deliciously fermented
January 14, 2011 8:28 AM   Subscribe

kimchee. in all of its variations. yum. how do i make it at home?

google gives me lots of recipes, but i have no idea which ones are best. which ones do you love?

thanks :)
posted by anya32 to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 105 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome! This is one of my favorite at-home projects. I'd recommend this recipe, and this one (obviously you can add other ingredients - and heat - according to taste).

Good luck!
posted by AngerBoy at 8:48 AM on January 14, 2011

Not an exact answer to your question but here is a great site for fermenting equipment. I use their stuff to make pickles and sauerkraut, they also have some Kimchee advice and recipe I've been meaning to try.

From speaking with my Korean friends there are a ton of variations, sometimes based on the season. Spices and cabbage types can vary widely, much more than say, sauerkraut. I'd defiantly choose a recipe that uses gochugaru, the primary spice.
posted by patrad at 9:04 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

A great resource for anything fermented: sandor katz

I like some of the recipes on david lebovitz's blog; interestingly, one of the comments there says that katz' recipe for kimchi calls for rice vinegar, but they suggest omitting it as it impedes the lactobacillus bacteria...

kimchi is awesome - i personally prefer making it with radishes, but it's all tasty.
posted by dubold at 9:07 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I made a kimchee with napa cabbage, garlic scapes, and dried crushed jalapeƱo flakes last spring. It was great, and I'll be doing it again as soon as garlic scapes hit the farmers markets.

Burdock root is tasty in kimchee, but tends to discolor.

This recipe ("Ultimate Kimchi") is a pretty good read for ideas. I've not followed that recipe to the letter, but it demonstrates the wide range of fermentable vegetables.

This is a good recipe demonstrating the inclusion of dried shrimp. Dried oysters or dried smelt/anchovy are used similarly in some areas of Korea. Here's a recipe (recipe possibly originated here) that doesn't call for fish. I look to this last one as my basic recipe.

The long and short of it is: if you get the fermentation going, you probably have safe and tasty kimchi. There is a lot of variation possible, and no need to stick to a single recipe (and little need to make huge batches).
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 9:19 AM on January 14, 2011

Rule of thumb: avoid recipes using rice vinegar.

In Korean cooking, sometimes vegetables are dressed with rice vinegar and red pepper (gochu garu), but this is not considered kimchi.

Maangchi is generally a good resource for people cooking Korean food outside of Korea. Here are some kimchi recipes from her site:
Kimchi and kaktugi recipe
Easy kimchi
posted by needled at 9:24 AM on January 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Well, you can Google for stuff, but there's so many sources. So my two cents based on a lifetime of kimchi eating and making (both watching and participating).

First things first, don't put the kimchi on a pedestal. People getting into Korean cuisine tend to do this a lot for some reason.

You don't need any special fermenting equipment to turn kimchi sour. It's nothing like canning or pickling. The whole "buried under the earth" thing that people love to wax on like it was Prometheus bringing fire from Mt. Olympus about isn't special Ancient Korean Secret. It was just a way of storing things when you don't have a refrigerator. "Oh, bury this thing in an earthenware jar in cool earth? Sweet." Any container to hold it will do. Most household just keep it in any old tupperware, or in some food bags in the freezer even (if you're fancy you have a kimchi fridge, like a wine fridge, but I've always suspected that was more about keeping the kimchi smell out of your fridge than any crazy foodie optimal temperature thing). It's not a mystical process, just some veggies going sour. Leave it in the fridge long enough and it will ferment on its own. Or if you want to step up the process, just leave it on the counter overnight...or a day or two depending on how sour you like things, and that does the trick too. Just remember to leave the top open a bit, so you don't build up gases and have the top explode or the precious juices bubble over. It happens.


There are five billion types of kimchi that use a variety of vegetables and ingredients depending on the region. Even the basic cabbage kimchi can be made with or without: pears, oysters, fish sauce, etc.

Starting off, if you're interested in trying a variety aside from the typical red cabbage stuff, the standard familiar ones are:

- Kkakdugi (cubes of Korean daikon radish)
- Yuhlmu or Chonggak kimchi (uses whole young radishes)
- Pah kimchi (made with scallions/green onions)
- Oi kimchi (cucumber kimchi, see also oi sobaeki)
- Buchu kimchi (chives)
- Variety of "mul" kimchis (literally, "water" kimchi that don't use the spicy red pepper flakes, such as dongchimi)

Some basic ingredients you should see if you can track down before getting started. Also realize you'll need large quantities of some of these (so like a McCormick's sized bottle for gochu garu, for example, will not do). If there is not a Korean store near you, there are plenty of Korean grocers b online who ship things:

- Gochu garu (Korean crushed red peppers. TOTALLY different from the crushed red peppers you might find in the regular spice section. These are whole dried red Korean peppers that have been milled seeds and all).
- Fish sauce. This is more of a regional/personal taste type of thing in Korea. Some regions or families don't use fish sauce at all. There are Korean fish sauces, and those are usually called aek jeot. Varieties include myulchi or kkanari aek jeot. Some households use Korean fermented shrimp called saeu jeot. You don't have to use Korean fish sauces though. My mom's used Vietnamese fish sauces to good effect (can't vouch for shrimp paste, though).
-Coarse salt. For the initial flavoring as well as wilting of vegetables. Koreans use a coarse, almost gravel-like salt for kimchi. Kosher salt might work, but I'd avoid using table salt.

