Kimchi Made Easy (Mak Kimchi)

Today your search for the only-kimchi-recipe-you’ll-ever-need recipe is over.

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It may be bit baffling to you really, my dear reader, that I’ve just come to sharing this recipe with you. After almost a year of starting my humble little blog I finally present to you a kimchi recipe! Yes, I know, being that I make mainly Korean recipes what’s been the hold up right? Believe me my friend, coming up with a kimchi recipe has been agonizing my soul since I first started this blog because, let’s face it, what’s Korean cuisine without KIMCHI!

My halmuni (grandma) making kimchi for the family.

My halmuni (grandma) making kimchi for the family.

Kimchi is very near and dear to my heart, and not something to be taken lightly. Although I am Korean myself I dare not share an unreliable kimchi recipe for fear a haphazardly made one may end up in a undesirable result, and will then turn both Koreans and non-Koreans away from making kimchi at home. For me kimchi is sacred; it has been the livelihood of my ancestors and it is a tradition I want to preserve and share with everyone. A Korean would not be complete without kimchi and it is the pride and joy of our people. In fact, kimchi making (aka kimjang) is officially listed on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

To be honest I’ve only seen kimchi be made with no regards to measurements and made purely by “feel.” Kimchi-making has been an ongoing community or familial event in my life and I’ve seen it so many times that by the time I started making it myself, making it seemed like second nature.

Korean women in my local community gathering together to make kimchi.

Korean women in my local community gathering together to make kimchi.

There are many types of kimchi: non-spicy ones, very spicy ones, seafoody ones, rooty ones and even fruity ones. However the peppery and rouge- colored kimchi made from baechu (napa cabbage) is the quintessential form of kimchi most people are familiar with.

It is by default in every Korean’s kitchen and it is not uncommon to find it factory-produced and pre-packaged in Korean markets worldwide. To be honest, most factory made kimchis are quite delicious (my favorite one is called 1000 Year Kimchi). Manufacturers have gotten kimchi-making down to a science to please the discerning palates of old and young Korean consumers alike.

However there is one ingredient these kimchis do not have and that ingredient is called sohn-maht, which literally translates to “hand(made) taste.” It is an intangible ingredient, yes, but this “flavor” is a lot like the meaning of umami- but specifically for kimchi.

It is my biased but unapologetic opinion that kimchi is made best at home for several reasons:

  1. It’s cheaper to make than buy.

  2. You know exactly what is going into your kimchi (a lot of times flavor shortcuts are made with factory made kimchis with MSG, extra sugar, preservatives, etc.). No hate against MSG, but just sayin’.

  3. You have more control over the ripening process.

  4. You can brag about it to all your friends on your IG.

In no way am I saying that there is anything wrong with store-bought kimchi, but I also want to convince you that making kimchi at home is not as intimidating as you think. Although there is no super “quick and easy” shortcuts to kimchi (and be wary of recipes that make this claim like this one) as it is a “slow food” and its flavor is defined by the fermentation process. I want to assure you that kimchi making does not have to be a grand production and can be made in small batches fairly quickly (within 24 hours).

No, you do not need an underearth fermentation system with big brown clay pots imported from the motherland and have to make it strictly in November either. This kimchi recipe can be made year-round with the right ingredients, a few easy skills and consideration of the fermenting environment’s temperature.

Here are some important factors I took into consideration in the making of this kimchi recipe:

  • Accessibility of ingredients - I asked myself, “are the ingredients in this recipe easy to access for most people?” If you can’t find it in a nearby market, I didn’t want to list it as an ingredient.

  • Authenticity of the recipe - Although I was attempting to make an “easy” kimchi recipe I did not want to compromise the authenticity of traditional kimchi recipes too much.

  • Kimchi fermenting containers - I know most people do not have clay pots so I made a recipe that can ferment kimchi easily in clear glass jars or even tupperware.

  • Fermentation temperature - In order to make the kimchi year round, I based this recipe on a fermenting environment temperature of typical room temperature of 72 degrees F. My recipe will ensure your kimchi to ripen to your liking for a short period in warmer temperature and will leave the rest of the ripening to happen in the refrigerator.

I wrote about some of my deep feels for kimchi and its cultural significance awhile back  here .

I wrote about some of my deep feels for kimchi and its cultural significance awhile back here.

I am so, sooooo happy to finally share my long-awaited and beloved mak kimchi recipe with you. By the way the term “mak” in mak kimchi means “quickly” or “carelessly” made, haha. It is to convey that this type of kimchi is intended to be made with a bit less hassle than whole cabbage kimchi.

It is this particular type of kimchi I make and eat the most with my family since I do not have to cut the kimchi prior to serving. It can be eaten straight out of the jar once it’s ready.

