The first time I fell in love with Kimchi was when I was a student and my life consisted of noodle packets as my main source of sustenance.
Of all the flavours, Kimchi was by far the best. That sour, spicy and tangy flavour hits you in a way that no other flavour can. But what even IS kimchi? And how do you make it?
What is Kimchi?
This article will show you the best and most easy recipe for making fresh kimchi yourself at home.
Kimchi is Chinese cabbage with herbs, chilli and other vegetables, which are left to ferment (put in an anaerobic environment where bacteria can’t live). The longer the fermentation process, the stronger and deeper the flavour will be.
To make it yourself is easy, cheap and most of all, allows you to have kimchi as YOU want it. You can make your kimchi as sour, sweet, fishy or spicy as you want!
In this article, I’ll give you all the steps that you need to make our basic kimchi recipe. All of the ingredients are readily available in supermarkets.
We use this kimchi regularly to make Kimchi Soup (which is a game-changer!).
So let’s get down to it!
- Airtight fermenting jar (I recommend the one’s from Lakeland, they’ve always been great for me)
- Food processor (if not, you’ll need to chop everything as fine as you can)
- 1-2 big bowls for salting your cabbage
- 1.25kg (2 average sized Chinese cabbages)
- 70g salt
- 100g spring onions
- Large thumb of ginger / 3cm square chunk (grated)
- 7 cloves garlic
- 2 medium carrots
- 5 teaspoons of sugar
- ¼ cup of fish sauce (3-4 tbsp)
- 1-2 tbsp of dried chilli flakes (in the perfect world we’d use Gochugaru 고추가루, but they’re hard to get hold of and regular chilli flakes still work well).
- 1 tsp paprika spice
- A handful of chopped chives (optional)
SALTING THE CABBAGE
1. First, chop your cabbages into large chunks.
2. Next, you need to wash your cabbage and make sure that there is no dirt or grit on it. Once it’s been thoroughly washed, drain the cabbage and put in a big bowl again.
3. Now it is time to salt the cabbage. The goal of this is to release the water from the cabbage to help it ferment properly. It will need to stay in the salt for 1 ½ hours. In this time, every 30 minutes toss the cabbage around in the salt to make sure all the pieces get covered in the salt. While the cabbage is being ‘salted’, you can make the kimchi paste.
One the cabbage has been salted, wash it thoroughly, to remove all the salt.
THE KIMCHI PASTE
1. To make the kimchi paste you’ll need to chop the vegetables (spring onion, carrot) to how you like and make the base of the paste in a food processor (blending the chilli flakes, onion, fish sauce, paprika, sugar, ginger and garlic).
Next you want to mix it all together. WARNING: if you have any cuts or scratches on your hands I recommend that you use gloves, otherwise they’ll be burning for a few hours (true story)!
FERMENTING YOUR KIMCHI
You’ve made your kimchi, happy days! But it’s not over yet- you’ll need to spend the next couple of days checking it and burping it (sounds weird but all will be explained).
How to sterilize your containers
When you pack your kimchi it’s important to first of all sterilize the container(s) that you are putting it in. One way to do this is to boil some hot water, place the container in the sink and pour the freshly boiled water into the containers, being careful not to burn yourself in the process. This will kill any bacteria that was in the containers.
When you put the kimchi in your container(s) it is important to remember that the first few days of its life will be rife with activity and the building up on carbon dioxide, while it ferments at room temperature. Therefore when you pack your kimchi, compress it down as much as you can and leave space 2-3cm height at the top for the kimchi to expand.
‘Burping’ is the process of opening your kimchi container and allowing the excess gas to escape. IF YOU DON’T DO THIS IT CAN EXPLODE. I once left a container with kimchi out the fridge for 2 days and forgot to burpe it. MISTAKE. If you buy the proper pressured jars this won’t be a problem, but I do still recommend pulling out the stopper before opening to be on the safe side. The picture below is an example of such a jar, the circular plug being the stopper and the cross being a valve releasing gas from the fermenting kimchi.
The room temperature of where the kimchi is stored affects how many days the kimchi will need before it is placed in the fridge for long-term fermentation. Essentially, the hotter the room, the faster the fermentation. At Poor Hungry Student we find that a room temperature of around 20°C requires 3-4 days of fermentation before being put in the fridge.
Each morning open your container of kimchi and (with a sterilized spoon) press it down, you’ll start to see small bubbles coming to the surface. You want to try your best to make sure that everything is under the liquid. Put the lid back on and repeat this step every day until it’s ready. How do we know when it is?
To determine whether your kimchi is ready for the fridge, taste it! When it becomes slightly sour and fizzy it’s probably the best time to put it in the fridge. Once it’s in the fridge it will continue fermenting and can be eaten for up to 6 months (if kept in a proper airtight container). I find that 3-4 weeks in the fridge is the best for taste but everyone is different, and you can eat it well before that and well after!