Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Easy Homemade Kimchi (includes Thermomix method)

With just a few simple steps, you can have your first batch of kimchi ready in just a day or two, with a couple of large jars in the fridge for later...

If you're familiar with kimchi, you most probably know it as a spicy-sour, extremely tasty cabbage or radish dish, often eaten as a side dish, and also used as an ingredient in various Korean dishes.

If you're not that familiar, kimchi, also known as kimchee or gimchi is known as Korea's national dish and your average Korean consumes 40 pounds a year! It is mainly made with napa cabbage (also known as Chinese leaf  lettuce) and/or a large white Japanese radish known as daikon or mooli (or a few other things), brined or salted and then flavoured with other ingredients such as red pepper flakes, fish sauce and/or anchovy sauce, garlic, ginger and spring onions (scallions). It is frequently a hot and spicy dish where the ingredients are left to ferment (although not all varieties include red pepper / chilli).

There are many different recipes for kimchi, including other ingredients such as salted shrimp (available in jars), oysters and squid (brined seafood is more commonly found in Southern varieties) - this is a recipe for 'mak kimchi' inspired by Maangchi (do have a look at her website, there are some fantastic traditional Korean recipes, as well as lots of tips about kimchi too!), which is an easy cut cabbage version (rather than stuffing the sauce into cuts made in whole cabbages as in the autumnal baechu kimchi, although the sauce has the same flavours) which does not include any brined seafood, only fish sauce. If you've never made it before - don't worry, this is easy!

Virtually all the ingredients for this kimchi should be easily available to most people around the globe with access to a market, or supermarket. The only ingredient which you may have to purchase online or from an Asian grocer who stocks Korean groceries is the red pepper flakes, which are one of the fundamental ingredients to get right for the correct level of heat and flavour. I found some online on Amazon (UK) - Wang Brand Red Pepper Powder which I'd recommend looking out for, as the heat level is just right (it looks like this).

And, the best thing about kimchi, besides the taste? It is supposed to be incredibly good for you. According to that place on the internet people refer to when they're being lazy to find out things, it's high in dietary fibre, a single serving provides over 50% of your recommended daily vitamin C and carotene, it's rich in several important vitamins and minerals and it contains lactic acid bacteria (hence the lacto-fermentation). No wonder Health magazine named it one of their top 5 healthiest foods in the world!

So, without further ado, onto the recipe!

You'll want a container to keep the majority of your kimchi in, in the fridge - it needs a lid, but not an airtight seal (I used a couple of 1 litre Kilner jars without the orange rubber seals) and as it can have quite a strong aroma you might want a plastic bag (it's fine to use re-sealable) to contain that; plus a small container to keep the kimchi that you want to ferment to eat in a warm-ish place (room temperature is fine if it's summer, or you've got the heating on). You can use glass, or (BPA free) plastic containers - glass is better for long term storage - I just used an old plastic takeaway container with a non-airtight lid for the small batch. Kimchi should ferment in the fridge anyway, it just takes a while longer (a week or two), so putting some aside at room temperature gives you the first batch ready to eat a bit quicker. Once it's fermented to your taste, you can put it back into the fridge again to slow down the fermentation process.

Yields approximately 1.8kg, at around 48 calories per 100g.

[Calories in square brackets, I was interested to see how it worked out per 100g!]

Chinese Leaf / Napa Cabbage
  • 1.7kg whole napa cabbage / Chinese leaf lettuce (about three UK sized ones, before trimming - mine weighed 1.45kg after taking off the outer leaves and removing the core - UK supermarkets sell them, e.g. ASDA) [272]
  • 80g fine sea salt (don't use salt with any added chemicals)
  • 2 x level 15ml tbsp rice flour (technically sweet rice flour, but ordinary white rice flour works perfectly) [72]
  • 1 x 15ml tbsp sugar (I use golden caster sugar) [48]
  • 60ml fish sauce (Thai is fine, also known as nam pla - some people have asked whether there is a vegetarian substitute: you could substitute light soy sauce if OK with gluten, or use tamari sauce for gluten free, or mix kombu powder with water for a taste of the sea) [28]
  • 6 fat cloves of garlic [36]
  • 1 inch ginger root [4]
  • 1/2 a medium sized onion (40g) [16]
  • 75g Korean red pepper powder/flakes* (gochugaru) [248]
  • 100g daikon/mooli/Japanese white radish (about half of one) [16]
  • 1 small to medium carrot (50g) [13]
  • 1 small leek (or 4 baby leeks, 80g) [22]
  • 3 spring onions / scallions [10]

Food grade plastic gloves for mixing the kimchi with (you don't want to do that with bare hands!)

