Kimchi is South Korea’s national dish; a Korean meal isn’t complete without this spicy, sour side. Although eaten across the country, the recipe is never the same, varying from region to region, neighborhood to neighborhood, family to family. Making kimchi is traditionally a family activity, carried out in autumn to preserve cabbages to eat throughout the winter. However nowadays this tradition is being lost and many young people don’t know how to make it, says Sinae Chang from the Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN) in Korea, who shares her family recipe with us…
4 heads Napa cabbage, outer leaves discarded and quartered lengthwise
2 kg salt
30 g sticky rice powder
200 g garlic, peeled and chopped
40 g ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 Asian pear, cored and chopped
300 ml fermented red shrimp sauce
200 ml fermented anchovy sauce
200 g small raw shrimp
2 tbsp sugar
1.4 kg radish, shredded into 2 mm sized pieces
400 g red chili powder
100 g leek, chopped in 4 cm long slices
200 g spring onion (chopped in 4 cm long slices)
200 g mustard leaves
1. Salt the cabbage
Dissolve the 1.5 kg salt in 15 l cold water, stirring until it dissolves. Soak the cabbage in the brine water for and drain, conserving the brine. Stack the cabbage in large bowls and sprinkle the remaining salt through the leaves and stems. Fill with bowls with brine water and weigh down the cabbage (e.g. with clean stones). Let it stand for 10 hours. Rinse the cabbage 3 times in running water and let it drain for 15 minutes.
3. Make the paste
In a pot, mix the sticky rice powder with 400 ml water and bring to a simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside. Blend the garlic, ginger, pear, red shrimp sauce, anchovy sauce, shrimp and sugar in a blender or food processor. Mix it with the cooled sticky rice paste.
3. Make the kimchi
Toss the radish with red chili powder. Mix the radish, leeks, spring onion and mustard leaves with the paste. With rubber gloves on, rub the mixture through the cabbage leaves, covering the whole leaf (using 1-2 tbsp of mixture per leaf). Pack the cabbage into a glass container and cover with two layers of plastic wrap. Let it stand at room temperature for 2-3 days. Uncover to release carbon dioxide and then recover with the plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for around 10 days.
The kimchi will keep, refrigerated, for at least 6 months, the flavor becoming sharper with time.