Right before I left for college. My Korean mother ushered me into the kitchen to learn first hand how to make kimchi. Looking back, i'm always so touched by mother's gesture. Don't get me wrong, kimchi is by far one of my favorite side dishes. But being this was my first time away from home, it wasn't the first thing on my mind. But, at the time my Mom wanted to prepare me with a traditional dish that she knew would instantly comfort me. You see, I wasn't going to college a few hours away, or even half way across the country! I was going across the globe back to America where I had never really lived at past the age of 3!
As she took me through the process of soaking the bae-chu (Korean Napa Cabbage), she reminded me that as long as I had rice and kimchi I would always have a meal. I remember rolling my eyes thinking where in the world am I going to find time and space to actually make kimchi in my dorm room and store it? And seriously, what if people freak out about the smell? My mom broke this recipe down and modified it for me to fit into my restrictions. She took into consideration that I probably couldn't find all of the ingredients and wasn't going to bury it in the ground to ferment.
Once I stepped off of the plane from Seoul, Korea and into the great state of TX to attend Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, I was slapped in the face with the reality of just how far away I was from home. Sure, for the first few weeks I was LOVING eating at Chinese Buffets, Golden Corral, Bill Miller's BBQ , Acalpulcos and of course...Whataburger. But let's be real, I was a jobless 17 year old enrolled in school, I needed to be mindful of how I spent my money. And after the newness of the fast food joints rubbed off, the craving for fresh kimchi hit me like a ton of bricks. And just like that I went to the grocery store and searched high and low for all of the ingredients I needed. I'll be the first to admit that it wasn't easy finding bae-chu at HEB, I struck out multiple times and eventually found an alternative. The most difficult item aside from the cabbage to find was the Gochu-garro (Korean crushed red peppers), which thankfully my mother sent me along with fish sauce in my first care package. Before the end of the first semester I made my first batch of kimchi and haven't stopped since.
- 1 head of Napa style cabbage (image here)
- 1/2 lb of chives
- 10-12 garlic cloves
- 3-5 Tbsp Fish Sauce
- 2-3 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
- 1/2 Cup of Korean crushed red pepper
- 1 Tbsp Minced Ginger
- Green Onions
- 1 Jalapeno
- 1/2-1 Cup of Course Sea Salt
What you will need: Any air tight tupperware or mason jar, large mixing bowl, strainer, plastic wrap and plastic gloves
Prep Time: 24 hours (to account for soaking cabbage)
Let's. Do. This.
- The first thing that you will need to do is rinse the cabbage and let it soak in water with salt overnight. I like to slice the cabbage in half lengthwise and rinse but keep everything intact. I then go leaf by leaf and season it with salt It's going to soak overnight in the water so a lot of the salt will wash off of the leaves and into the water. I wouldn't recommend using traditional table salt, if you can get your hands on korean sea salt it tends to be bigger and chunkier so a little goes a long way.
- Once you finish seasoning the cabbage cover it with plastic wrap and set aside in a cool dark space for about 12 hours. I have gone longer but my mom cuts her soaking time much shorter (like 4-6 hours).
- When you are finished with the soaking process, take out the cabbage heads and slice them width wise and place into a strainer.
- Using a cutting board, chop up the garlic, chives and green onions. For the green onions and chives I tend to keep these about about an 1 inch long. Place all of the chopped ingredients along with the minced ginger, chopped jalapeno and crushed red pepper into the mixing bowl. Using the plastic glove, add in the rice vinegar, fish sauce and mix until you get a pasty mixture.
- If the mixture feels to thick, you can add a bit of water but small amounts at a time because the cabbage retains a lot of moisture so when you start to add that into the mix it will break the paste down.
- Which brings us to the next step, start to add in the cabbage from the strainer 1-2 handfuls at a time. As the paste spreads you can add more. Feel free to take samples each batch so you can monitor the flavors. I tend to add in dashes of fish sauce if I need salt and I keep a small pinch of sugar nearby just to offset any imbalances. Continue to repeat the process until you make your way through the cabbage.
- Once everything is marinated and to your liking, place into the air tight container. I like to place into the fridge immediately because I like fresh kimchi but if you sour is more your speed, leave it out in a cool dark place overnight and then place into the fridge.