Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish of fermented cabbage (baechu = Napa cabbage, also called "hakusai" in Japanese) with hot chili powder; it's a dish that you either love or loathe. No Korean meal is complete without kimchi, whether it takes center stage in a dish such as jjigae or jeon, or is served simply as banchan. Personally, I LOVE kimchi. It's not too incredibly expensive to buy in stores, but it's incredibly easy to make at home, and tastes much more authentic.
Aside from unavoidable garlic breath, kimchi has numerous health benefits. It is low-calorie but high in fiber, vitamin C and beta carotene. It is also rich in vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), calcium and iron. Since kimchi is lacto-fermented much like sauerkraut and yogurt, it helps aid digestion as well.
To make your own kimchi, you will need to find gochugaru, which is a fine chili flake powder available at any Asian market. If you cannot find it, you can substitute crushed red pepper flakes; just grind them into a powder using a coffee grinder/spice mill. Also available is gochujang, which is a premade chili paste for making kimchi. For a vegetarian/vegan version, feel free to omit the fish sauce. The main difference between this recipe and the storebought varieties is the traditional usage of a pear/apple/onion blend for sweetness instead of the sugar used in commercial brands.
adapted from Dr. Ben Kim
1 head Napa cabbage, aka Chinese cabbage
1/4 - 1/2 cup sea salt
1/4 cup gochugaru (or substitute cayenne pepper)
1 Tbsp garlic paste (or grated garlic)
1 Tbsp ginger paste (or grated ginger)
3-4 green onions, sliced
2 Tbsp fish sauce (optional, omit for vegan)
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 Fuji or Gala apple
1/2 Asian pear/apple pear
Separate cabbage leaves and chop into bite-size pieces (leaves & the middle stem). Dissolve sea salt in a bowl of warm water. Pour over cabbage leaves, toss gently, and let sit for about 4 hours. The exact amount of salt & water isn't terribly important; you mainly want to salt the cabbage to remove excess moisture and allow it to wilt.
After 4 hours....
After 4 hours....
Rinse cabbage several times, drain well, and transfer to a large bowl.
Squeeze out as much of the excess liquid as possible.
Combine gochugaru with 1/4 cup warm water and stir to form a paste. Add to cabbage.
Add the garlic, ginger, green onions and fish sauce.
I cheated and used pre-made ginger & garlic pastes.
Blend the onion, apple and pear with 1 cup of water. Add to cabbage. Mix well with GLOVED hands to combine. If you don't have any gloves handy, simply use plastic bags (the produce ones work great).
Yellow onion, Fuji apple, and Asian pear (aka Apple Pear)
Remember to use only 1/2 of the apple, pear & onion.
Transfer to clean glass jars, packing the kimchi tightly but leaving a bit of headspace at the top of the jar. Top with kimchi brine.
Cap tightly and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours before transferring to the refrigerator. At this point, the kimchi is ready to eat!