Cabbage Kimchi – 배추 김치

I have a video recipe! Actually, it’s two recipes – I was asked to do a kimchi demonstration for a local language instruction group that’s doing a focus on the Korean hangul alphabet this weekend. Since I’m going to be at a friend’s birthday party and can’t make it, I put my pictures together with some explanation here:

If the embed doesn’t work, you can view it on YouTube here:

The video also covers Oi Sobaegi – Cucumber – Kimchi. The recipe is in a separate post here.

Cabbage – Baechu – Kimchi is made with napa cabbage. It’s the most common kind of kimchi, usually prepared in bulk, since it lasts a long time and some form of kimchi is eaten with most Korean meals. It’s colorful and intensely flavorful – some might say “pungent” though my version won’t smell up your kitchen. I can’t guarantee your breath when you eat it, with all the different garlicky flavors in there.

Some versions call for chopped cabbage, but I was taught how to make it using whole napa cabbage cut into halves or quarters and I find it pretty simple to work with and more attractive. My cookbook also says it lasts longer and has better flavor!

When you select your cabbage, keep in mind the size of the jar you are going to store it in. If you can get a very large gallon jar this will be great for larger heads. Otherwise you will need to look for smaller cabbages. You can discard the wilted outer leaves and trim any brown part from the bottom of the stem, but be sure to leave enough stem there to hold the cabbage together.

baechu kimchi ingredients

Baechu Kimchi

  • 1 large or two small napa cabbage heads (4 1/2 – 5 lbs. cabbage)
  • 1 1/4 c. coarse sea salt
  • 2 c. water (not all together, will note quantities in recipe)
  • 2 Tbsp. sweet rice flour
  • 1 c. Korean chili flakes
  • 1/2 cup sugar, more as needed to taste

Korean Red Pepper FlakesIngredient note: Korean Chili Flakes – 고추가루
(possible English spellings: koch’u karu or gochugaru)
– Korean chili flakes are sweeter and redder than Mexican chili flakes. I personally don’t think it’s worth making this kind of kimchi if you don’t have the right ingredients. They are also fresher, so store any leftovers in the fridge or they might mold (I didn’t realize this the first time I bought some and had to throw away most of a bag).

For salt & savory:

  • 2 Tbsp. chopped salted shrimp or anchovy or 1/4 c. fish sauce, more as needed to taste

Possible Filling ingredients (try to include some greens and probably all of the garlic, but you definitely don’t have to use all of these)

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh oysters
  • 1 lb. shredded daikon radish (a very small one or half a large one)
  • 1/2 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 asian pear, grated
  • 1 cup garlic chives, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 4-6 green onions, white part only, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 oz. greens – mainari, watercress, or arugula
  • 1/2 red sweet pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 chili peppers, finely sliced
  • 2-5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice or 2 tsp. shredded ginger
  • 4 walnut halves or 2 chestnuts, finely sliced

Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise for smaller ones or into quarters for larger ones. You’ll need a large non-reactive bowl – so glass, plastic, or stainless steel is fine (aluminum is not). Set aside 1/4 cup of the salt, then mix the rest into the cabbage by holding the stem end, fan out the leaves loosely, then sprinkle the sea salt in between the leaves.

Mix the remaining 1/4 cup into 1 cup water and sprinkle over the salted cabbage. Leave it to sit for 3-4 hours or until it’s flexible but crunchy. As it sits in the salt, the salt will draw out the juice, so turn the cabbages a bit from time to time to be sure they’re all evenly brined.

Meanwhile, cook the flour in 1 cup water, stirring constantly to keep it smooth, until it thickens into a paste. Let it cool a bit. Mix in the chili flakes and sugar. Use fish sauce for a simpler recipe or the salted seafood for more authentic flavor. If you want to make this vegetarian you can leave those out but you may need to add more salt at the end to balance the flavors.