If you have a food processor, it will save you time and effort, particularly in blitzing up the garlic, ginger and onion into a paste, but it is by no means essential.

* Regarding the Korean red pepper powder/flakes (gochugaru). I've been asked if you can substitute these. I know some people have experimented with using a combination of paprika and cayenne pepper, and similar combinations, but you're treading a fine line on making something that is so spicy it's inedible, or unpleasantly gritty from the ground spices if you're not careful. The Korean red pepper powder/flakes are from  from de-seeded Korean chillies that have been dried then coarsely ground, which seem to soften in the sauce, whereas if you add a lot of ground paprika or chilli powder to something, you run the risk of it being gritty, like a bad chilli con carne. They're hot, with a hint of sweetness to them. I wouldn't like to recommend a substitution because of this, and hopefully it's the only ingredient not available in most supermarkets, but definitely worth sourcing if you want a go at making Kimchi - and you could certainly use it in lots of other dishes that you want to spice up. around 5,000 to 10,000 on the Scoville scale, if that means anything to you! I've found it's rather delicious as an alternative to chopped fresh chillies, or chilli powder in a number of things!

**If you live in an area with chlorinated tap water, you may wish make the rice porridge using spring, distilled, bottled or filtered water, and also use it for at least the last rinse of the cabbage, as chlorinated water can inhibit fermentation. Alternatively you can leave the tap water out overnight before using.

Thermomix method
- follow the method as below, and look out for TM speeds and temperatures in italics in brackets for chopping veg and making rice porridge and sauce etc.

Cut and salt the cabbage first. Peel off any outer leaves from the cabbage, as necessary, cut into quarters lengthways then remove the central core (you can pretty much achieve this by chopping of the bottom, as it doesn't really extend up into the cabbage much).

Using the Varoma as a colander!
Take two quarters at a time, slice again down the middle lengthways once or twice, then cut into slices/chunks about 1.5 inches wide. Rinse thoroughly, then drain, but leave water clinging to the leaves (the cabbage must be wet for the salting process to work properly). Put into a large non-reactive bowl (not metal) and sprinkle with the salt and mix thoroughly. Now set aside for one and a half hours, giving it a thorough stir every 30 minutes (being a bit forgetful, I find it helpful to set a 30 minute timer to remind me to do this!).

While the cabbage is salting, prepare the other ingredients, making the rice porridge which needs to cool down after cooking, and chopping the vegetables for the sauce (if you want to do this with your food processor or Thermomix, rather than by hand, it might be easiest to chop the vegetables first, then empty and rinse, before making the porridge and blitzing the other ingredients with it, see below the rice porridge instructions).

To make the rice porridge, you need to add 180ml water to a pan, then stir in the two 15ml level tbsp rice flour (a silicone whisk is useful for this), and bring to the boil, stirring, then simmer for a few minutes until thickened to the consistency of wallpaper paste and bubbling; then add the tbsp sugar and cook for a few more minutes until it becomes more translucent (Thermomix - add 180g cold water, and two level 15ml tbsp rice flour to the water - try to avoid tipping it onto the blades, and slowly turn the dial up to Speed 3, to avoid throwing the rice flour up the sides, and mix for 15 seconds. Scrape down if necessary, then cook Varoma temperature / 2 minutes 30 seconds / Speed 2, then add the tbsp sugar and cook for another 2 minutes 30 seconds / Varoma / Speed 2). Leave to cool, while you prepare the rest of the vegetables and wait for the cabbage to finish salting.

