Kimchi is often thought of as the national dish of Korea. This is a quick and simple kimchi recipe - and more delicious than any ready made kimchi we've found. The kimchi changes flavour over time as it continues to ferment, even when it is kept in the refrigerator.
It is tasty to eat after the initial 24-48 hours at room temperature, when the cabbage will have already started to ferment. However, after that, it completely depends on personal taste - have a spoonful every few days, and then decide.
How long should kimchi ferment?
Tuck in the moment the kimchi is made, and the red pepper and ginger are the strongest flavours. After a day or two there is a slight fizz but the pepper kick remains and after a week it is more sour, but the flavours can seem more balanced. Two to three weeks and it really deserves its nickname 'stinky kimchi'.
In the first couple of weeks, the kimchi is pleasant to eat fresh. After a while, once it is more fermented, the kimchi is better used as base to bring flavour to cooked recipes - kimchi pancakes, or kimchi and bacon stew. It is best to consume it within four weeks.
What vegetables go into kimchi?
The main vegetable in kimchi is cabbage. Once you get into it, you can add all sorts of vegetables: grated carrot, daikon radish, and even replace the cabbage with pak choi or cucumber. However, keep the same ratio of anchovy sauce or fish sauce as the salt in it preserves the vegetables.
Read more background and history on the famous condiment here 'Kimchi: Korea's greatest food?'
What water to use when making kimchi?
There is a much debate in fermentation about what water to use if you're adding some - the concern is that chlorine in your water might kill any 'good bacteria', and prevent fermentation from happening. If you're in a high chlorine area, you can use bottled water instead of tap water.
What should I make kimchi in?
You can make kimchi in most containers, however it is important to keep the cabbage submerged in liquid to help prevent mould growth. Therefore something tall and narrow is best, like a 1 litre clip top jar. To help keep the cabbage under liquid, you could rest a small food-safe weight or small sauce dish on top. Sandor Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation, mentions using a small sealed plastic food storage bag filled with a 2% salt solution (100ml water with 2g salt dissolved in it) resting on top (the brine is in case it leaks into your vegetables). However, pressing the cabbage down below the surface as needed - bubbles of gas released during fermentation can push up the cabbage - works well too.
Alternative you could even use a food-safe plastic bag to hold your kimchi, which is how kimchi-making is taught in one cookery school in Seoul, South Korea. In the early stages of fermentation at room temperature, just press out any extra air and reseal. If you do make kimchi in a plastic bag, you might prefer to keep the bag in a sealed box in the fridge to reduce the garlic-fish odours - plastic bags of kimchi tend to smell more strongly than glass jars! Or if you want something reusable, perhaps try one of these silicone sandwich bags.
Can you make vegan kimchi?
Yes! Pro pickler, Pao Liu explains: "I created my signature vegan kimchi by replacing fish sauce with wakame seaweed. It’s one of my top-selling products. I wanted to create a kimchi that everyone can enjoy, whether they are vegan or not. I brine and drain Chinese leaf with wakame seaweed, along with spring onion, leek and carrot. Then I make the paste using Korean chilli and garlic powder, ginger, onion and pear. I mix everything and pack it into buckets to ferment."
Ingredients, for a 1 litre jar of kimchi Serves: 20
- Slice the Chinese leaf into 1cm rounds and separate the leaves. Mix well with 1 tbsp salt until evenly covered, and leave to sit at room temperature for 1.5-2 hours. Toss every 15-20 minutes. The cabbage will reduce in volume, release water and soften.
- Next wash away the salt: fill the bowl cabbage bowl with cold water and then drain. Repeat several times.
- In a separate bowl, mix the red pepper powder with the fish sauce, water, ginger, garlic and spring onion and pour over the cabbage. Massage into the cabbage well for a minute using your hands. The cabbage will release some more liquid, but try not to bruise it.
- Move the cabbage mixture into a clean 1 litre clip-top jar. Press down well with a clean fork or your fingers to remove air bubbles, pushing the cabbage beneath the liquid. To help keep the cabbage submerged you could also place a tiny sauce-dish inside the jar pressing on the cabbage.
- Close the lid and leave at room temperature to ferment for 48 hours (at around 20 degrees Centigrade). Whilst the cabbage is at room temperature, you must open the jar every 12-24 hours to release any gas build up and push the cabbage back under the liquid. Your kimchi will be ready to eat!
- Move it to the fridge, and consume within a few weeks.