If there is any one dish synonymous with Korean cuisine, it has got to be kimchi, and for good reason. Kimchi is a way of life in Korea—the figures prove it—1.5 billion tons of kimchi is consumed in this Asian country each year. Kimchi recipes are passed down through generations and many Korean families have a separate, temperature-controlled refrigerator just for their kimchi. The staple is not only eaten alone, but can be found in countless Korean dishes.
Kimchi is a spicy Korean banchan (side dish) created from salted, fermented vegetables, usually cabbage (“baechu“) and radishes. It gets its unique kick from a paste made of chili powder, garlic, ginger, red pepper and sugar and its recognizable tang from fish sauce and fermentation.
Baechu Kimchi – Korean Spicy Cabbage
- Extra large bowl
- Medium saucepan
- Large sealed plastic container
- Food processor (optional)
- 6 +/- lb Napa cabbage
- ½ cup Sea or kosher salt
- ¼ cup Sweet rice flour
- ⅛ cup Sugar
- ½ cup Asian fish sauce
- 1 cup Korean hot pepper flakes or powder
- ½ cup Garlic, crushed (using a food processor for chopped vegetables is easier)
- 1½ tbsp Fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- ½ cup Onion, minced
- ¼ cup Korean salted baby shrimp or 1 tbsl shrimp paste (or omit)
- 6 Scallions, ends removed and cut diagonally into 2-inch slices
- 1 cup Leek, white part only cut into 2-inch slivers and cleaned thoroughly
- 1 cup Korean radish or white turnip, julienned into 2-inch matchsticks.
- ⅛ cup Carrot, 2-inch matchsticks
- Cut cabbage lengthwise into quarters. Remove cores and ends, cut crossways into 1-inch slices. Soak cabbage in sink for 10 minutes. Transfer cabbage to a large bowl and cover with water and ½ cup salt.Soak for 1½ hours, flipping cabbage over every 30 minutes. Start making porridge and paste. Drain and rinse the cabbage 3 times to clean it thoroughly. Drain 1 last time, dry with paper towels, and set aside.
- Put 1½ cups of water and sweet rice flour in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Keep stirring until porridge begins to bubble, about 5 minutes. Add sugar and stir another 2-3 minutes until it's translucent. Let it cool down.
Make Kimchi Paste
- Place cooled porridge in a large bowl. Mix in following ingredients in order: fish sauce, hot pepper flakes or powder, garlic, ginger, onion and, if using, salted baby shrimp or shrimp paste. Mix in scallion, leek, radish or turnip, and carrot sticks.
- Add cabbage to bowl with vegetables and mix with hands to cover the cabbage completely. Put into a tightly sealed container and leave unopened on the counter for 4-5 days, checking after 2 days to see if it's beginning bubble.When done fermenting, stuff cabbage into jars, divide liquid between jars, cover tightly, and refrigerate.
- Korean salted baby shrimp, sweet rice flour, and hot pepper flakes or powder can all be found at any Korean grocery or ordered online.