Chop the vegetables. The carrot, radish, leek and spring onion (scallion) chopping is down to your discretion - whether you chop it by hand for a more authentic texture while your rice porridge is cooling, or whether you cut them into chunks then throw it into the food processor first, and pulse until chopped to a coleslaw-like texture (if you're doing this in a Thermomix it will take literally a few seconds: Speed 4 / 4 seconds, scrape down and then another 2 seconds), then set aside and rinse out your food processor to blitz the sauce, is down to your preference. For me, because this is a little bit of an investment (in terms of the amount of time it can last), and cooking is something I love, I like to use the time while the rice porridge is cooling cutting up the carrot and radish into fine julienne (as in matchstick sized pieces, albeit I do this with my mandolin and you could use a fine julienne slicing plate on your food processor, if you have one), slicing the spring onions on a sharp diagonal, and cutting the leek into a fine dice. I'm pretty sure it all tastes the same, whichever way you do it!

Make the kimchi sauce. If you have a food processor, the onions, garlic and ginger can go into it with the cooled rice porridge and fish sauce to be made into a paste; so just peel them, slice the ginger into coins, and chop the onion roughly then throw in and blitz to a paste. Scrape down, add the red pepper flakes and blitz again until incorporated. (Thermomix - add the garlic, ginger coins and quartered onion half to the cooled porridge with 60ml fish sauce, and then blitz Speed 7 / 30 seconds, scrape down and then add the 75g red pepper flakes and blitz again Speed 4 / 15 seconds). If you don't have any kind of food processor, you'll need to crush the garlic, and grate the ginger and onion, then mix with the fish sauce, porridge and red pepper flakes.

Rinse the cabbage. Once your cabbage has finished salting for an hour and a half, you need to rinse it thoroughly, and drain three times (it's best to do this by filling up the bowl with water, and stirring it all around with your hand, then draining). Make sure you drain it thoroughly the third time, but don't wring it out.

Mix all of the ingredients together. This is where you need to put some plastic gloves on to protect your hands from the chilli, to give it a really good thorough mix! Tip your chopped vegetables and kimchi sauce onto your drained cabbage and then give everything a really good mix together, ensuring that the sauce and vegetables are evenly and thoroughly distributed throughout the cabbage.

And you're done! All you need to do now is to put the majority of it into some clean containers which are not airtight (don't fill them up too much, you want a few inches of space otherwise once it starts fermenting in the fridge in a week or two some of the liquid may escape), push the cabbage down so it's covered by the sauce as far as possible and store in the fridge, reserving a small amount to put into a container to keep out of the fridge at room temperature, and that's your kimchi made. If your house is quite warm, the kimchi outside

Use the TM lid to help getting into jars
of the fridge may well have started to ferment after two days - if you can see any little bubbles, and it's a bit gassy, has more liquids on the top or smells a bit different (sour) it's fermenting. If you have a taste, and the rawness from the garlic and onion has mellowed, and the cabbage has a saurkraut-y taste then your kimchi is good to go. If you taste it against the kimchi in the fridge, you will notice that still has the strong taste of raw garlic and onions, and the two are quite different. The cabbage may even have a slightly fizzy taste to it, which is also fine, although this is more likely with airtight containers. If you're happy with the flavour of it, you can put it back into the fridge now that the cabbage is fermented. In a cooler house, it could take up to a week. Your kimchi will also ferment in the fridge in time, but every time you want another batch, it's good to take some out of the fridge to ferment at room temperature for a day or two, and keep transferring from the large container in the fridge, to your smaller container at room temperature. Whenever you take some kimchi, remember to push the cabbage back down in the remainder, so that it is submerged in the liquid, and kept properly, it should keep for months and months.


Enjoy cold as a side to grilled or barbecued meats (such as bulgogi beef, as in the second photo from the top, my recipe here), or cooked into Korean dishes, or for a 5 minute meal scramble eggs and stir fry with kimchi and soaked noodles, topping with sesame seeds - very fermented kimchi is good for cooking into things like kimchi jjigae.You've literally got a ready-meal in a pot full of goodness without any of the cr*p - all the flavours are there already: garlic, ginger, chilli, onion, spring onion.... throw them into a wok as a stirfry, or into a soup, or oriental soup with no effort or time once it's made - it's amazing!


  1. It's time to make this again! Fab recipe! I add apples, and might stick in a pineapple.
    This is an amazing blog!

    1. So glad you like it Bobby, thanks for the feedback!

      Have you ever tried blitzing it and using as a marinade once it's nicely matured a bit? It's amazing!

      I have a recipe here, based on the flavours of Yo Sushi's spicy chicken salad! http://forkingfoodie.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/spicy-chicken-salad-yo-sushi-style.html


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