Kimchi

When I think of Korean food, the first thing besides “Absolutely Delicious!” that comes to mind is kimchi.

Kimchi is such a quintessential Korean dish, something so delicious, yummy, and versatile. Have it as a side, include it in your ramen, maybe make kimchi fried rice. I can include kimchi is almost every Asian dish I make.

Vegan homemade kimchi sample
Vegan kimchi sauce
Vegan homemade cucumber kimchi

The downside is that constantly buying kimchi is expensive. When living in Europe, I could find only bags of 300g of the fermented gem or small jars of 200g. Each costs 2-3 pounds/euros. And knowing myself, I was including kimchi into my weekly shop. But even then, I found the store-bought stuff not nearly as good as the stuff I got back home or in the restaurants.

So in an aim to save money and after watching a few videos, I decided it’s time to venture into the land of fermentation and make my own kimchi.

After experimenting for a year and research, I’ve come down to this vegan recipe. Yes, vegan and it tastes delicious. It’s strong and pungent and spicy just like good kimchi, without all the fishiness.  

If you find fermenting and making your own kimchi daunting, don’t worry it is one of the easier ferments. If it helps, these videos below were my initial guides into kimchi fermentation.

Equipment

Like with all cooking and perhaps especially with fermentation you want to make sure you have the right equipment and you put hygiene at the center of everything you do.

When fermenting, I recommend using glass for your storage jars or a ceramic crock. You don’t want to use anything that can have a reaction with the acidic mixture like metal, and I personally don’t like using plastic to store something so liquid for a long time.

You can purchase fermentation crocks online. Bon Appetit has a list of recommended fermentation supplies including jars and even a fancy crock.  I’m using an Everpride 5L crock.

Kimchi and 5 liter clay fermentation crock

If you’re starting to dabble in fermentation, don’t feel like investing in a lot of large equipment. It’s okay to start small. Just adjust the recipe portions down.

If you are deciding to use an IKEA Korken jar or reuse glass jars, that is okay, but you’ll have to watch your kimchi as it ferments by regularly releasing the buildup of gas to prevent an explosion. It is doable, that is how I made kimchi the first year, but you just need to be careful.

As for making the marinade for the kimchi, I recommend using a food processor to grind up the sauce ingredients. If you don’t have one, that is fine you will need a grater and some elbow grease.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large napa cabbage
  • 5-6 inches of daikon
  • 4 of spring onions
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 2 inches of ginger
  • 1 small apple or ½ a large apple (ideally use a sweet apple)
  • 1 small onion or ½ a large onion
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp of gochujang (or more for a spicier kimchi)
  • ¼ cup of salt

Method:

Preparing the Cabbage.

Use your largest bowl for this section, as you will initially have a large mound of vegetables.

  1. Chop the cabbage into bite-size pieces, be sure to remove the root
  2. Peel the daikon and then slice it into thin discs. Align the discs in an overlapping row. Then carefully slice the daikon disc making thin rectangle pieces.
  3. Add the ¼ of a cup of salt to the cabbage and daikon. Thoroughly mix the salt into the cabbage and massage it in.
  4. The salt will begin to drain the water from the cabbage wilting it which is exactly what we want. Leave the cabbage and daikon sitting with the salt for at least 1.5-2 hours. Make sure to give the veggies a nice squeeze and mix every 30-40 minutes. You will notice that the volume of cabbage will reduce dramatically.

Prepping the sauce/marinade:

  1. Peer ginger, garlic, and onion. Roughly chop them as well as the app and then add to the food processor. Make sure to get rid of the stem and seeds of the apple before putting into the food processor. For the ginger, you can use a spoon to lose the minimal amount of ginger.
  2. Add the soy sauce and gochujang. You may need to also add 2-3 tbsps of water to help the mixture blend. Blend until a paste. It is okay to have a few chunks, but you don’t want any large pieces.
  3. Add your chopped spring onions to the paste and mix. Then, it is ready to go.

Fermenting

Top Tip: If large enough, I recommend using a colander. It helps with draining and rinsing.

  1. After the 2 hours of salting your cabbage. Drain all the water and rinse the veggies with water. After rinsing, try to squeeze as much water out as you can of the cabbage and daikon mixture.
  2. Then in a bowl mix your marinade with the veggies. Make sure to cover everything in the spicy marinade before puting the mixture into your clean storage vessel. Make sure to pack it down as much as you can. Fill the vessel ensuring you leave 1-1.5 inches of headspace at least such as these jars with cucumbers.
  3. Put the lid on your vessel and leave your kimchi in a dark cool space, such as a pantry or garage, to ferment for 1-2 weeks or longer if you desire.
  4. Throughout the fermentation, gases will develop which need to be released. It will also push your kimchi up. To prevent an explosion and your kimchi overflowing, you will need to “burp” your kimchi and push the mixture back down into the jar.     
  5. After 1 week, start tasting your kimchi for your desired taste. I like my kimchi to ferment for about 10 days. I find it is wilted but still has a crunch while having tingling, soda bubble sensation on my palette.
  6. Once you achieved your desired taste and texture, store your kimchi in the refrigerator to stop the fermentation process. Unlike store-bought kimchi, this will keep for 2-3 months in the fridge. So eat as much as you like, or savor the fruits of your labor longer 😊

Top Tip: Usually, I have extra marinade. You can use it to pickle other vegetables, such as cucumber which I have pictured above to show you how much headspace you should leave.

Alternatively, you can add any extra marinade with your cabbage, but be sure you still have the headspace for the fermentation.

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