Instructables

How to Make Kimchi / Kim Chee

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My father was stationed in Korea once upon a time and brought home a taste for Kimchi / Kim Chee.
My mother did make it a few times but from her description it sounded very complicated, and something no one should try without first getting a certification in Kim Chee Preparedness.
So when I no longer lived close to an Asian Market with gallon jars of it for a decent price, I learned either to do without, or pay $5 for a tiny little jar that would last me a week if I resisted the urge to eat it daily.

Then I got the book "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Ellix Katz, and have been making delicious Kimchi easily, ever since.
 
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Step 1: Assemble tools and ingredients

Picture of Assemble tools and ingredients
At its most basic, kimchee is chinese cabbage (can use napa, pac choi, or any chinese cabbage) fermented with garlic, pepper, salt, and ginger. Other ingredients such as daikon (or other radish), carrot, scallion / green onion or other onion, fish (in the form of dried crumbled fish, fish broth or fish sauce, or Hondashi fish broth powder), and even seaweed, are commonly used depending on preference.

Here I show Kosher Salt, scallions, daikon, fresh ginger, hondashi powder, dried pepper flakes specifically for making kimchee, fresh garlic, carrot, and a very large head of pac choi /bok choy.

You will also need a sharp knife, a large nonreactive mixing bowl, a smaller nonreactive mixing bowl, and glass or stoneware jars or crocks to hold the finished product.

You will need anywhere from several hours, to overnight, to soak the fresh chopped veggies in salt solution, and then anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks to ferment your kimchee depending on how warm the room is, how much salt to vegetables, and whether you had leftover kimchee "juice" to jump-start the fermentation with.

For those who want measured quantities either to follow, or to get a ballpark idea of what the proportions are:

For roughly two quart jars:

2 lbs chinese cabbage
1 whole daikon radish or several red radishes
1 to 2 carrots
onions and/or leeks, bunch of scallions, or shallots... as many or few as you like.
6-8 cloves of garlic, or as many as you like... your love of garlic is the only limiting factor
5-6 tablespoons of grated ginger, or grate up a 4 inch piece... again, more to taste if you like it especially
Seaweed if you like, but I didn't use it in this recipe
3 tsp. hondashi japanese fish broth powder ( or a handful of dried bonito, crumbled)

Brine will be 4 cups of water to 4 tablespoons of salt. If this isn't enough to cover the fresh veggies, then double the brine recipe.


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wakojako1 year ago
Call me immature but I had a good chuckle when I saw that one of the brands was called 'wang'.
VrncHls1 year ago
To avoid MSG and methyl mercury, get short grain rice (and/or sweet rice) and cook them and blend it to the soup consistency. Mix this with Kombu juice (Kombu is seaweed like kelp, but thicker. You can get it really cheap at H-Mart, listed as Daa-Si-Maa(다시마) in Korean. If you don't have H-mart near you, you can also order online and they will deliver to you). To get kombu juice, soak 4-6 pieces of kombu in water and use that water. This mix can be used for any fish sauce while making any kimchi. Also use sea salt instead of regular salt both for soaking napa and for the sauce.
nookmum1 year ago
kimchi @ quy @ carlisle 17015
gweedoh!4 years ago
Thanks for the instructable! I just started my first batch tonite, I was sick of the msg laden jars I found in stores. I'm adding a bit of honey to my spice paste to try and re-create a sweet/spicy kimchee I just had recently, I hope it works! I usually make quick shoyu pickles, so this will be a nice change up, and kimchee soup is one of my favorites....
megmaine (author)  gweedoh!4 years ago
One thing I hadn't realized when I wrote this, was that Hondashi powder, a very popular brand of Bonito broth in Japan, has MSG. Kombu/kelp is the seaweed from which the flavor-enhancing properties of MSG were discovered, but supposedly, using kelp is healthy, whereas using MSG is not. Crumbled dried bonito avoids the added MSG, but also adds methyl mercury and other toxins, as apparently Bonito are just small tuna, and are high in mercury. Therefore, much I love the taste of bonito and Hondashi, I will be using neither from now on, and just including taste kelp in my kimchi, to avoid the problems with MSG as well as additional mercury. Sardines are low in mercury comparatively, so I might try adding sardines, or trying to find dried sardines, to use in place of bonito, at some point. Just worth noting!
Hey folks, just so you know, there's nothing wrong with MSG. The "problems" with msg weren't around until it blew it up into something as "what's wrong" with chinese food in 1969. Since then, there have been rigorously controlled experiments with inconclusive evidence against MSG. There was only one person who described reacting to it, and was due to a placebo of previously believing that they were MSG reactant.

