Korean staple. Condiment. Spicy, funky side dish. Probiotic superstar. Tasty filling for dumplings and omelets. Fermented health food. Base for countless stews, soups, and braises. Kimchi is all of these things. It can be an acquired taste, but once you acquire it, this Real Deal Kimchi will become an addiction. This is the recipe that we make at the restaurants, and we incorporate it into all sorts of dishes. Our kimchi ramen even won an award!
Real Deal Kimchi isn’t hard to make. There’s hardly any cooking time, as the fermenting provides all the flavor. (It does help to have a properly sharpened knife. Subscribe to Funky Asian Kitchen and get our knife sharpening video tutorial!) There is quite a lot of chopping, not gonna lie, but you are rewarded with a gut-healing super food that will rock your taste buds and can star in countless meals.
Real Deal Kimchi begins with Napa cabbage. Napa is traditional and is really the best because of its tender leaves, which soften quickly and readily absorbs flavor. Look for heavy heads, with firm, light yellow-green leaves that are free of bruises. Also they should feel pretty dense. I have found light loose heads to taste stringy and fibrous.
Can’t Make Kimchi Without Korean Chili Flakes
Korean chili flakes, or gochugaru, are the basis for any authentic kimchi, and my Real Deal Kimchi uses one and a half cups! This is spicy stuff, and the heat also encourages the fermentation process. I go into detail on how to select a good gochugaru here.
Making the kimchi sauce is quick and easy. You start with sweet rice flour (mochiko) to make a gluey paste. Then the other seasonings are added. This thick paste clings to the veggies, giving it flavor, and the fermenting sauce some body. Fair warning though, once you add the fish sauce it is really….fragrant. We’ll go with that. Some might even say pungent. (You can easily make a vegan Real Deal Kimchi by substituting the fish sauce for a mix of soy sauce and coconut aminos. It will be less funky but no less delicious.)
I like to round out my Real Deal Kimchi with a mix of veggies-carrots, Korean radish, and scallions. These add-ins give nice color, extra flavor, and some crunch.
Holy Trinity of Kimchi
And Real Deal Kimchi wouldn’t be complete without a generous measure of ginger, garlic, and onion. They get tossed in a food processor because no one wants to eat big chunks of raw ginger and garlic. Not even I am that funky…
Ready to Mix
Once you have a nice thick garlicky puree, it’s time to mix everything up and pack your Real Deal Kimchi into jars! You definitely want to wear disposable gloves for this, or your hands will be stained red for the foreseeable future. Plus if you have any little nicks on your hands or accidentally touch your eyes, you’re going to be feeling it for hours. Any jar with a lid can be used to ferment the kimchi. I prefer glass though because plastic will absorb the smell and color and never wash out.
Fill your container, making sure to pack in the kimchi and being careful to eliminate any air pockets. Keep pushing down as you add more kimchi to the container. Air exposure can cause the kimchi to spoil. Leave an inch or two at the top of the container so that there is space for the liquid that is produced as the kimchee ferments. Wipe down your containers (I usually make a mess and just rinse off my jars in the sink), top with a lid, and you’re done! Put your kimchee container in the fridge where it will start a slow fermentation.
Kimchi For the Ages
Thankfully, kimchi has many different stages, all of which taste a little different, so you can try it immediately if you like! Fresh kimchi has a bright fresh flavor and crunchy texture. Over time, it will get more pungent and tart. Older kimchi is often used for soup and stews where that fully fermented flavor is needed. And it only gets better with age, just like us.
Your kimchi will last for weeks if stored in the fridge. Make sure you always use a clean utensil when taking some out. Once you’ve taken your kimchi, press down on the cabbage so that there is some liquid (kimchi juice) covering the kimchi.
There are countless ways to enjoy Real Deal Kimchi. Use some to top a fried egg. Add to a grain bowl. Serve alongside gyoza for a fun snack. Top some instant ramen with your homemade kimchi for a gourmet touch. Let us know in the comments how you like to use kimchi, don’t forget to tag us in your beautiful insta pics @funkyasiankitchen, and show us the beautifully fermented goods!
