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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Baechu Kimchi/Kimchee (Korean Pickled Napa Cabbage)

One of the foods that lil' sis requested I make for her to bring to school was a jar of kimchee, or rather specifically baechu kimchee (Korean napa cabbage kimchee). While most people automatically think of napa cabbage kimchee when the word is mentioned, kimchee is actually seasoned and fermented vegetables. So you can have kimchee made of radish or cucumber or Gaenip (Korean Shiso/Perilla Leaves). It doesn't even have to include chili peppers. And you can keep it vegetarian by only using salt.

Kimchee 1

It's a simple enough recipe. One head of napa cabbage...

Kimchee 2
+ the last of the leeks from my garden

Kimchee 3

= 1 jar of kimchee.

Kimchee 5

After several batches and variations, my favorite version of kimchee includes chili peppers and mam ruoc (Vietnamese shrimp paste). As southern and coastal Koreans use brined fish and shrimp in their kimchee, I think my version stays true to the principle. It's also pretty darn good. I prefer to brine my cabbage overnight and then make the seasoning mixture the next day. Most people think kimchee is ideal for eating between 3 to 10 days after it's made. But as you can see in the picture below, a fresh batch of kimchee can be mighty tasty too. If the kimchee has fermented too long and becomes sour, you can cook with it. But I'll save those recipes for another time.

Baechu Kimchi/Kimchee (Korean Pickled Napa Cabbage) 

For 1 gigantic jar, or 2 24-oz jars, you'll need:
For brining:
1 2-lb head of napa cabbage
2 tblsp salt

For seasoning:
A bunch of leeks from your garden if you're lucky, or scallions, or chives or whatever alliums you wish
Any other greens or veggies you'd like to add. My youngest aunt adds daikon, strips of collard greens, and shredded carrots to hers.
2-inch knob of ginger, grated or minced finely
6 or more cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp Mam Ruoc (Vietnamese Shrimp Paste)
1 tblsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
2 tblsps or more of gochujang (Korean chili paste and/or flakes)
2 tsp sugar

The night before, cut your napa cabbage into 2-inch wide strips. Wash thoroughly. In a big bowl massage about 1 tblsp of salt per pound of cabbage. Then fill up the bowl with water until the cabbage is covered. Put a plate over the cabbage and something heavy to weigh it down. I use my mortar. Leave overnight at room temperature.

Kimchee 4

The next day, drain the brined cabbage into a colander and rinse. With your hands, squeeze out excess moisture.

Now it's time to make your seasoning mixture. Take a 2-inch knob of ginger and half a dozen or more garlic cloves and mince it in the food processor. Dump it into a big bowl and add 1 tblsp or so of shrimp paste, a tblsp or more of Korean chili flakes and paste (Actually, I use a whole lot more, but my spicy level is pretty high.), and 2 tsp sugar.

It must be the bright red Korean chili flakes and/or paste. Other chilies won't taste the same. To me, Korean gochujang has a slight sweetness and isn't as spicy.

Mix thoroughly and taste. Make adjustments if necessary. Add any additional chopped veggies or greens, then the drained cabbage. Use gloves if you don't want your hands to get smelly. Mix thoroughly.

Then pack the kimchee into jars about 75% full. You don't want to fill it to the brim as the kimchee will actually bubble as it ferments and may pop the top if it's too full. But do pack the kimchee into the jar tightly so that it can ferment better.

Try eating some fresh if you like, or set the jars at room temperature for a few days to ferment, then refrigerate. I get impatient and pretty much just keep eating and eating until my jar is gone. Yes, straight out of the jar. Sometimes with rice. Sometimes I get around to making Kalbi and Bulgogi (Korean Marinated Short Ribs and Beef), or Bibimbap (Korean Mixed Rice). But really, sometimes I just dig into my jar of kimchee with a pair of chopsticks.


Who made my recipe for kimchee?
Hedgehog of Diary of a Novice Cook said, "The kimchi turns out to be more than beautiful. The juice is so yummy I can drink it straight."


  1. I love that you cook Korean food. How did you and your aunt learn how to cook it? Go Korean food!

  2. Eeep! Fermenting vegetables is something I worry about doing. I'm afraid I'll mess it up and poison myself. =b

  3. i was thinking of kimchi for the whole week! Your recipe seems to fix just that! :D

  4. I agree with chubbypanda, I love kimchee when someone else makes it but worry too much that if I make it I'll screw it up and kill myself.