The rest are more or less variable, and again there are five million ways and ingredients that can be used. Like the above-mentioned oysters or pears. Some people use different "jeot gals" or preserved fish (even a whole fish jeots), and you can even add rice flour paste into your kimchi base to make the juices less water and have the spice "mixture" cling better to your veggies. And so on and so forth.

Finally, realize kimchi is a multi-faceted food. Think of it like a plaintain. Green plaintains can make tostones, slightly blacker ones make maduros, and totally black mushy ones for something else. In the same way, some people like cabbage or other kimchis fresh, before frementation sets in. Basic fermented cabbage kimchi is good for eatin' as well as putting in other dishes like kimchi stew or kimchi fried rice, but "mookeun ji" ("ancient" cabbage kimchi)? That's a whole other level of enjoyment too. Shit practically has an alcoholic tang to it after it's been sitting in the fridge a couple of months. Amazing in stews, but also when you "jjim" it with pork ribs. Just lay a bed of meukeun cabbage kimchi on the bottom of a pan, layer top with pork ribs (I like to add scallions, onions and even some tofu), add a little water to the pan, cover and just let that thing cook through. It's the best thing ever.
posted by kkokkodalk at 9:38 AM on January 14, 2011 [32 favorites]

Seconding Maangchi's recipe and also that it is HIGHLY variable. I figured out what I liked in kimchi and through experimenting (a lot) nailed down my vegetarian nappa cabbage version. And what I do to get the kimchi I prefer goes against a lot of the "don't do this!" advice I have run into. So feel free to play. There are no rules. Kimchi happens.
posted by hecho de la basura at 9:58 AM on January 14, 2011

Here's what Serious Eats has to say on the subject of making kimchi.

They also have a (somewhat dubious, IMHO) list of things to do with kimchi.
posted by slogger at 10:18 AM on January 14, 2011


Pickles are fermented products.

Vinegar pickles are an inferior species.
posted by kenko at 11:15 AM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

We've been using the Maangchi "easy" recipe around the house for the last couple of weeks, since we've been getting napa cabbage in the CSA. We're vegetarian, so we leave out the fish sauce, which my brother's Korean girlfriend (no, like, actually in Korea) says means that we have to eat it faster (in a week or so, versus the near infinite duration of regular kimchi).

If anyone has other good recipes that are vegetarian (without seafood/fish sauce/oysters), I'd love to hear them. Unfortunately, the Korean groceries around here all make theirs with oysters.
posted by klangklangston at 11:38 AM on January 14, 2011

I don't have any personal experience with this (other than eating it and loving it), but a non-MeFite friend who makes it regularly recommends this book.
posted by brundlefly at 12:10 PM on January 14, 2011

By coincidence, I believe that the most recent issue of Fine Cooking has an article on kimchee and other such pickled things. (If not the current issue, I know that it's the one with the big-honkin' meatloaf on the cover)!
posted by webhund at 12:52 PM on January 14, 2011

The recipe in Wild Fermentation is good except it's a bit too salty. Cut the salt in half and it turns out fantastic.
posted by cog_nate at 1:21 PM on January 14, 2011

kkokkodalk speaks much truth (reread her post!), but when she says, "Korean crushed red peppers. TOTALLY different from the crushed red peppers you might find in the regular spice section," remember that once again: you can make substitutions (and I don't find the difference here that great, when I make kimchi).

I've made kimchi with round-head, supermarket cabbage, with carrots, ginger & cinnamon, and with bean sprouts (eaten "young"). Most of mine is heavier on the ginger and lighter on the chili than traditional, because that's what I prefer.

I'll give you one make-or-break caveat: STORE IT COOL. It can start fermentation in your kitchen, but it mush live in your basement or your fridge; if you try to age or keep it in your kitchen, it will go mushy on you. (wipes a tear away, for kimchi lost...)

posted by IAmBroom at 2:50 PM on January 14, 2011

I like the recipe from the Momofuku Cookbook, which produces a more authentic result than Sandor Katz's recipes. I also agree with kkokkodalk that gochu garu is 100% essential. As long as you salt the cabbage first to wilt it, then add gochu garu as one of your flavourings, then you'll have recognisable kimchi. Without gochu garu, you'll be making spicy sauerkraut. Don't overdo the fish sauce or salty shrimp paste, because you'll make it too much of an acquired taste.
posted by roofus at 6:13 PM on January 14, 2011

I 100% advocate a kimchi refrigerator. I use mine for kimchi and beers.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:49 PM on January 14, 2011

If anyone has other good recipes that are vegetarian (without seafood/fish sauce/oysters), I'd love to hear them.

