Korean food’s growing popularity does not surprise me! What’s not to love about delicious food packed with bold flavors and loaded with health benefits? Kimchi is a spicy fermented vegetable dish; it’s a key element in Korean cuisine and served with every meal. Kimchi commonly refers to the type made with napa cabbage, but Korea boasts over 180 official varieties made from numerous vegetables and even fruits.
Kimchi stimulates your senses with its bright red color, funky smell, and addictive sour, spicy, tangy taste—giving any meal a major kick. You can find it on restaurant menus across the country, even as a topping for many American dishes like hot dogs and hamburgers.
Enticing flavors aside, kimchi is also considered one of the world’s healthiest foods. Many have even found relief from autoimmune and chronic diseases by eating kimchi every day. Kimchi is known to boost your immunity massively, and thus your overall health. Here’s how to make it:
Makes 1 gallon
8 cups warm water
1 1/2 cups kosher salt or coarse sea salt
1 very large Korean cabbage or several heads napa cabbage (5 to 6 pounds total), bottom(s) trimmed, wilted and tough outer leaves discarded, and rinsed well
2 small onions, coarsely chopped
12 dried shiitake mushrooms
10 large dried anchovies (myulchi), head and guts removed
64 cloves garlic, 8 crushed and the rest left whole
1 (10-inch-long) piece dried kelp (dashima)
2 1/2 cups gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)
14 tablespoons fish sauce
10 tablespoons salted shrimp (saewoo jeot), rinsed
4 tablespoons sugar
1 (7-inch) knob fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 carrots, julienned
12 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
7 ounces Korean white radish (mu) or daikon, peeled and julienned
- In a large bowl, stir together warm water and 3/4 cup of the salt until the salt has dissolved; let cool. Meanwhile, partially cut cabbage(s) in half lengthwise, starting from the root end and cutting about halfway to the top. Using your hands, pull cabbage(s) apart to split in half completely. Repeat so that each half is halved in the same way, which keeps the leaves intact and whole.
- Loosen the leaves of each wedge so that they are easy to spread. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup salt over and between all the leaves, salting the core area more heavily. Put cabbage wedges into a large bowl (use two if they don’t fit) cut-side up. Pour the cooled salted water over the cabbage, then pour enough cold water into the bowl to cover the cabbage; don’t overfill the bowl, as some liquid will be drawn out of the cabbage. Weigh down the cabbage with a plate so the wedges are completely immersed. Let sit at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours, flipping the wedges halfway through. Rinse the wedges well under cold running water and gently squeeze out any excess moisture. Put wedges cut side down in a colander and let drain for at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine onions, mushrooms, anchovies, scallions, 8 crushed garlic cloves, and kelp with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the liquid, discarding the solids, and let the anchovy stock cool completely.
- When the stock has cooled, in a food processor, combine the remaining garlic cloves, chili flakes, fish sauce, salted shrimp, sugar, and ginger and process until smooth. Add enough of the stock to make a smooth paste, about 2 cups total. Discard any remaining stock. Transfer the spice paste to a large bowl and stir in the carrots, scallions, and radish.
- Rub the spice paste all over cabbage wedges and between each leaf. Pull the outermost leaf of each wedge tightly over the rest of the wedge, forming a tidy package. Pack the wedges into one or more glass or other nonreactive containers with a tight-fitting lid. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the kimchi, then cover. The kimchi can be eaten at this young stage or after it sits at room temperature and starts to get sour and “bubble” (2 to 3 days). Store the kimchi in the refrigerator, where it will continue to ferment at a slower pace. I like to age mine at least 2 weeks, but it really is up to preference. Cut the kimchi before serving.