Friday, April 6, 2012

My Mother's Crunchy Cabbage Kimchi

I was teaching a friend the other day how to make vegetarian potstickers (that recipe I will post tomorrow) and it left half of a big Napa Cabbage unused and the part that was left was the bottom half composed of the white part of the stalk. So, in order not to waste that much cabbage, I decided to make Kimchi.  Now, I happen to like my Kimchi crunchy so using the stalks is my best solution for using up something that might other go to compost and to give me the crunchiest Kimchi.  Most commercial Kimchi uses more of the leaves. So, I called my Mom to get her recipe again as I forget the proportions and her instructions weren't very clear - it's hard to pinpoint the amounts when they are give to you as a pinch of this and a hunk of that....  The most important information I got was that she used to use dried shrimp until I became allergic to it so her Korean friend told her to use fish sauce instead and to use more than a little because that seafood Umami flavor underlies the Kimchi's flavor. Now if you want to be even more authentic, please add the shrimp, but my allergy is also why I need to make my Kimchi unless I read the labels of the store bought kind very very carefully.  Also, I can make it more or less spicy or more or less garlicky.  I like having that kind of leeway and food always tastes better homemade.  

A few notes:  I only leave the Kimchi out to ferment for 2 days in a cool place (only for a day if it is hot weather) but if you like a more sour taste, you can go even a few more days before you refrigerate it.  I also recommend glass jars as the chili powder definitely stains plastic containers and I'm just not sure if you want to ferment food in plastic. I don't like to salt it too much as you can always add more salt if you want when you serve it.  I wrote before (in the Radish Kimchi post) about how amazing and wonderful Kimchi is for you health so I won't say it again.  But if you like Kimchi, try making it at home - it's fun and so delicious too.  So here is my Mom's recipe for Kimchi that I've adapted for you.

Crunchy Cabbage Kimchi

Bottom Half of Napa Cabbage – end trimmed off and cut into 2 inch pieces (or use 1/2 of the cabbage including the leafy part)
4 cups water
3 Tablespoons Salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch chunk of ginger, peeled and minced -squeezed in a garlic press to extract juice
2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce (can also substitute dried shrimp or shrimp paste)
3 Tablespoons Korean Chili Powder
4 green onions, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths
5 inch piece of Daikon Radish, peeled sliced into matchstick pieces or grated
½ teaspoon sugar

Optional:  2 Carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into matchstick pieces

Mix salt and water in a large bowl or pot.  Soak cabbage in the salted water for 4 – 5 hours.  Drain and squeeze dry.  Mix the other ingredients together in the bowl, add cabbage and rub the spiced mixture into the cabbage with your hands.  Pack into a large glass jar (or two smaller ones - I used an old pickle jar) and pack down to remove air bubbles and put the cap on.  Let sit for 2 days in a cool place (1 day if it is very warm) and then put into the refrigerator.  Kimchi can be eaten immediately, but is better after a few days.  It will keep for months, but will get stronger tasting over time and then is better added into dishes rather than eating it by itself.

Five Element Analysis

Fermented things are sour so they belong to the Wood Element. The Chili Powder adds the Fire Element.  The Napa Cabbage and carrots, if you use them, bring in the Earth Element.  The Daikon radish, the green onions, garlic and ginger add the Metal Element and the Salt and Fish Sauce contribute the Water Element  Guess what?  This is a pretty balanced food all by itself!  And, it is so good for your digestion and protective for your immune system, you should add it to your diet for health reasons alone!


  1. I am wondering, if we can skip brining step. I prefer crunchy too, and brining makes it softer, I think. Not to mention uses so much salt and water.

  2. I'm sure you could skip that step if you want to do that. Let me know how it turns out!