Not-Quite-Authentic Kimchi

March  8, 2018
2 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Makes About 3 quarts
Author Notes

I developed this recipe after I moved back home to Malaysia, where the nearest Korean grocery store is a 40-minute drive away from my house. Nearby restaurants are no good, either; their kimchi is missing that characteristic funk. So I made a version that used ingredients I could easily find at my local grocery store, and at most American grocery stores, as well. Is it authentic? Not exactly, but it stopped me from buying the store-bought stuff. The process still takes about 3 hours to make, and you have to wait 5 days (or longer) before you dig in, but make a bit batch like this and you'll see it's worth the effort.

And while you’re at it, since this is clearly unconventional, probably heretical, why not break a few more kimchi conventions along the way? Have it on toast with peanut butter—you won't regret it.

Want to hear more about Korean-American food? On our new podcast Counterjam—a show that explores culture through food and music—host Peter J. Kim talks instant ramyeun hacks, kimchi-jjigae, cheonggukjang, and more with chef Roy Choi and comedian Margaret Cho—check out the episode here. Jun

What You'll Need
  • 1 whole napa cabbage (2-3 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons glutinous/Thai rice flour (regular rice flour also works)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 cup chili flakes, or more depending on how spicy you want it
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 1 thumb-sized knob of ginger
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1.5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 a daikon radish
  • 3-5 scallions
  1. Slice the cabbage into quarters. (The best way to do this is to slice the cabbage from the base up to about halfway up, then pull each half apart gently from the bottom. Repeat to get quarters.) Wash the cabbage quarters with water, and salt them well, sprinkling salt between each layer. Place cabbage quarters in a deep bowl, and let them sit for at least 2 hours or overnight, flipping them halfway to get them evenly salted.
  2. By the end of the salting process, the salt will have drawn out some water from the cabbage, and the cabbage quarters should be slightly limp. Wash and rinse them thoroughly with water, and squeeze out the excess water. (At this point, you can check the salt level of the cabbage by tasting it. If it’s too salty, rinse it under cold water a couple more times.)
  3. Now for some veggie prep. Slice/julienne the carrot and radish into roughly 3-inch-long matchsticks. Slice the scallions to roughly the same length too.
  4. Finely mince the garlic, ginger, and onion. (Alternatively, blend them all in a food processor.)
  5. To make the spice paste, start by mixing the glutinous rice flour, brown sugar, and water in a small pot. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often. Leave the paste to cool. Strain the liquid if there are any large clumps of flour in the paste.
  6. Add the garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, and chili flakes to the paste. Mix well until. Then add the carrots, radishes and scallions and mix until well incorporated. (Add a touch of water if the mixture becomes too stiff to combine.)
  7. Now for the fun part! (If you don’t want your hands feeling all numb and tingly from the chili, you might want to wear gloves for this step!) Spread the kimchi paste onto each cabbage quarter, make sure to lift each leaf individually to get the paste in between each layer. (DO NOT rub your eyes.)
  8. Fold the cabbage quarters in half lengthwise, then store in an airtight mason jar/container. Leave in a cool, dark place to ferment for 3-7 days. (It gets funkier the longer you leave it out. I like it after about 5 days.)
  9. Give it a taste after the fermentation period. If it’s to your liking, transfer to an airtight container to keep in the refrigerator. If you like your kimchi extra funky, however, leave it out for a few more days before storing in the refrigerator. They keep anywhere from 3-6 months. (Though it’s not uncommon to keep kimchi for much longer.)

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8 Reviews

Monique May 2, 2020
This recipe was my first time making kimchi and I could get everything I needed from a local store - strongly recommend giving it a try!
J July 21, 2018
May I request for the original authentic Korean kimchi recipe with all the difficult ingredients? I was hoping I could give this a try.
mj March 16, 2018
Can I cut the cabbage into smaller pieces (a little larger than the carrot and radish) and just blend it all together and cram it into the jar? I feel like I wouldn't have the patience to smear it onto wedges.
Jun March 16, 2018
Hi mj! Yes that would certainly work. I generally don't pre-cut the cabbage just because I might use the same batch of kimchi for different purposes & different cuts might work better. And you also lose out on a bit of cathartic kimchi smearing though... :P But yes you can pre-cut the cabbage for sure!
Heather B. March 12, 2018
The recipe instructions mention brown sugar, but it's not on the ingredient list. How much should I use?
Jun March 13, 2018
Ahh so sorry, there should be 1.5 tablespoons in there. Thanks for catching it out! :)
nichol L. March 9, 2018
Could I use regular chili powder instead of the chili flakes? Would that be weird...?
Jun March 9, 2018
I'd use flakes over powder as the latter tends to be a little gritty when used raw, but then again, I'm all for experimenting! Let me know if you do try it out!