Let’s talk Kimchi. A dish that has fast become super trendy food to eat. And there is no wonder why, it’s Korea’s national dish and I am totally in love with it. Kimchi is essentially fermented cabbage spiced up with some garlic, chilli and a couple other ingredients to make it something so incredible that I use on nearly anything savoury I eat.
Kimchi is packed with flavour but there is so much more to it than flavour. It is fermented food and that means there is something special about it. It is very good to your gut. If you are new to fermented foods and are looking for something that really is easy to digest and contains lots of flavour, I would recommend kimchi to you. By adding salt into the cabbage a process called lacto-fermentation is started which essentially produces lactic acid bacteria that help break down the cabbage, soften it and convert the sugars in the vegetable into lactic acid, acting as a natural preservative in the food. This helps you digest the food better because complex sugars are broken down and the ‘good bacteria’ help your gut process the food in a much nicer way.
I will teach you how to make Kimchi step-by-step and give you some great tips and tricks on the way.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get started with our kimchi masterclass.
Homemade Kimchi Masterclass
To get started, if you have a good Korean supermarket around the corner or not far away, I would definitely recommend you pay them a visit. They will have all of the ingredients you need for this recipe and it is so much easier than trying to find it in a normal supermarket. If you are struggling to find one nearby, I would buy it all online apart from the fresh ingredients. Gochugaru, which is the main ingredient creating all that lovely red colour, is a traditional Korean spice. It’s red pepper flakes and actually not as spicy as you might think, so I go quite generous because I love the flavour but start with a little less if you are sensitive towards spice.
To start off the Kimchi making, we need to initiate the process called lacto-fermenation. For that you need a large bowl and a colander. Then, chop the Chinese cabbage into 4cm chunks. Place it in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Rub it in well and fill the bowl with cold water. Leave to soak for 1 hour. Make sure to turn the cabbage regularly in the bowl. Once soft, drain well in the Varoma tray or a colander for at least 10 minutes, then squeeze the cabbage to remove any excess water and set aside in a large bowl.
You can also do this process overnight without water by just leaving the cabbage to soak up the salt, then squeeze out in the morning. It is totally up to you and how soft you like it. Also, the lacto-fermentation will possibly be more effective if you give it more time. Lactic acid bacteria will have more time to eat through the sugars and produce the preserving effect.
Once that is done, you can start by chopping up all the other ingredients. Now, this can of course be done in the Thermomix but I tend to do these things by hand with a julienne cutter because I quite like how that looks later on. It just makes a more traditional kimchi. Chop the daikon and carrots into thin julienne strips. Chop up the Korean chives and spring onions into thin slices.
I also prepare the kimchi flavouring. This one contains garlic, ginger, gochugaru and salted shrimps. These salted shrimps are something that is not for everyone. I have seen traditional kimchi made with the shrimps and also without. If you are vegan or vegetarian you can simply leave it out and won’t miss it. If you are a fan of doing things really traditional, I would definitely recommend trying it with the shrimps. They are not to be compared to shrimp paste. These salted shrimps come in a jar and are whole so you need only a small amount. Shrimp paste would be way too strong for this.
Once your cabbage is done and squeezed out you are already good to go and ready to mix it all up. This is what the cabbage looks like once it has lacto-fermented and produced some lovely lactic acid bacteria, broken down the sugars and softened. I squeeze it afterwards and then leave it in a colander to drain further until all the excess water is gone. No need to rinse the cabbage because the salt helps you preserve it.
Take a large bowl and get all your ingredients together: the squeezed cabbage, the chopped carrots, daikon, chives, spring onions and the spice mixture. At this point I learned something the very painful way. If you have sensitive hands and need to keep them presentable I would at this stage wear gloves. These could be disposable kitchen gloves or any other kitchen gloves that you can wash afterwards or dispose of. The mixture will be very stingy due to the chilli and the salt and mixing it requires you to go in with your hands, there is just no way around that. I tend to use my yellow kitchen gloves but for these pictures my lovely friend Arwen has committed herself to doing it without gloves so we can get some pretty shots for you guys. Poor her, right?
Start by mixing it all up between your hands, rubbing the red mixture into the vegetables. Try and keep turning the vegetables so that all of them get mixed up nicely.
After 30 seconds it should start feeling a little more liquid. You will notice that all of a sudden a little more water is building up and the red spice paste can really stick to the veggies.
This is what it looks like after a good minute or two of mixing. You need to get in there and squeeze each bit of vegetable between your hands to draw out moisture and use that moisture to really mix it well.
After a good 5 minutes of mixing it’s done and all the veggies are perfectly coated in spice mixture. The kimchi is done. Now we only have one last step leftover before you can enjoy your kimchi.
Fill the kimchi into sterilised glass jars and leave it at room temperature to ferment for at least 24 hours but up to 5-7 days until you have achieved your desired depth of flavour.l This is really up to you and could be as much or as little as you like it to be. Store it in the fridge afterwards and make sure the jar you use for storing is airtight. Make sure though you check the kimchi every day and ‘burp’ it. Let out some of the gas and make sure to press it down again to get it all soaked up in the brine.
- 2 Chinese cabbage, halved
- 50g sea salt
- 3 garlic cloves
- 4cm piece fresh ginger
- 4 spring onions, in large chunks
- 1 Tbsp Korean shrimp paste or Korean salted shrimps (optional, leave out if needs to be vegan or vegetarian)
- 200g daikon
- 150g carrots
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- 2 Tbsp dried gochugaru (Korean chilli powder)
- 15g Korean chives or normal chives, chopped finely
- Chop the cabbage into 4cm chunks. Place it in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Rub it in well and fill the bowl with cold water. Leave to soak for 1 hour. Make sure to turn the cabbage regularly in the bowl. Once soft, drain well in the Varoma tray or a colander for at least 10 minutes, then squeeze the cabbage to remove any excess water and set aside in a large bowl.
- Place the garlic cloves, ginger, spring onions and shrimp paste in the TM bowl. Chop 2 Sec. / Speed 7. Transfer into the bowl with the cabbage.
- Chop the daikon and carrots into thin julienne strips. Add to the bowl with the cabbage and chopped garlic mixture.
- Add the caster sugar, gochugaru and chopped chives.
- Now take some kitchen gloves and rub through the mixture until well incorporated. I would always advise to do this with gloves rather than by hand because it can burn your hands quite a lot from the chilli. Fill into jars and let ferment at room temperature for 2-5 days, then store it in the fridge. Serve with rice, bread, on cheesy toast or anything you like.