pepper powder.

9. Note that salt and red pepper powder is a lethal combination for open wounds! So remember to wear gloves before you start mixing with your hands! Pour the other ingredients (garlic, ginger, onion, chillies, spring onions, chives, pear+onion juice) over the cabbage, then add about 1/4 cup of fish sauce, 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp of white sesame seeds. I reduced the fish sauce to just 1/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup and I skipped adding 1/2 tbsp of salt as I thought it was salty enough. 

Nearly everything was in, but oh no, I nearly forgot the rice porridge!

10. Mix the cabbage with the kimchi paste thoroughly. Then put the kimchi in glass jars and leave it at room temperature for a day or overnight, after which you should store it in the fridge. According to the recipe, the kimchi will take a few days to ferment, you can eat it now, but it should taste better when it is properly fermented. If you live in a tropical climate, then you should only leave your kimchi at room temperature for few hours instead of a day, before keeping it in the fridge. I live in a cold climate and it is winter now in Belgium, so after fermenting at room temperature, I will keep my kimchi in the garage instead of in the fridge. In fact, my garage is colder than my fridge!

My first homemade kimchi, just before bottling. :)

I tasted the kimchi just before bottling, the taste was fantastic. What should I do now? Now I am gonna just sit back and relax, and wait for the kimchi to properly ferment for a week in my super-cold garage (it is freezing outside now by the way). Next Thursday or Friday will be the moment of truth! Can't wait for next week to arrive!:p

Afternote :
  • My korean hot pepper flakes/powder (the packet is all in korean but the translation says rode paprika poeder in Dutch) was bought in a chinese supermarket in Wijnegem, Belgium. It cost nearly 6 euro for a pack of 463g/16oz. You should be able to buy it in major asian grocery stores overseas which sell korean ingredients. However do not attempt to substitute it with other types of hot pepper powder, paprika powder or chilli powder. This is because korean hot pepper flakes/powder is not so spicy so you can use it in large quantities, but the same cannot be said of other types of powders, and hence you will not be able to achieve the desired fermentation and taste.
  • White sesame seeds (witte sesamzaadjes) and glutinous rice flour (kleefrijstmeel) can be bought in asian grocery stores. In some recipes, cooked rice is used instead of glutinous rice flour.
  • Napa cabbage (chinese kool), spring onions (jonge uitjes), garlic chives (bieslook), thai fish sauce and coarse sea salt (grof zeezout) can all be bought in the belgian local supermarket chain Colruyt.
  • Pear can be replaced with apple, in fact the original recipe used 1/4 of an apple.


  1. Miss B,

    2 cups water + (3 tbsp glutinous rice flour + 3 tbsp water) <--- I supposed this is the "rice porridge" u refering to in point 8 ?

    1. Yes. That was the rice porridge I was referring to.
      But if you don't wish to buy glutinous rice flour, you can also make the rice porridge using rice, just click on one of the 2 recipe links I provided from Aeri's Kitchen. In one of the recipes, she used rice for her rice porridge.

    2. Oh no worries abt the glutinous rice flour, should have some left from the ones i made my cai tao kueh :P

      Hmmm this kim chi makin process took almost one whole day?

    3. The mixing didn't take much time, maybe just the cutting of the veggies. It was the waiting time that took the longest, you need to soak the cabbage for 3 hours, and mix it up and down every 1 hour, then let the water drain for 2 hours. Maybe you can cut short the draining time by manually squeezing water from the cabbage. But I think the soaking time shouldnt be cut short otherwise the cabbage will not be well salted.

    4. Alritey, noted w thks :)

  2. Hi, can I omit the onion and garlic? MIL is vegetarian, she can't take those 2 ingredients.

    1. Hi,

      Pls leave your name behind in future, since anonymous comments will get answered the last or completely ignored.

      I'm not too sure about whether you can omit those 2, since I'm not Korean. But you can check out Aeri's Kitchen blog and see if there are any other kimchis without onion and garlic.

  3. Amazing! Thank you for sharing, we will be having these soon!


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