My kimchi

I’ve just made my fourth batch of homemade kimchi, and it’s the first one I’m totally satisfied with. I have been going around telling everybody about my kimchi. Some people want it. Some people want me to keep it away from them.

Here’s the recipe, which I’ve cobbled together from three different cookbooks: [Momofuku](, [Eating Korean](, and [The Korean Table]( But I also have to thank my friend Kye Soon Hong, who supplied a key ingredient.

See, the first couple of times I made kimchi, it wasn’t spicy enough. So the third time, I got smart. But not very smart. I put it a ton of chile powder. Now the kimchi was spicy enough, but it was gritty from too much chile powder. I asked Kye what to do. She asked her mother, who lives in Korea. “She said you need to use a spicier kind of red pepper…chung yang peppers,” said Kye. But she didn’t stop there. Kye’s mom sent her a bag of chung yang the other day, and Kye passed some on to me. “It was picked, dried, and crushed by a friend of my mom’s,” she reported. So it’s local! Sort of.

You can likely find spicy chile powder at a Korean grocery. If you can’t find it, make this anyway; it will still be great.

Makes 2 quarts

_You’ll need two one-quart glass canning jars. They sell these at my local supermarket, so hopefully you won’t have trouble finding them, either. I follow David Chang’s nontraditional practice of putting the kimchi directly into the refrigerator instead of aging it at room temperature; I can’t taste any difference, and I am reasonably patient._

1 small to medium head napa cabbage (1.5 to 2 pounds), quartered lengthwise and cut across into 2-inch lengths
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 Korean radish (or a 6-inch length of daikon), peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
4 scallions, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch lengths

**For the seasoning paste:**
1/4 cup Korean chile powder (gochugaru)
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons fish sauce

1. Toss the cabbage and 2 tablespoons salt in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight or until cabbage has wilted and collapsed, at least 4 hours. Drain the cabbage in a colander, pressing down gently to release excess liquid.

2. Stir together the seasoning paste ingredients. Combine the seasoning paste, drained cabbage, radish, and scallions in a large bowl and toss together with your hands, making sure the vegetables are well-coated. Place the kimchi in the jars (press hard to squeeze it in there; the vegetables will lose more water and settle as it ages). Refrigerate. This starts to get good after 3 days and will continue to improve for up to 2 weeks. After that, it’s still great for fried rice or kimchi pancakes or soup for several more weeks.

7 thoughts on “My kimchi

  1. Limax

    This looks very doable. I’ll need to look into the fish sauce and see if we’re able to have it… the only drawback is the sugar. Would honey be a viable substitute?

  2. mamster Post author

    Hey, Limax. Honey would work, or malt syrup–or you could just leave it out. Furthermore, the sugar is going to mostly ferment out to a little alcohol and CO2 in a couple of weeks anyway.

  3. riye

    Ooo! I love radish kim chee. Will definitely have to try this. My mom has a friend who makes kim chee and occasionally brings a jar by–that thing is good but when you open the jar your eyes tear and the cats all run for the hills. Mom says her friend buries the kim chee in her backyard for a month! I wonder if the yard looks like she has gophers?

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  5. Clara

    Refrigerating the kimchi might not be traditional, but it’s pretty common. When my mom makes kimchi, she does several jars of it, and some are left out (they ferment quicker at room temp), and some go into the fridge to be eaten after the room temp batches. You don’t leave the jars out for a super long time or anything…but to be honest, I think the more fermented the kimchi, the better. If it gets too intense, you can use it in cooking jjigae or bokkeumbap (stew or fried rice). nom nom nom…

  6. Clara

    Oh, also: the fish sauce we use, specifically, is an anchovy sauce, and if you don’t have it, then it’s possible to use ground-up anchovies. Something tells me that if you don’t have anchovy sauce, though, you’re also not likely to have anchovy powder. My grandmother has also used oysters in her kimchi.

    Different regions of Korea have different kinds of kimchi. My parents come from different regions, so my mom makes a separate batch of kimchi for my dad, which is unfermented. My mom’s family likes it fermented and tasting strongly of the sea, though. On top of that, there are a lot of different kinds of kimchi, like a white kimchi that doesn’t use gochugaru, and ones using radishes, cucumbers, etc. I like traditional, fishy, fermented Napa cabbage kimchi, personally.

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