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Traditional Kimchi


Traditional kimchi can be a complicated process if you are trying it for the first time. You’ll find that Korean kimchi makers just eyeball instead of measuring ingredients (even this recipe is estimated!), and every batch can come out differently depending on variables such as quantity, preparation style, product brands, length of fermentation, etc. We think the best way to learn is to taste a kimchi you like, and then shadow whoever made it. Eventually you’ll get the ratios and have your own recipe that you can repeat at home!

For a printable version of this recipe, click here. For pictures of some of the specialty ingredients, visit our gallery.


You'll Need:


2 whole napa cabbage

kosher salt

1-2 carrots

1/4 Korean white radish* (the big, short, round kind - otherwise, use daikon)

3-5 garlic cloves, peeled

small piece of ginger, peeled

1/2 bunch green onion

1/4 white or yellow onion

2 tbsp fish sauce

sesame seeds

1 big tbsp sweet rice flour* (or whole wheat) + 3/4 cup water

2 pieces dried kelp seaweed*

2 cups Korean red pepper powder*

1-2 tbsp plum extract* (or applesauce) + 1/4 chopped apple




3 stalks long mustard greens* (or baby gai choi)

1-3 rehydrated dried red peppers* (added spice)

1-2 tbsp tiny salted shrimp* (gives nice flavor for meat-eaters)


*Items can be found at Kim's Mart on Broadway & Carolina and most likely at other Asian supermarkets (T&T, H Mart, Fujiya)


Day 1:

  1. Cut the cabbage into 4 long pieces. Layer cabbage in a container and spread salt between each layer. Sprinkle some water on top.

  2. Let it sit for 4-5 hours at room temperature. Come back every few hours to gently fold the cabbage so the salt is distributed evenly.


Day 2:

  1. Rinse the cabbage 4-5 times and let it drain thoroughly for 1-3 hours (too much water affects the taste).

  2. Meanwhile, peel and grate the carrot and radish. Roughly chop green onion, white onion and garlic.

  3. Begin kimchi paste by re-hydrating seaweed in simmering water for 5 minutes. Take seaweed out and let broth cool down. Whisk in flour and put back on stove until mixture thickens and boils. Let it cool again.

  4. In a food processor, blend the flour mixture, garlic, ginger, green onion, fish sauce, plum sauce, apple, mustard green, onion, red pepper powder and shrimp. Taste and adjust.

  5. Transfer to a bowl and mix in carrot, daikon and sesame seeds.

  6. Take the quartered cabbage and spread a heavy coat of paste in between each cabbage leaf (you can wear latex gloves to really get in there). Make sure it’s completely covered in paste. Wrap it in a closed bundle so the flavour stays inside.

  7. Stuff kimchi in clean glass or plastic containers, put the lid on and wipe clean.

  8. Let kimchi ferment at room temperature between 1-5 days and then transfer

     to fridge. Its flavour will deepen over time, so experiment and see if you notice

     a change every few weeks/months. Some Koreans even store it for up to a year!



Shortcuts & Tips:


  • If you shred the cabbage instead of cutting it into 4, it only needs to sit in salt for 2-3 hours, so you can make kimchi in one day. It’ll also ferment faster and is easier to eat if you want small amounts

  • If you can’t find dried seaweed kelp, just leave it out and make the glue with flour and water  

  • During summer, skip the room temperature fermentation and put the kimchi in the fridge right away

  • Host a kimchi making party so you’re not slaving away by yourself!



How to enjoy kimchi:


  • Eat with bibimbap: steamed rice, veggies, meat/tofu, soy sauce and fried egg

  • Chop and cook in fried rice with onion, meat/tofu, rice, olive oil

  • Serve alongside eggs, dumplings, noodles, stir frys

  • For the adventurous: in tacos, burgers, on pizza!

  • How did you eat your kimchi? Share with us!



Did you know:


  • Today there are around two hundred types of kimchi

  • Other kimchis besides cabbage are based around single ingredients like cucumber, radish, green onion, salty fish

  • Styles vary by regional tastes and the seasons

  • Many Koreans eat kimchi at every meal

  • Kimchi is said to be very healthy because of the lactic acid bacteria present from fermentation

  • It’s such a beloved national food that there’s a museum dedicated to kimchi in Seoul, Korea!

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