Thursday, December 9, 2010


Koreans eat kimchi several times every day because it's such a great digestive. American cuisine is a bit too diversified for that—I wouldn't serve kimchi with spaghetti carbonara, for instance—but I do eat it often as a snack before dinner.

1 large head napa cabbage (about 4 lb)
1 c kosher salt
10 c cold water
1 large daikon (Japanese white radish)
1 lb carrots
1 bunch green onions
½ lb fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large head garlic, peeled and trimmed
1 large apple or pear, peeled and cored
1 large white onion, peeled, trimmed, and quartered
½ c fish sauce (nam pla)
½ c sugar
½–1 c hot red pepper powder

1. Remove any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage and trim the root end. Cut the head lengthwise into quarters. Cut each quarter across its width to create slices about three inches long and a quarter of an inch thick.

2. In a large stockpot or crock, combine the salt and water to make a 10 percent brine. Add the sliced cabbage and soak for 2-3 hours. (The brine should cover the cabbage. If not, make and add more 10 percent brine.)

3. While the cabbage is soaking, peel and trim the daikon and carrots and chop into bite-sized pieces. Trim the green onions and chop into pieces about one inch long. Add the sauce ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and puree.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped daikon, carrots, and green onions with the sauce and toss to coat.

4. When the cabbage has soaked sufficiently, rinse it three times with cold water and drain well. Add to the sauced ingredients and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand overnight. The next day, transfer to storage containers and refrigerate.

• Although Asian market typically sell the freshest (and cheapest) kimchi ingredients, you can probably find what you need in your local supermarket—except for the hot red pepper powder that gives kimchi its distinctive zip. Fortunately, the powder keeps forever, so a single trip to an Asian market can keep you in kimchi for a year or more.

• The way the cabbage is sliced has no effect on the kimchi's taste. I find it expedient to use the method described above, but feel free to make the pieces larger or smaller to suit your taste. Similarly, cut the daikon and carrots as you wish. I tend to slice the daikon and julienne the carrots.

• Even after three rinsings, the brined cabbage will still have a slightly salty taste—but only slightly salty.

• I store my kimchi in large Ball jars. Make sure to leave a little headroom so that the juice doesn't overflow onto your refrigerator shelf.

• Kimchi belongs to the same food family (fermented vegetables) as sauerkraut. Thus, if you prefer, you can store your kimchi at room temperature in the same way you would store sauerkraut—that is, with the vegetables completely submerged in the briny juice. This anaerobic ("without air") environment prevents harmful bacteria from growing.

• Although kimchi tastes good (at least to me) on the day that it's made, I recommend  waiting about a week for the flavors time to develop.


  1. Dear David,

    Thank you for posting such a thoughtful recipe! I was born in South Korea and am currently living in the States. Even after so many years of living in the States, Kimchi is one of a few that I'll never be able to give up in my life.

    Kimchi is just like that. It is part of the Korean culture and history. Koreans serve kimchi at almost every meal, and few Koreans can last more than a few days before cravings get the better of them.

    I appreciate your interest and advocacy in Kimchi. I'll try your recipe when I have courage to make my own Kimchi.

    There is a website that demonstrates how to make Kimchi with pictures. I thought you might find it interesting as there are many different kinds of Kimchis and various ways to make them. Many families in Korea have their own family recipe.

    Check this out when you have a chance.

    Kind regards,

    Yoon Cohen

  2. Dear Yoon:

    Thank you for your post and for the link to Dr. Kim's web site. I was very hapy to see that his recipe is remarkably similar to the one that I developed. I must be on the right track! I did note that Dr. Kim omits sugar; I'll have to try it his way next time.

    I'm sure first-time kimchi makers will appreciate the photos of the process on Dr. Kim's site. He really shows how easy it is — even easier if you make the sauce, as I do, in the food processor!

    Best regards,