I hope you will love this recipe as much as I do. :)


Prep Time: 3 hours

Fermentation Time: 18 to 24 hours

Yields: ~1 gallon of kimchi


INGREDIENTS:

(For brining the cabbage)

  • One head of napa cabbage (~3 lbs)

  • 20 cups of cool water (1.25 gallons)

  • 1/2 cup coarse sea salt (preferably a Korean sea salt like this one)

(for the kimchi jang or seasoning)

  • 1/3 cup cooked white rice

  • 1/2 of a medium onion, roughly chopped

  • 2 in thick round of daikon radish, cut into small pieces (~1.5 cup chopped)

  • 1 inch thick round of ginger, peeled

  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled

  • 4 tbl water

  • 2 tbl fish sauce (I highly recommend Red Boat brand)

  • 1 tbl white sugar

  • 2 tsp salt

  • 2/3 cup gochugaru (Korean seedless and coarse red chili powder)

(Other ingredients)

  • 1/2 of medium onion, thinly sliced

  • 2 large green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces

  • salt to taste

Tools you’ll need:

  • Very wide and large mixing bowl

  • food-safe gloves

  • high power blender

  • kimchi containers or jars (I used one half gallon glass jar + plastic pint jar)

How to make it:

1. Cut your cabbage into small pieces, cutting it into larger pieces as you get nearer the leafy tops. Check out my simple tutorial on how to prepare napa cabbage for kimchi here.

Notice how my cuts at the tough base of the kimchi is smaller than the leafy tops. This is to ensure more even brining of the cabbage.

Notice how my cuts at the tough base of the kimchi is smaller than the leafy tops. This is to ensure more even brining of the cabbage.

2. Prepare your salting brine. Combine your water and sea salt in a very large bowl or in a cleaned out and drain-stopped sink. I thoroughly clean my sink with hot water and dish soap to brine my kimchi because it ensures easier clean up and has ample brining space.

Mix salt into water until thoroughly dissolved and add in your cabbage pieces. Set your timer for 2 hours to brine the cabbage. Turn over the cabbage settled at the bottom to the top halfway during brining.

baechu

3. Prepare your kimchi seasoning. Combine rice, water, fish sauce, ginger, garlic and daikon into a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer the puree into a medium bowl.

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4. Add the gochugaru, sugar and salt into the puree mixture and stir well. The mixture will turn into a paste-like consistency and will be a pinkish color. Set aside until ready for use.

kimchi jang

5. After two hours check on your cabbage. Pick up a firm white piece and gently push down into a fold with your index finger and thumb. If the cabbage does not snap and has become pliable, it is ready to be seasoned.

baechu

Drain the cabbage from the brine and rinse under cool water twice. Drain cabbage in a colander over the sink until most of the water has drained off.

I like the colander from  Ikea  I got for just a few bucks!

I like the colander from Ikea I got for just a few bucks!

6. While your cabbage is draining, cut and wash your green onions into small pieces and thinly slice half an onion. Prepare your large mixing bowl and your kimchi jars. Prepare to work on a surface you don’t mind making a mess on!

7. Add your cabbage, green onions and onions into a large mixing bowl and beginning incorporating in your kimchi paste to the mix. I like to add in the seasoning in batches to ensure easier distribution of seasoning.

kimchi

Mix the seasoning and vegetables with gloved hands otherwise your hands will turn pink and will reek of onions and garlic!

I got these food safe gloves at my local Korean market for just a couple of bucks! I like these because they’re reusable, durable and will cover half your arms (and it is  ahjumma  approved haha).

I got these food safe gloves at my local Korean market for just a couple of bucks! I like these because they’re reusable, durable and will cover half your arms (and it is ahjumma approved haha).

Also, at this point taste a piece of your baby kimchi. Feel free to add in a bit more salt to your taste if you wish.

No air bubbles pls.

No air bubbles pls.

8. Time for jarring! This is where it kind of gets messy! Grab a handful of kimchi at a time and beginning packing it into your kimchi jar… and when I mean pack it in, I mean PACK IT IN.

Press firmly down onto the kimchi into the the jar, handful by handful, to minimize air pockets in your jar. These air pockets are not your friend during fermentation!

This is actually a pretty important step so don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and, uh, get packin’! :D

When you are almost done packing your jar, make sure to leave about an inch from the top of the jar empty. This is because the kimchi will expand due to gas during fermentation. If you pack the jar to the very top, this will cause a lot of liquid to overflow from the jar.

9. Once you have packed all your kimchi into your jar(s), use a damp paper towel to wipe off the rim of your jars. Tightly close on each container with a lid. Run the closed jar under some cool water to rinse off any debris and then towel dry. Set your kimchi jar on top of a plate (it may leak during fermentation). Let the kimchi ferment on your kitchen counter, away from heat, at room temperature. Set your timer for 18 hours.

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10. After your timer goes off, observe your kimchi. See if any gas bubbles have developed inside the jar. These bubbles may even fizzle and move (good sign! fermentation is happenin’). At this point feel free to test out a piece of kimchi.

Check for activity inside your jar. It’s ALIVE! Muhaha :D

Check for activity inside your jar. It’s ALIVE! Muhaha :D

It will most likely taste very fresh still, but if you prefer this taste and the gas bubbles are present, feel free to store the kimchi in the refrigerator at this stage. I found my optimal bite at 22 hours. It was still crunchy, slightly acidic and tasted effervescent but not sour.

Congratulations! You have successfully made your own jar of delicious kimchi. Make sure to store the kimchi in the fridge after it has completed fermenting. The kimchi will only taste better over time. As the kimchi gets more ripened, it will be a great addition to korean stews or soups and a variety of other dishes.

mak kimchi

Love,

Song