I fell in love with kimchi a number of years ago when I worked for a small start-up company with an office right in the middle of Korea-town in New York City. We frequented a restaurant for lunch that served the best bibimbap and little appetizers including kimchi. I just loved all the flavors. Last year I was finally able to travel to Korea and confirm what real traditional kimchi tasted like.
I have tried making it a few times since my trip and I have never been satisfied with the results. I found and bought the Korean ground red chile powder (gochugaru) and used that but it still wasn’t quite right. I kept seeing a recipe online and every time I read it I thought it seemed like it had too much chile powder and other spices and it also used sweet rice powder. I kept thinking how could that be right? I finally decided to try it last week and of course it was right.
I of course made some modifications to simplify it a little bit. The recipe is not grain-free but it is authentic. You can skip the rice powder if you can’t find it or avoid grains completely, but if you can include this ingredient, it is totally worth it. Please note this is NOT rice flour – it is a special kind of powder made from sweet glutinous rice. You cannot substitute rice flour. If you can’t find sweet glutinous rice powder then skip this ingredient. You can of course find other recipes online that use regular crushed red pepper or other chile spices and no rice powder – I did as well – but this one is the REAL deal so I encourage you to try it if you seriously love kimchi. Go to any Asian market and you should be able to find the red chile powder, sweet rice powder and the fish sauce. I bought all three for under 10 bucks and I have enough for a lot more batches so it was worth every penny.
- 1 large Napa cabbage
- ½ cup salt
- 1 Tbsp sweet rice powder (this might be labeled glutinous rice powder as well)
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup Korean red chile powder (coarse gochugaru)
- ½ cup fish sauce (make sure the only two ingredients are anchovies and salt for a true fermented version vs. one that includes flavorings like MSG)
- 2 Tbsp whole cane sugar (yes – sugar – this helps with the unique fermentation process of kimchi)
- 1 3″ knob of fresh ginger
- 1 daikon radish (200g) or 5-6 white salad turnips (this is what I used)
- ¼ cup yellow onion, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 cup chopped green onions
- ½ cup chopped carrots
Prepare the cabbage: Wash and remove the leaves from the core of the cabbage. Place cabbage leaves in a bowl of heavily salted water and let sit for 4-5 hours.
Prepare the rice powder: Add one heaping Tbsp of the glutinous rice powder to a sauce pot with ½ cup water and, whisking continuously, bring to a boil. When it turns to ‘glue’, turn off the heat and continue whisking until it cools down a bit. I removed it from the pan and put it in a bowl in the fridge to really chill out a bit while I tended to the rest of the recipe.
Prepare the vegetables: Add the ginger, daikon radish, yellow onion, garlic to a food processor and process into a thick paste.
Prepare the red chile paste: Whisk together the prepared rice powder, red chile, fish sauce and sugar. Add in the processed ingredients to create a thick red chile paste.
After the cabbage has rested, rinse the leaves with water and chop into 1-2 inch pieces and set aside.
Prepare the kimchi: I did the kimchi in two batches. Place half the cabbage into a large bowl and add half of the carrots and green onions. Using gloves, add half of the red chile mixture to the cabbage, carrots and green onions and work it so that every bit of cabbage is covered with the sauce. Press down into a fermentation vessel of your choice. Repeat with the second batch.
Fermentation: After two days, check on your kimchi and pack it down again. Taste it to see how it is doing. Continue tasting and packing it down every few days. You can stop whenever you want after 3-4 days and put it into the fridge, but I like to ferment it for at least a month.