Take the brined cabbage out of the salt water and rinse away the salt, then set in a colander to drain. Chop up all the filling ingredients and stir into the chili paste. It is hard to adjust the balance once it is assembled, so this is the best time to taste test! Keep in mind it will become more sour as it matures.

For the assembly, it definitely helps to have rubber gloves. The chili flakes are not as likely to burn your skin as the fresh chilies, but they will definitely stain your skin! Take the drained cabbage and, holding it carefully at the stem end, smear a bit of the filling between each leave. Then smooth the cabbage back into a tight bundle and smear more filling around the outside. Pack the bundles into the clean jar until all you have left are loose leaves. Use the loose leaves to clean out the filling bowl and cover the bundles in the jar. Add a little water to clean out the bowl and pour it into the jar just to cover the kimchi.

Now you just need to let your kimchi mature (ferment) until it is ready to go into the fridge. I usually cover my jar with plastic wrap before I put the lid on to make an extra tight seal. I usually use a large rubber band to hold the plastic wrap in place as I put the lid on. You can leave the kimchi at room temperature for a few hours if you like it less sour, or up to 3 days if you like it more sour. If the room is hot, it will take less time to become sour. Taste it before you put it in the fridge to see if it seems good.

It can last in the fridge a very long time, though when you get down to the bottom and it is more soft and sour, it is best used in soups or jeon – small veggie pancakes.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes that use Kimchi:

4 Comments Add yours

  1. I watched your video and was very impressed. I’ve seen a lot of videos on making kim chi and either they were terrible recipes or were not well done. Seems you had everything ready before starting to record.
    I too make my own and kim chi because most of what I can buy here is way too spicy. I hate the grocery store brands taste, besides not being healthy. I did get some good ideas for things to add to mine. Thanks very much for the get info.
    I have still pic’s on my facebook of the kind I make.

    1. kitchentourist says:

      Thanks! I’m glad that was helpful to you. Sorry for the slow response, I’ve been travelling a lot this summer. I read a lot of cookbooks for kimchi recipes, then watched how a friend taught me and saw how she played with it to get the flavor she liked. Mine is not as good as hers, but I did learn that it’s more about appreciating the ingredients than following a specific formula. I hope you can make some you really like!

  2. I just came across this blog, and I must say I have really enjoyed reading it. I was researching some ingredients for a Korean inspired fish finger sandwich…your thoughts on the Korean Chilli Flakes (Gochugaru) are spot on!

    1. kitchentourist says:

      Hi Ricky, I’m glad my notes were useful to you! Did you know there’s a non-spicy version of mu saengchae called “do chua” in Vietnam that’s traditionally put on Bahn Mi? I like the idea of mu saenchae with fish, but you should try do chua with chicken or pork – it’s super tasty. I’d eat it by itself too any day.

      I always like to mix up between online sources and great cookbooks when I’m learning new cuisines so I highly recommend Andrea Nguyen’s excellent site Viet World Kitchen and her great cookbook The Bahn Mi Handbook – lots of great inspiration there:

      Here’s her recipe for do chua that I’ve made, very tasty and easy:

      You’ll see the similarity to mu saengchae right away, I’m sure!

      If you want to learn more about Korean cuisine online you should go to the queen of all Korean food sites (in English) at least:Maangchi – I’m very excited to see that she has a cookbook coming out soon, I definitely pre-ordered it right away.

      Here’s her recipe for mu saengchae:

      If you enjoy mu saenchae you should also experiment with oi sobaegi – cucumber kimchi. It’s another quick pickle that is very crunchy and delicious and not as sour as baechu kimchi. Like eating coleslaw instead of sauerkraut. 🙂

      Here’s my recipe, which looks impressive shaped as little bundles though I enjoy the quicker version that uses sliced cucumbers that I get at my local Korean market too:

      Korean and Vietnamese foods are always delicious to me – I love the complicated, intense flavors that balance so many strong ingredients perfectly together.

      And, as a librarian, I can’t resist offering more sources and reading recommendations when I see someone doing research on an interesting topic!

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