But I'm not saying that large amounts aren't bad for you. It's still a sodium salt of glutamic acid, and these salts among many salts are found to indirectly cause obesity (but I think there's obvious social reasons behind this). Glutamic acid though, is found in most cheeses, soy sauce, grape juice, peas, tomatoes, etc.

Anyway, I don't think a little ajinomoto or hondashi is going to hurt ya.
Obviously you are not intolerant or allergic to MSG and I'm happy for you. However, I get raging, blinding, debilitating migraines from ingesting added MSG, and it took a while to discover what the cause/s was/were without having any preconceived notions about MSG or any other substance. BTW, aspartame has the same effect on me. It's easy to find "scientific" studies to back any standpoint, but genuine suffers know what they know, anecdotal or not. The MSG that occurs - in miniscule amounts - naturally in some foods is not the problem.
Fair enough. I'm not saying nobody's reactant to it, but I know there's a whole lot of people who think that MSG-free or gluten-free is for them just because they think it's somehow healthier, not necessarily because they're actually reactive to those things.
I agree on that score. gluten-free has become fashionable.
Clive5 flio1912 years ago
Years ago, before it was widely reported that MSG can be harmful, I had persistent pains in my side. The doctor kept suggesting more tests, which I couldn't afford. I soon ran out of MSG, which I used quite frequently, and noticed that the pain went away. To this day, when I feel that same pain come back, I can trace it back to some food I inadvertently ate that contains MSG. I suppose each person's system is different, but I just cannot tolerate MSG.
bcnu147 flio1912 years ago
Check out videos on MSG, Aspartame, Fluoride and Vaccinations on YouTube:

Dr. Russell L. Blaylock -- Excitotoxins [MSG, Aspartame]

Dr. Blaylock on Fluoride, Aspartame, MSG and Vaccinations (1)

Dr. Russell Blaylock M.D. is a retired neurosurgeon and author whose trailblazing research has tirelessly documented the fact that there is an epidemic of neurological disorders in the western world which are directly connected to toxins in our environment, and how this relates to the larger global eugenics program behind population reduction. In this fascinating interview, Blaylock reveals how depopulation programs forged by the Rockefeller foundation in association with the Nazis were the basis of modern day incarnations of eugenics like fluoride poisoning and vaccinations.

Disillusionment is a positive thing!
oh yeah, I realized that one a while ago. I just rocked it without. I may try sardines some time tho. and for future reference, dont use togarashi if thats all you have, it makes really weird kim chee...I got a big bag of powdered peppers yesterday and i'm going for another round. thanks!

I had to add this. I play with my food a lot...
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yhan2 gweedoh!2 years ago
It's Korean salt! It's the most important to make kimchi!
megmaine (author)  gweedoh!4 years ago
Delicious! Thanks for sharing your experiences, insights, and photo!
The Filipinos and Asians all use fish sauce that you coud use a couple of teaspoons of. The Chines use shrimp paste called Harm-ha, the Filipinos use either Patis or Bagoong (bah'-gah-ong'). I don't know what the Thai or others use, but it is all fermented and refined for bottling, very salty, and a little goes a long way. One thing missing in the ingredients is understanding, open-minded relatives who won't open the refrigerator door and say something like "Whew, what in the heck died in here!"
I think I might try anchovies in a batch. they shouldn't have any mercury.
megmaine (author)  gweedoh!2 years ago
My pleasure! I hope you'll share a picture when it's ready!
I also love kimchee soup, as do my kids.
jlh3572 years ago
This question is about the fermentation part, do you not tighten down the lids of the jars, or do you open ferment by leaving the lids loose?

