Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Wrong-Cabbage Kimchi Recipe

Cabbage; prepare to be Kimchi'd

In this first year of growing stuff on our plot, we've tended not to do much to our veg in the kitchen; everything has been cooked very simply, probably because we're still getting used to actually having home-grown veg around and treat it as a bit of a luxury. However nice fresh cabbage, cooked in just some butter and a bit of stock, is though, we were probably a bit cabbaged out but still left with a whopper in the fridge.

We'd recently had a couple of great Korean meals at Mannaza in Newastle, where we'd eaten Kimchi for the first time.
I'd always been a bit dubious about the idea of fermented cabbage, but what d'you know, it's delicious; spicy and pungent with a particular funk. I found what seemed like a good recipe, from David Lebovitz's great Paris-based food blog, so thought, in the name of doing something a bit different, I'd give it a bash. Authentic Kimchi should be made with Chinese or Napa cabbage. Yeah well, we didn't grow any of that stuff, did we. What we did grow was Primo a summer-cropping variety, so I decided to Kimchi the hell out of half a head of that.


half a head of white round cabbage
2 Litres water
50g maldon or other decent salt

half a bulb of garlic, cloves peeled and finely grated (microplane is handy if you've got one)
one-inch pice ginger, peeled and finely grated
40 ml fish sauce
3-4 large tablespoons of chilli powder. Which does seem like a lot. You're supposed to use Korean chilli powder, which I couldn't find, so used standard chilli powder. It semed to work ok.
1/2 bunch of spring onions, cut into 1 inch lengths
I medium daikon radish, peeled and roughly grated. You can get these in asian food stores no problem
1 teaspoon palm sugar


1)  Mix the salt and water in a big pan til the salt dissolves. Cut out any tough core from the cabbage, ditch it, then slice up the rest. I went for decent sized chunky slices. Put the cabbage in the water, put a plate on top to keep it submerged. Leave for two hours.

It was noticeable how after that time the cabbage tasted perfectly seasoned, and really tasty. I might have to brine other things in the future...

2)  Mix up all the other ingredients in a large bowl. Drain the cabbage, give it a rinse in fresh water.
3)  Mix up the cabbage with all the other ingredients in the large bowl. This took a bit of doing, as there was a lot of cabbage, but I wanted to make sure everything was well mixed. I recommend going at it with a variety of implements; some tongs and a fork did the trick for me.

Mix, mix!
4)  Pack it all into some sterilised jars and cover tightly.
5)  Now for the bit that just doesn't sit well for those of us with any kind of inclination to check best-before dates in order to inform our eating decisions; leave it lying around for a couple of days. Not in the fridge either, but just out and about. It doesn't want to be anywhere hot; around room temperature, or just under, should be fine.

You're looking for it to start bubbling a bit, or to be able to very faintly hear some fizzing when opening it up to have a look. I'm no chemist, so I can't really tell you what fermentation is exactly, but I reckon you'll notice it when it happens.  I got minimal bubbling out of my batch, but had a sniff and a taste each day, and on the third day the flavour and smell had noticeably changed slightly to something resembling quite closely the stuff we'd eaten in the restaurant. It just had a tiny bit of sourness to it, backed up by what I can only describe as a good dose of funk.

I've just been eating some of it when I feel like it, and damn good stuff it is too. Quite spicy from the chilli, very pungent from all the garlic and ginger, the cabbage has stayed quite crisp, and the whole thing has a backbeat of something just a little bit other and hard to describe, that comes from when you leave food lying around in a jar for a few days! I'll serve it on the side next time I cook anything vaguely Asian.

So, if you've got a good whack of cabbage hanging around and fancy doing something a bit different with it, give this a go. It's dead easy, and allows for the joint and simultaneous pleasures of making a nice food and doing a bit of a chemistry experiment at the same time. Nice one Korea.


  1. Any ideas how long this would last?? Do you have to refrigerate it at any pint once it has been opened??

  2. Yes, I should've said; once it has started bubbling/ fermenting it should be kept in the fridge. According to David Lebovitz (see link above) it'll keep for around 3 weeks, after which time it'll be too fermented.

  3. I'm afraid I'm not a fermented cabbage fan. I was presented with a huge plate of sauercraut in Germany and was put off from the first taste.

    1. Fair enough Sue. It did take me a minute to figure out whether I actually liked it or not, but then I realised that I really did. It does taste more of garlic/chilli/ginger than of "fermentedness".

      On Sauerkraut, having a girlfriend of Polish descent means I've had my fair share over the last few years. I used to be, at best, very unimpressed by the stuff, but now I really like it. It's great in Bigos (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigos). But that's a whole other recipe...

  4. Fried pork with kimchi is fantastic with a bit of steamed rice. Have always previously bought my kimchi but will have a go with this recipe. Ta!

  5. Funnily enough I was at a Korean restaurant in Newcastle last night, so was comparing and contrasting. Their kimchi was more spicy but less "fermentedy" than the stuff that this recipe made. Both very good though.


All comments gratefully received. Sorry about the word verification thing, but I've started getting bombed by spam.

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