Saturday, 7 January 2012

Better Homemade Kimchi

It's 2012! A new year! Out with the old, and in with the new. I decided to use up the last of the 2 month-old kimchi in a stew, and to replace that, I made a new batch a few days back. For those of you who might not have heard of kimchi (you obviously have not been hanging around hipster modern English restaurants/ London streetfood carts enough), it's like Korean sauerkraut, with a kick. Sour, spicy, just delicious, oh and also incredibly healthy, even arguably the Koreans' secret to longevity.

I've made kimchi before, but I don't think it was the best it could be. It is very simple though, so if you want a no-faff, passable kimchi recipe, you may still like it. This new one is inspired by Maangchi and many other Korean youtube videos, made with grated pear instead of sugar, and with an extra step of making a "porridge". This is still considered an easy version i.e. mak kimchi, the traditional one uses the whole cabbage. You don't have to use napa cabbage, I've tried it before with your normal white cabbage, works brilliantly too.

2 small/medium (about 2kg) napa cabbage i.e. chinese leaf lettuce
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sweet rice flour i.e. glutinous rice flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup fish sauce
1 cup of Korean hot chilli pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1" piece ginger, minced
1 large onion, minced
1 pear, peeled and grated

1 carrot, shredded
1 bunch spring onions, shredded
(Whatever you like that's in season. I've added shredded beetroot before too. You can even add raw oysters/ squid etc. for a deluxe version.)

1. Chop cabbage up into bite-sized pieces.
2. Soak in cold water for about 5-10 min. Drain, sprinkle the salt over evenly. Leave it for 1 1/2 hours, but turn about 2-3 times through to salt evenly. By then, the cabbage would have sweat and reduced in volume by quite a lot. Rinse 3 times.

This basin was full to the brim an hour ago. 

3. Meanwhile, make your spice porridge. Add rice flour to water and bring to a simmer, keep stirring. Remove from heat, and when cool, add the rest of the ingredients to the rice paste.

4. Combine the cabbage, add-ons, and spice porridge. Get your largest mixing bowl and mix well.

5. Transfer from the mixing bowl into a sealable container (non-reactive, i.e. not a cheapo thin plastic) , and wait. Remember to press down well, and continue doing so for the next 2 days, submerging the vegetables under the kimchi juices that gets released.

6. About 2 days later, you'll see bubbles and it will smell slightly sour (in a nice way), that's when you can transfer it to the fridge, where you can try some 2 days later, or let it stay for a months even, depending on how mature you like it. I think a week is the minimum for good kimchi-ness.

I love kimchi, it's spicy sour tang instantly whets your appetite, and it makes an easy side to grilled meat/fish or even plain rice, or for the older ones, I add it to stews, or even just batter it to make kimchi fritters, yum. Because I like my kimchi really mature, I can only say for sure if it's better than version one a month or so later, but I've sneaked bites (it's been a couple of weeks) and already I like it.

Is this the best possible kimchi? Of course not, Koreans have nationwide competitions for it and they add fresh raw oysters and squid and all sorts of goodies to this powerful pickle. But this is a lot more realistic and doable for a starving student. Now the difficult bit, to wait.


  1. Happy New Year :)!! I love kimchi and like to use it for making other things as well such as kimchi pancakes, kimchi stew and kimchi mandu, my mouth is watering just by typing these names ;). Sometimes I add minced apple and pear to my kimchi, you should give it a try, they give a nice sweet kick.

  2. Yum! I never got around to trying your other one so it looks like I will be trying this one! :)

  3. I want to make this one day. Funny when you say " Out with the old, and in with the new" and then comes the 2 month new kimchi. Old is gold in the kimchi world I guess.

  4. CG: i did add minced pear to my kimchi (: it's great to add sweetness to kimchi, esp since I used a really ripe pear! will try apple next time.

    katie: yup this one is better!!

    three cookies: haha I meant out with the old batch of kimchi! this is the new and improved batch, hence in with the new (:

  5. I still remember how the factories in Korea made Kimchi, purely with just Cabbage or Radish as the main vegetable haha. It's fresh to see how you steered away from that and made yours with additional add ons! Great work! :)

  6. oh I love kimchi... any kind, it just tastes so clean and fresh... i'm after a recipe for pigs trotters... any ideas?