Thanks,
jlh357
i just completed this. i didnt know how much chili to put in. i used red radish and yellow onion because whole foods didnt have anything!!!! we'll see....
from "The Joy of Pickling" I learned that cayenne mixed with sweet paprika 1:1 (a Tbs of each) makes a good substitute for Korean chili in kim-chi. I've made several batches this way and think it's perfect
jlh357 dstone-12 years ago
Hello,
Do you use a half cup of your cayenne and sweet paprika mix to this recipie?

I just made my first batch and used some red pepper flakes I had in the house. It's looking great so far and is fermenting very hard.

dstone-1 jlh3572 years ago
not a half cup, just 2 tablespoons..a half cup would be VERY spicy
jlh357 dstone-12 years ago
Thank you so much, I was putting together another batch as the first is
turning out great.
This is the best recipie I've come across and it's a great one. I will let you konw how I do with the cayenne and sweet paprika.

Thanks again.
valkgurl2 years ago
I would love to try some of the more "interesting" looking things at our Asian Market--BUT I live in a house with 4 anaphylacticly allergic to SHRIMP people. Any hints as to how to tell if anything HAS shrimp in it--or not?

I think I will try this without any of the "fish" sorts of things---husband loves things like this and our "local" Asian Markets are 1 1/2 hour drive away and the one and only time I got him "kimchee" packed in the nicest little ceramic jar the stuff smelled SO BAD the dog ran off. Prob just from some air leak or who knows but nothing like what he has had elsewhere and not a good sour smell--def a rotten eeewy smell. The crock was nice so I kept that tho!

I wish I knew some one who could take me for a "Guided Tour" of the Asian MArkets and tell me what is IN those packages! The people who run the one we have gone to might speak English--or might not!--and are not that friendly and when ever I have asked a Asian person shopping a question they just look at me like I have three heads. Sigh.

Maybe they know I have a secret wish to liberate the poor doomed turtles swimming in their bucket.

Thanks for de-mystifying this process tho! Oh--one way to keep the level of the liquid over anything pickling is to use a clean china plate weighted down with either a very clean rock; a glass jar filled with water on top of the plate; or (I have not used this) a plastic zip bag with water in it. This allows you to see what is happening on top without messing around with the product. Cover the whole affair with a cloth tied around the side or weighted down with small weights sewn on the edge to keep out dust and bugs and critters. My great great grandmothers trick for her famous pickles. And yep I was lucky enuf to actually live with great great grand ma when I was a kiddie and remember the pickles!
I have been making fermented vegetables for about a year now and love them. I have been looking for a good kimchi recipe and cannot wait to try this one. I only plan to change the seasonings to get the flavor...I love the mix of green and purple cabbage because it looks so wonderful. I already use seaweed but no salt. I am looking forward to see how this changes the flavor of the veggies.

BTW...I was reading some of the posts, I make my fermented vegetables in sealed quart jars and keep my house between 70-72 degrees. I open the jars every day to release the gas and I let them ferment for 7 days...the only drawback is that many times the jars leak so I keep my jars in a cardboard box that I discard after they are done fermenting.
megmaine (author)  lwalker crespo2 years ago
I know that Sandor Katz had a salt-free sauerkraut recipe in his book, but don't recall whether there was a salt-free kimchi one. Worth looking into!
No, all the Kimchi recipes in Katz require salt, however there are three salt free saurkraut versions using wine, savory seeds or seaweed however Katz advises that they are better made low salt rather than salt free if possible for better sour flavour and crunchiness.
simonides2 years ago
I really enjoyed making my first Kimchi from this recipe! Very tasty but a bit too salty for me. Could I halve the salt content without any problem?

thanks!!!
megmaine (author)  simonides2 years ago
You can make it to taste, but be aware that too much salt, and it will not really ferment much, and too little, and it could just go straight to spoiling.