Our award winning kimchi, broken down step by step!
- 5 pounds napa cabbage
- ½ cup kosher salt
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup of sweet rice flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ½ cup fish sauce*
- 1½ cups Korean chili flakes (½ cup less for milder taste)
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- ½ cup garlic (about 12 cloves)
- ½ onion roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 small korean radish (about 1 pound)
- 2 carrots
- 1 bunch scallions
Prep the Cabbage:
- Cut into the cabbage from the middle of the cabbage through the core lengthwise. Then using your hands, pull the cabbage apart. Then again, cut through the middle of each half through the core. Again pull apart the cabbage. You now have 4 quarters.
- Take the core out by cutting it off at an angle. Cut the cabbage again vertically and then cut it into bite size pieces about 1” big.
- Put the cabbage into a big bowl and wash the cabbage with running water. Then drain the cabbage and put it back into the bowl. Add the salt and toss the cabbage.
- Continue tossing the cabbage every 30 minutes for the next hour. The cabbage will shrink and get pliant as it absorbs the salty water.
Make the Kimchi Sauce:
- Put 1 cup of water in a saucepan and add the sweet rice flour. Mix to combine and then bring to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring to keep the rice flour from burning.
- Simmer for 4-5 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken.
- Add the sugar and cook a few more minutes until the mixture is thick and looks like glue.
- Take the pot off the heat, add the fish sauce and chile flakes to the pot and stir to combine. Set the pot aside and let it cool to room temperature.
Prep the Vegetables:
- Peel the carrots and cut into julienne by slicing thin on the diagonal, then stacking the slices and cutting through them again to create thin strips. Set aside in a large bowl.
- Peel the radish and cut into julienne by slicing thin on the diagonal, then stacking the slices and cutting through them again to create thin strips. Add the radish to the carrots.
- Wash the scallions and then trim the top and bottom. Cut the scallions into 1 ½ inch pieces. If the white stems are very thick cut them in half. Add them to the other vegetables.
- Put the garlic, ginger, and onion into a food processor and puree until it is thick and smooth. Add it to the bowl with the julienned vegetables. Add the fish sauce mixture. Mix everything together.
Mix and Pack:
- Drain the cabbage by putting it in a colander. Rinse the cabbage in the sink under running water. Then drain the cabbage very well (let it sit over the sink or elevated in the big bowl so it’s not sitting in the water), and once it’s no longer dripping water, put it back into the big bowl.
- Pour the sauced vegetables over the cabbage. Put on a pair of disposable gloves and mix everything together. Make sure to get to the bottom of the bowl and the center. You want all of the cabbage coated with the sauce and the vegetables evenly mixed in.
- Use a glass container (If you use a plastic one, just know that it will absorb the smell and color and you will never get it out.) and scoop the kimchi into the container (or you can use multiple small containers), making sure to push down on the kimchi to eliminate any air pockets.
- Fill up your container, leaving a good inch at the top for the fermenting liquid to expand. Wipe down the bottle and add the lid. Continue filling up another container or two in the same way until you have all of your kimchi packed away.
- You can eat the fresh kimchi as is or let it ferment. Put your container in the fridge to start a slow fermentation. Or set your kimchi on the kitchen counter to kick start the fermentation process. It will be a little bubbly the next day. Then put it into the fridge and it will continue to ferment slowly.
*use soy sauce or a combination of soy sauce and coconut aminos to make vegan kimchi
*Make sure you always scoop kimchi out of the container with a clean utensil. Do not use your hand. Also make sure to push down on the kimchi every time you take some, ensuring that the kimchi is covered and protected by liquid. Kept this way, the kimchi will be good for months. The longer it sits, the more sour and pungent it will become.
Keywords: kimchi, cabbage, korean, condiment