  5. at last this is one of the posts I have been looking for for ages. I normally make cucumber kimchee as it's easier. Saying that, your kimchee recipe will be tested out very soon in my kitchen I'm sure :D

  6. Anon,
    Kimchee you mean? Or Korean food in general? The marinades are easy. And there's plenty of pickled stuff in VNese food too. I haven't tried the more complicated recipes yet.

    Poison! That never even occurred to me. Besides, the VNese shrimp paste is already fermented and rotten and it hasn't killed me yet! :P

    Really? What a coincidence then! :)

    With all those recipes of yours, this really surprises me.

    Oh! I didn't even know you were waiting on this. ;)

  7. mmm your kim chi is so good! just the right spicy-ness. im already running low!

  8. Lil' sis,
    Ha! You said it was too spicy at first. I must be upping your spicy tolerance.

  9. ooo.. as someone who grew up w/ kim chi in their veins, yours look really good. There are people that LOVE fresh kim chi, w/o any fermentation. sometimes kim chi is served w/ just the cabbage and the "stuffings" and you roll strips of the cabbage w/ the stuffing.

    You really can't screw up this fermentation, as long as you salt it overnight. CP you should try it haha..

    Wandering, actually you can let it fermentate in the fridge as well. Or let it fermentate faster at room temperature and them prolong it in the fridge.

  10. Polar,
    Yup, the faster fermentation why I leave it out for a few days before popping it in the fridge. I get so impatient. :P

  11. i have tried ming tsai's cucumber kimchi, and was sorely disappointed - it lacked the pungent, spicy goodness of other cabbage kimchis i've tasted...over here in oz we can buy some pretty delicious versions in the asian grocers, but i will definitely be giving your recipe a go!

  12. Yeah when I buy kim chi I can't wait to eat it, so I leave it out overnight to sour. :) My friend once forgot to unscrew the lid so her kim chi jar exploded!
    My grandma taught me how to make dua cai (sp?), which tastes so much better than the store bought version. But I'm too lazy to make that or my own kim chi. :P

  13. Anon,
    Lemme know how it works out! I think the combo of shrimp paste and gochujang paste is what finally made it work for me.

    Usually when you buy kimchi, they have dates of how long it's been so you can buy it already fermented.

  14. I followed your guidelines and made this today for the second time......hope it ferments. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Bharti,
    Twice! Awesome! It should ferment just fine. Kinda hard to ruin it.

  16. Happy to find someone making kimchi seriously. A have made it several times in different configurations, and even convinced my wife to it. Kimchi rules:)

    By the way I love your Blog, even though never have much time to read it.

  17. Hi WC,

    I made this the other day and it turned out really good. However mine is kind of dry ( i mean the jar doesnt have as much as water as yours), do you know why?

  18. elKomenda,
    Thanks! I don't know about taking kimchee seriously, but I sure like the stuff!

    Did you squeeze the cabbage too dry after brining? It's OK to leave a bit of moisture. I like my kimchee a little wetter actually.

  19. Late to the party but same issue as kiuconcon - my veggies are too dry - fermentation isn't going to happen if they aren't covered in liquid. Do you think maybe the squeezing out extra liquid step shouldn't happen at all? At this point I will either need to eat as is or make a new brine. Also - your jar picture shows some veggies out of the liquid - how do you handle this? Do you shake or stir regularly? Thanks!

  20. My teeth are sharp,
    You do want to squeeze some of the liquid out because the brining made the cabbage pretty salty, so then just pickling that will be really salty kimchee. But maybe if you're having that problem, you can just rinse the cabbage? The cabbage sinks down into the liquid as it starts fermenting, but I do give it a shake after a couple of days just to make sure the seasonings are evened out. Hope that helps.

  21. Just made it! It's delicious. I was impatient for the cabbage to soak so I shortened the time to five hours, and stirred the brine and cabbage mix once or twice. I think it worked out fine. I haven't gotten sick yet, and it fermented nicely. Mmmm... I'm never buying it from the market again. Thank You!


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