Kimchi is surprisingly easy to make and makes a great addition to rice dishes or a pork sandwich.
Please note, if mould forms on your kimchi at any point, discard the batch and start again. For this recipe you will need a large mixing bowl, colander, disposable or new clean rubber gloves, 1-litre/1¾-pint wide-mouthed clip-top jar and a large spoon.
- 1 large Chinese leaf cabbage (700g/1lb 9oz), washed, quartered and cut into 3–4cm/1¼–1½in-wide slices
- 50g/1¾oz fine sea salt
- 4–6 garlic cloves (20g/¾oz), peeled
- 20g/¾oz fresh root ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
- 20g/¾oz gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes)
- 150g/5½oz mooli (Chinese radish), peeled and cut into 3mm-wide strips that are around 5cm/2in long
- 5 spring onions, cut into 3mm-wide strips that are around 5cm/2in long
- 100g/3½oz (approximately 1 medium) carrot, peeled and cut into 3mm-wide strips that are around 5cm/2in long
Wash your equipment thoroughly in warm soapy water, then rinse well under very hot water and leave to air dry.
Put the cabbage in the clean mixing bowl and separate using your fingers. Arrange in layers, with a little salt sprinkled between each layer. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave to stand for 2–3 hours. The cabbage will soften and become limp, and should be sitting in a pool of water when you return to it. It will have reduced in volume by about a third.
Drain the salted cabbage in the clean colander, then return to the bowl. Cover with cold filtered water and swirl the cabbage around, then set aside to soak for 10 minutes. Drain in the colander and return to the bowl. The cabbage should taste slightly salty.
In a blender or pestle and mortar, grind the garlic, ginger and chilli flakes to a paste.
Add the mooli, spring onion and carrot to the cabbage and tip in the chilli paste. Wearing disposable, or clean, new, rubber gloves (to protect your hands from the chilli) thoroughly massage the paste into the vegetables. You can do this with a spoon, but it is less effective.
Spoon the cabbage mixture into the clean jar until it comes up to just under the top of the jar. There is no need to pack it too tightly but you don’t want too much air to reach the surface of the vegetables. Cover with the lid and fasten securely.
Leave in a cool, dark place at room temperature (around 18–20C) for 2–3 days. If your room is warmer, the kimchi will ferment more quickly. Taste the kimchi. If it tastes spicy, sour and slightly cheesy with a good umami flavour, it can be transferred to the fridge to slow down the fermentation process.
In particularly warm weather, you may see small bubbles appearing in the kimchi, which shows the vegetables are creating the lactic acid needed to preserve them. Even in the fridge, you may need to ‘burp’ the container to release the gas after a few days.
You can begin to eat your kimchi right away, but it will continue to ripen and become more fully flavoured the longer it is fermented. You’ll get to know which degree of flavour you prefer. If you are dipping in regularly, you may inadvertently introduce other bacteria to the jar, so it's best consumed within a week or two.
Filtered water is necessary for this recipe because tap water often contains a small amount of chlorine, which will inhibit the fermentation process. Either use a filter jug or bottled water.
Look out for Korean gochugaru chilli. It will give an authentic flavour and is available online and in Chinese or Korean supermarkets. If you can’t find it, use 10g crushed chilli flakes mixed with 1 tsp paprika (not smoked) instead.
If your jar is larger than needed, reserve one of the cabbage leaves before slicing and salt with the rest of the sliced cabbage. Take out of the bowl before adding the other vegetables and chilli paste, then place on top of the cabbage mixture once it is in the jar to help create a barrier to the air.