Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Baechu Kimchi (배추김치)

Hello folks! 2014 is turning out to be a great year so far to sate my wanderlust. I'm just back from a short trip to Hong Kong. It was supposed to be a trip to Bangkok, but what with the ongoing riots and chaotic situation, we decided to forgo our tickets and accommodation. We decided on a whim not to waste the pre-booked vacation leave and go somewhere else instead.

Yeps, like seriously - we booked our tickets to Hong Kong on Monday for a Wednesday 1am flight. Ha! Craziest thing ever. There was an on-going promotion (lucky for us) so we got our tickets pretty cheap, even on a really last minute schedule. Anyway, I'm nursing a slight flu now (what is it with me and falling sick after a trip?!?), and I hope I get better soon cos... I'm flying again soon, to Cambodia, in two weeks' or so time, HA! ;)

Anyway, just thought to update this space with a recipe for once.

It's not a secret that I love Korean food. It's one of my all-time favourite cuisines. Between Japanese and Korean, I can't decide which is my favourite.

Homemade Baechu Kimchi (배추김치)

I actually like cooking Korean food. Although the steps may be a bit tedious for some dishes (think sauced coated fried chicken or japchae), the final dishes usually turn out so colourful and appetizing. I guess to some degree, we eat with our eyes first. And a full table of Korean dishes usually is a feast (for the eyes and stomach). I love seeing a full table of Korean food cos it just looks so gorgeous. Sigh.

The fundamental core of Korean cuisine is 김치 (kimchi). Otherwise known as fermented vegetables. The Korean national dish forms the basis for other Korean dishes such as 김치찌개 (kimchi stew) and 김치볶음밥(kimchi fried rice). There are several hundred varieties of kimchi. Besides vegetables based kimchi (think cabbage, cucumber, radish, scallions), there are also seafood based kimchi (think squid, oysters etc). But normally, when people use the term 'kimchi', they are referring to the common Baechu Kimchi (배추김치), aka white cabbage kimchi.

I've been making my own kimchi for the past few years already. And I've more or less stuck to this recipe after experimenting with one or two other recipes in my early days of kimchi-making. It's more cost-efficient in the long run (a small bag of kimchi is pretty expensive locally), and one batch of kimchi can last me for a few months at least. My friends/colleagues/family always seem surprised to hear that I make my own kimchi. It's not as difficult as you might think it is. As long as you prep all the necessary ingredients, it's all about assembling it all together. There's no difficult cooking steps required at all!

One of my Sis's friend W, had asked me about a kimchi recipe some time ago, and I realized that hey, I don't have it on the blog yet! It's surprising how I've attempted the recipe multiple of times, but just didn't thought to photograph the process or post the recipe up on the blog. Anyway, I've been meaning to do up a kimchi post for a while now, so this is for W, if you see this ha!

I so love the taste of freshly made kimchi. I can easily just eat plain rice with freshly made kimchi and nothing else. In fact, I just made a batch of it last night as I realised I was out of kimchi, and I was planning to make kimchi fried rice for my friend for lunch. The thought of a huge batch of freshly made kimchi in the fridge is now making my stomach growl at this late hour. Boo. I would totally kill for a spoonful of piping hot rice topped with kimchi now. At 12.34am. Yikes. I think I'd better head to bed before I start salivating...

Baechu Kimchi (배추김치) (adapted from Maangchi's recipe here)
4-4.5kg napa cabbage - it's about 2-3 large cabbage heads (I get the one labelled as 'wombok' in my supermart - it's Chinese white cabbage)
1/2 cup white radish, julienned
1/2 cup carrot, julienned
3-4 stalks green onions, chopped into julienned veggies length
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup garlic, peeled
1/3 cup yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp ginger
1/6 cup sweet rice flour (I used plain rice flour and it worked fine)
1 cup water
2 tsp sugar
2/3 - 1 cup gochugaru (korean red pepper flakes), depending on your spiciness tolerance

Trim the outer part of the cabbage. Cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters and remove the cores (I skipped this step). Chop the cabbage heads into bite sized pieces. Rinse the cabbage pieces thoroughly and drain.
In a large basin, start layering the cabbage pieces in it and in between each layer, sprinkle salt lightly over and rub it through the cabbage pieces. So what I did was line a layer of cabbage in the large red basin as depicted above, then sprinkle like half tablespoon of salt over it and rub it in. Then add the next layer or cabbage, and the salt, and repeat till I have a mountain of salted cabbage pieces.
The mountain of cabbage pieces will start to shrink gradually. So every half hour or so, I'll turn the cabbage over to ensure that it's evenly salted. The salting process takes about 1.5 hours, so after 1.5 hours, rinse the cabbage pieces 2-3 times to remove the excess salt. Drain and squeeze out any excess water. Set aside.
I'll usually make the kimchi paste during the salted process.
In a food processor, combine fish sauce, garlic, onions and ginger and blend to smooth paste. (my food processor is subpar - it doesn't process liquids, sigh, so I had to add the fish sauce separately when mixing the paste as shown above)
Combine rice flour and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir constantly to prevent burning. Stir in the sugar when the porridge mixture is thick and translucent white. Turn off the heat. The whole process would take about five to ten minutes.
Transfer the porridge mixture into a large bowl. Add the gochugaru and mix to form a paste. Mix in the blended fish sauce mixture. Add the julienned green onions, white radish and carrots to the bowl and mix well.
Set the kimchi storing container, the basin of drained dried cabbage pieces and kimchi paste in front of you on the table. Put on some plastic gloves (it's optional - but I prefer to keep my hands stain and smell free. Besides, I wear contacts, so I wouldn't want my hands to go anywhere near my eyes after a kimchi making session...).
Add the kimchi paste to the basin of cabbage pieces and mix thoroughly to ensure each piece is coated well with the kimchi paste. If your basin is not large enough, do it bit by bit. Transfer the marinated cabbage pieces to your container. I like to use a large glass container, cos kimchi stains plastic containers and also, kimchi perfumed plastic containers is simply a big no-no. Don't ask and just trust me.
Store it in the refrigerator immediately. You can leave it out for a day for it to ferment, that's what the Koreans do, but while I love kimchi, I only love the taste of fresh kimchi. So fermented sour kimchi is *makes face*. Yeah. The kimchi ferments in the fridge over time, and it should last 2-3 months in the fridge before becoming well fermented.


  1. I`m so jealous you`re traveling!!! I`m loving all the food posts on instagram! And, this kimchi looks deliciousss!

  2. ha im perpetually in a constant state of wanderlust. ;) thanks! im craving kimchi again now heh.


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