My basic guidelines for my vegetarian kimchi are as follows. I make kimchi once a month/every six weeks because we eat A lOT of it and I am limited by the gallon size fermenting jar I have. I just can't make ginormous batches to last for months and months. I get a 3 - 5 pound nappa and that's all that can fit:

I follow exactly how Maangchi cleans/washes her nappa cabbage in the link above. Then in a big nonreactive pot I put the halved or quartered cabbage on to salt. I use about a cup of non-iodized salt--kosher, coarse sea salt--doesn't matter. But it can't be iodized. I use the cheap bags of coarse sea salt from the neighborhood Korean market.
I sprinkle and rub 1 cup of salt between the leaves of the cabbage. I put 1/2 cup of more salt in about 1/2 cup of warm water and pour it over the cabbage. And this is where I depart from most recipes I've seen: I like my cabbage to sit overnight. Some recommend a couple hours or even just an hour. I am firmly in the camp of overnight. I made kimchi last weekend and let it sit overnight and all day the next day. Great batch--to me. Feel free to experiment with salting times to suit your personal preference.

Once it's sat for [your preference] time, it will be wilted. Rinse really, really well.

While it's draining I make the stuffing by first making a sweet rice flour paste. I add two tablespoons of sweet/glutinous rice flour to 1 cup of water and stir it over heat until it thickens. You're supposed to let it cool before doing the following but I, uh, don't. I take it off the heat and add a cup of koch'u karu or Korean hot pepper powder. I have never substituted and NEVER ever will. The pepper powder is just perfect and incredibly cheap. I get it for $4.00 for a two pound bag.
I add about 1/2 cup of sugar, two/three tablespoons of ginger, two/three tablespoons of garlic (I like garlic), a couple chopped green onions (white and green parts--they're optional, though) and about a tablespoon of lemon juice.
I have also added chopped jalapeno peppers, chopped daikon, bunch of garlic scrapes, and/or 1/4 cup chopped walnuts in the past when I'm feeling ambitious/have it on hand. Maybe you could add some green seaweed for a fishy taste? I'll try that next time!

And then I just stuff the cabbage with the stuffing....which just consists of smearing the paste all over the cabbage. Then I stick it in my fermenting/storage jar. I like to let it sit 24-48 hours on the counter top with an airtight lid. I like a really, really strong/sour kimchi so you might do just overnight. Taste it while it's fermenting. You can stop it when it reaches the sourness you like.
Then I refrigerate and eat.

We're vegetarian, so we leave out the fish sauce, which my brother's Korean girlfriend (no, like, actually in Korea) says means that we have to eat it faster (in a week or so, versus the near infinite duration of regular kimchi).
I am not Korean and have only 4 years of regular kimchi making under my belt, but I have kept my non-fish sauce kimchi for *ahem* a couple months and eaten every bit of it. To me the older it gets the better it gets. I won't really eat the fresh batch from last weekend until next week or so. I don't like it fresh. I'm hoping it gets sour enough for kimchi jiggae before winter ends. There is *nothing* like a batch of jiggae on a night that's six degrees and blowing snow.
Also? Bokumbap is absolutely necessary to make with your kimchi. It singlehandedly converted my husband from, "Dear God NOT KIMCHI!" to "YAY! KIMCHI!".
posted by hecho de la basura at 6:50 PM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh yeah--I forgot to mention. You will want to wear rubber gloves while stuffing the cabbage. Rubber gloves are ESSENTIAL!!
posted by hecho de la basura at 7:36 PM on January 14, 2011

hecho de la basura, my mother and my aunts all let the cabbage sit overnight after salting, too.
I have an aunt who has her koch'u karu shipped to the U.S. from relatives in Korea who grow and grind their own pepper powder, because she claims the stuff sold in the U.S. it too hot and spicy and upsets one's stomach.

I like fresh kimchi, but there's nothing like old sour kimchi for making kimchi mandu (dumplings).
posted by needled at 4:48 AM on January 15, 2011

Response by poster: these answers are awesome! i'm so excited to try different recipes. a question about the fridge part since some of you have mentioned having a separate mini fridge as a necessity or not being required - how stinky is the process?
posted by anya32 at 9:29 AM on January 18, 2011

Just saw your post--not much. Mine stinks when I open the (airtight) jar. I call it kimchi burp. But that's it. No stink. But! Mine is free of fish and shrimp and stuff. So ymmv.
The separate fridge is standard in Korea and hardcore kimchi lovers because it keeps it at the perfect temperature to continue to ferment without rotting. Regular refrigerators are a bit on the cold side. I keep mine in a regular fridge. But I definitely want a kimchi fridge.
posted by hecho de la basura at 3:42 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

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