  7. Brilliant - I love kimchi. Did you get the korean chilli flakes from the Korean supermarket under Centrepoint?

  8. yuhan: really?? all the versions I've seen are even ore "deluxe" than mind, with raw oysters and squid!

    dom: easiest way that I love, my mum's recipe also, is this sweet gingery vinegar stew. I famously said I wouldn't mind being pregnant just so I can eat this everyday (it's a popular confinement dish, but everyone can eat it of course). you don't get crispy skin, but you get this meltingly gelatinous skin (think the skin off hong shao pork belly), and very delicious sauce.

    lizzie: Nope, just got them from Chinatown! New Loon Moon, the second floor. It's less spicy and more pungent than normal chilli flakes, so you can use more and get everything looking red and scary without it actually being overly spicy ;)

  9. Silly question from a noob with no idea, but I have "rice flour" in my cupboard, which I bought with the intention of making mochi, only to discover that there are apparently multiple different types of rice flour (who'd-a-thunk it? :p). The type I have isn't sweet/glutinous stuff... would it still work, or do I definitely need that type? I actually have a napa cabbage right now in my refrigerator and every time I have one I'm tempted to make kimchi, but always end up chickening out, after previous failures.

  10. I want to try making kimchi - love the pear in this recipe. I just may start mine tonight!

  11. Basics first - I really need to get some good Korean spices before I can start on this. Your homemade kimchi already looks good!

  12. This is incredible! I've been meaning to make my own kimchi but never have gotten around to it (mainly because of the concern that my entire flat will smell like kimchi for months). Do you have a stinky flat/stinky fridge problem when you make it? (I'm moving into a *tiny* new flat with a fitted kitchen -- i.e., kitchen in the front room, so this is a genuine concern.)

  13. Shuhan, it must be telepathy! It's like with the chicken stock, remember? I made it just before your post and then decided to post it later... I made mak kimchi (as you advised me and from your previous recipe) yesterday, took some photos today and planned to post it on Wednesday...
    Your kimchi looks excellent! Mine will have to wait a bit before I eat it.
    Thank you for posting it once more and for your advice.

  14. charles:if yours was meant for making mochi, then it is sweet/sticky/glutinous rice flour! it should be quite a failsafe recipe! making the european version i.e. sauerkraut on the other hand, was..let's just say, it was a rotten affair.

    autumn: oh do try! (:

    laura: hey, that's brilliant! let me know if you do it(:

    tigerfish: you only need that korean hot pepper flakes! and tbh, the very first time I made kimchi, I just subbed half paprika, half chilli powder for it and it turned out alright.

    susan: no stinky flat/fridge problem! just make sure you transfer them to sealable airtight containers! My flat is really tiny too, and just like yours, my kitchen is all connected, there's no doors in fact except for the toilet door!

    sissi: OMG we must be long-lost twins. will definitely check back on your kimchi! (:

  15. Hi, I'm a Singapore living in Melbourne and loves to cook and bake Asian-Western fusion food. Your blog is fantastic and would love to follow you!

    I like your homemade Kimchi! Thanks for sharing all these tips.

  16. Oooh, i am a BIG fan of kimchi, but have never thought about making it, the timescales always seemed intimidating. However, it looks like they're not as bad as I thought. This is definitely something to add to the fridge/store cupboard as it's a perfect snack , healthy and packs a punch. Yum.

  17. I have seen many Kimchi recipes , but yours is slightly difference as you add rice flour. This is a recipe I want to make at home too, hopefully I could start soonest. Thanks for sharing.

  18. your recipe is a little different from mine and i do believe this is really delicious!! kimchi is so versatile, also great with noodles!

  19. Looks good! I have yet to make kimchi (as I don't like the one I tasted outside) but I have seen recipes using Asian pear, persimmon or even apple to substitute the sugar. Well see...

  20. zoe: thanks so much! I'm going to check yours out too (:

    the grubworm: It really isn't that bad! Pretty failsafe too, and packs a punch to whatever else you add it to! Make it!!

    sonia: The rice flour "porridge" helps all the flavours to stick to and coat the kimchi better! And I think it just adds a bit of something to the kimchi too!

    lena: thanks lena! oh yah, like kimchi ramen(:

    little corner of mine: great idea using apple too! Hmm maybe can experiement with different fruits? thanks for sharing!