A Korean lady told me that refrigerators are actually too warm to keep kimchi in for very long, and that I shouldn't make so much at a time that we can't use it up in a couple of weeks, because trying to keep it for months in a standard refrigerator won't work. 33-34 degrees F is much better than 39 or 40 degrees F. On the other hand, making just enough for a few days, you can leave it on the counter. You just can't expect to keep it for too long. Souring can be quite good especially for adding to soups, but once it goes beyond sour, into sweet and alcohol-smell, that is spoiled. So if it sours, hurry and make soup!

You should be able to add a little less or more salt to taste. Just know that less salt will mean you need to use it up quicker.
Thanks for the extra information. My latest batch was 4 cups of water to 3 tablespoons of salt and it seems just as tasty except I forgot the radishes so it wasn't as crunchy!
bob_d22 years ago
I did this and think the kimchee is very good. I'm very happy I ran across this recipe and instructions. I used hon dashi and I did not use seaweed. I'm going to make a second batch and will try 1/2 hon dashi and 1/2 Pufina (Philippines) fish sauce and will use kelp. (I don't know why I mess with success.)
I was so excited about making kimchee, I promised most of the first batch out to three young people at my church. Two have Korean ancestry and one, Japanese.
megmaine (author)  bob_d22 years ago
Wow, you'll have to get their opinions on it, and come back to share the results with us! Whether they have pure admiration or constructive criticism, I would like to cheer for you or also learn what can be done better. I wonder what someone more used to Tsukemono would think of kimchi? If you want to try Tsukemono (a simple Japanese pickle) feel free to check out my Instructable on that as well! http://www.instructables.com/id/Tsukemono-Hakusai-no-Shiozuke-Japanese-Pickled/
felin2 years ago
Oops, sorry. Should have read up on your comments. I see, now, that you already discovered and posted the same info. What type of seaweed do you recommend buying and how would one put it in this recipe. Just chop it up?? Though I'm not new to eating seaweed, I am new to using it in my kitchen.

Blessings!
megmaine (author)  felin2 years ago
No harm, no worries. Most people wouldn't read so far down the comments, so posting things new, is a good thing.

the seaweed I buy is dried, so I usually just break it into bits or cut it if it's a bit leathery. It's wonderful in kimchi, and it hardly matters which type. Just whatever type you enjoy eating.

I used to use Wakame primarily, sometimes some kombu too. You can use any. Wakame I break into "twigs" dry, and in it goes.

These days I prefer to buy a year's supply of local Maine seaweed at a time, from http://www.theseaweedman.com/ or else https://www.seaveg.com/shop/

Both are good places to buy from, for anyone, especially if you live closer to Maine than to Japan, China, or Korea.

The local seaweed does taste a bit different or have a different texture, but it's good.
kimsfocus4 years ago
Yum! I can't wait to try this. I am going to go shopping tonight to get everything! I tried to make it once from a recipe in a book and well lets say it was not successful. I love Kim Chee and have yet to find a store brand that is as good as my brother in laws mothers homemade one (she is from Korea!). Thank you for the recipe!
megmaine (author)  kimsfocus2 years ago
Hope it was the beginning of a happy journey without end!
ymchi4 years ago
Kudos to ALL of you for attempting to make this labor-intensive staple that even some Koreans shy away from making (myself included). For great (and entertaining--you'll see) video instructions on korean cooking (which includes kimchi), check out: www.maangchi.com

megmaine (author)  ymchi2 years ago
I didn't mean any disrespect, however. Your comment was nice and supportive. And learning to make kimchi does feel like an art. Thank you for the video post, and I am deeply sorry whenever I hear that more people are losing touch with the fermented foods native to their culture...it's a worldwide problem that Sandor Katz attempts to address in his book. Happily, now through connectivity, people everywhere can learn and embrace not only their own, but any culture's fermented foods and pickles, which in natural state are healthy too.
megmaine (author)  ymchi4 years ago
I have to disagree that it is labor-intensive. The only labor is chopping, mixing salt and spices, and packing into a jar. That's less effort than would normally go into the making of one meal, and it makes a healthy delicious condiment and side dish to last through many meals, or many months, depending on use.
Thanks for the kudos though!
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