Traditional Tongbaechu Kimchi

A traditional kimchi recipe that is spicy and full of flavour.

This recipe may seem a little overwhelming and difficult at first, but if you look through the steps you will see that it’s actually very easy.

The hardest thing will be finding a good Korean grocer that stocks the saeujeot (fermented salted shrimp), found in the fridges, and the gochugaru (hot pepper flakes). These two items are key ingredients, so try to hunt them down!

Makes approx. 2.5-3kg of kimchi.

1.75-2kg Napa or Wombok Cabbage (1 or 2 cabbages depending on size)
1/3 cup Salt
1 1/4 cups water
1 tbsp sweet rice flour (glutinous rice flour)
1 tbsp brown sugar
16 garlic cloves, minced (or 8 tsp minced garlic in jar)
1 1/2 tsp minced ginger
1 small onion, minced
1/3 cup Fish Sauce
2 tbsp fermented salted shrimp (saeujeot), chopped
1 tsp of the salty brine from the jar of the fermented salted shrimp
1 1/4 cups hot pepper flakes (gochugaru – make sure it is labeled as 태양초 on the packaging)
1 cups radish matchsticks
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
4 spring onions, sliced into 3cm pieces

Trim the cabbage core if necessary. Split the cabbage in half by cutting a short slit in the base of the cabbage, then gently pull the halves apart until the cabbage splits in two – you want the leaves to be still attached to the core.

Cut a slit in the core of each half of the cabbage, but don’t split the halves as before. If you’re working with one large cabbage, you may need to split the halves into quarters if the leaves are compacted tightly.

Dunk the halves in a large basin of water to get them wet, then place in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the salt between the leaves by lifting up every leaf to make sure each leaf is coated with salt. Try to use more salt closer to the core, where the leaves are thicker.

Let the cabbage rest for at least 2 hours. Turn over every 30 minutes, so they get well salted. From time to time you can ladle some of the salty water from the bottom of the bowl over top of the cabbage.

While the cabbage is resting, combine the water and the sweet rice flour in a small saucepan. Mix well with a wooden spoon, then place over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until it starts to bubble.

Add the sugar to the saucepan and cook for another minute, stirring. Remove from the heat and let it cool completely.

To make the kimchi paste: Once cooled, pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, fermented salted shrimp, brine and hot pepper flakes. Mix well with the wooden spoon until the mixture turns into a thin paste. If you think the paste is too thick add a little water to thin it down.

Add the radish, carrot and spring onion and mix well.

To prepare your storage container, just wash it with hot soapy water and give it a good rinse and drain.

After the 2 hours of salting time, wash the cabbage a few times under cold running water, to remove the salt and any dirt. Split the halves into quarters, by gently pulling apart along the slits you cut earlier. Cut the core from each quarter and dispose – keeping the leaves together if they are not still joined to part of the remaining core. If you’re using a large cabbage, gently slice each quarter in half again lengthways – each section should be about an inch wide at it’s widest point.

Spread the kimchi paste over each cabbage leaf. As each section of cabbage is completely covered with paste, wrap it around itself and put into your jar, plastic container, or onggi. Once all of the cabbage is in the container, press it down firmly then pour any of the remaining kimchi paste over the cabbage and put the lid on the container.

The kimchi can be eaten immediately, but is best let sit for at least a few days or more to ferment.

The Fermentation:
The kimchi will start fermenting after a day or two at room temperature, depending of course on the temperature and humidity of your room. Once the kimchi starts to ferment it will start to smell and taste sour. If you press on the kimchi with a spoon, bubbles will release from the bottom.

Once the kimchi has started to ferment, move it to the refrigerator to use as needed. Storing the kimchi in the refrigerator will slow down the fermentation process, which will make the kimchi more and more sour as time goes on.

Cut off the cores, and put them in a strainer over a basin so they can drain well.