  21. I've always liked the idea of making kimchi but I've never had the courage. This sounds so much more satisfying than buying it.

  22. I've been hoping to find the perfect kimchi recipe to try for so long. I've found some good ones but don't have photos. I love yours! It sounds easy and the photos tell me that this is the kind of kimchi I want to make.

  23. Suppose I wanted to change the recipe because I have other things on hand.
    If I use any other vegetables (besides, or in addition to, Napa cabbage) in the base, would I need to use the salting-and-rinsing process on them too?
    Sufficient brine/paste is needed to cover the veggies. One would make it a paste by using glutinous-rice porridge for most of the liquid. Does it matter if it is more of a liquid than a paste? Your first recipe looked like it had more of a brine than a paste. If I don't have fish sauce, I'd have to substitute in a few tablespoons of salt, right? At the very least, the brine should have salt and a sweetener, and flavoring agents such as onion, garlic, ginger, and pepper, right? Are all the proportions rather forgiving, or do I need a specific proportion of salt to vegetable?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Rena.

      I add things like carrots and spring onions without salting and rinsing them, but I think if you were to use a vegetable with a lot of water content, it might be a good idea salt-and-rinse along with the cabbage.

      My first recipe was more like a brine, yes,the second more like a paste, but either way, you need to make sure the vegetables are coated well to prevent them from going bad plus impart flavour. Some people sub soy sauce for fish sauce, you might want to try that instead for a closer flavour to kimchi.

      I would say the proportions for the spices and flavouring agents are forgiving, but for the salt content, try not to reduce the salt too much as it is what helps to preserve the vegetables.

      Take a look at maangchi's website and read what the other users say on the forum too, it's a brilliant resource! (:

      Hope all goes well, let me know how it went x

  24. Hi Shu Han
    I chanced on your blog two nights ago and it has been a really good read. I want to try this kimchi recipe but have one question - When it comes to the step where the cabbage is mixed with the spice "porridge" and then stored in an airtight container for first 2 days to bubble, i take it that this left outside at room temperature conditions in London? I live in Singapore, considering the humidity does it go straight to the fridge?

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Li-Yong! Thanks for coming by my blog! I think you should still leave it out, because you really want it to ferment. If you chuck it straight into the fridge, it's too cold for any fermentation to happen. What you might want to do is to monitor it more closely, it probably will bubble much faster, so perhaps a day of fermentation will do. Open it up and take a smell and peek to see if it's right; it should smell sour in a nice way, not rancid! Good luck! Keep me posted! Curious to see how this works in sg weather for when I'm back! x

    2. Hi Shu Han,

      Regarding the fermentation process. I live in Malaysia (the same weather as Li-Yong). I've left the kimchi on the kitchen counter for 2 days (it has been 24-27c the whole day/night due to rainy season). After that I've chuck it into the fridge. It's already into day 4 (by evening today), I've tried it this morning, it smells a little sour but not pungent (or maybe i have been smelling it for a few days now).

      I've tried it on a daily basis but it hasn't gotten sour yet. Maybe I need to leave it for a week more, perhaps? A little worried that it's not fermenting. I did see little bubbles as per your picture in this post though at the end of day 1 itself. Although it's not bubbly or fizzy like soft drinks....

      Do I need to stir it around once a day? Or just let it be and wait for a few more days.

    3. Mine gets sour after at least a couple of weeks and I really like my kimchi when it's well into a month or more. It's not going to be fizzy like soft drinks; I think the little bubbles you see is a good enough sign.You don't need to stir it around, but you can press down on the veggies if you liek so it stays submerged under the liquid.

      Good luck!!

    4. Hi Shu Han,

      Thanks alot for the reply! :D I've actually taken out some of the kimchi and have it stored in a bowl with cling film to cover it up this morning. The kimchi is just slightly sour so I think it's coming around! :D

      Will be pressing down the veggies as you have suggested! :D

      Have a nice day!!

  25. I need to 'pin' this! ;)

    Just made my first batch of kimchi and would love to try this one next. ;)

  26. Nice written!! I have been a big fan of your blogs. thanks best fishing line

  27. Those look easy but awesome! Thanks for sharing :)