It’s been many years since I’ve made kimchi at home. In fact, the last time I made it was during the research on my “pickle book” (Pickled: Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions) published in 2003. I don’t eat kimchi every day but I sometimes crave it, especially in the winter months. A few weeks ago I was inspired to make a batch of kimchi from produce in my Sol to Seed Farm CSA share. I thumbed through the pages of my own worn copy of Pickled to find the recipe for Bae Chu Kimchi (Napa Cabbage Kimchi). This recipe was given to me by Young Choi, who was owner of the now closed Woo Lae Oak restaurant in New York’s Soho neighborhood. They went through a lot of kimchi at the restaurant and this recipe is unlike other kimchi recipes that call for salted shrimp or anchovies. This recipe gets its umami flavor from beef stock. This is my favorite kimchi hands down. After jotting down my shopping list, I headed off to H Mart to gather the remaining ingredients.
The result is delicious! I’ll have to make this one again.
Here I have modified the original Woo Lae Oak recipe and added much more detail about the fermentation process.
- 3 heads Napa Cabbage, about 6 lbs. washed and drained
- 2 cups coarse salt (Kosher or sea salt)
- 1 medium Daikon radish, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
- 5-10 sprigs Korean watercress (tastes very much like parsley)
- 1″ piece ginger, peeled finely chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and root tip removed
- 1/2 cup Korean chile powder (I used Wang brand fine powder, not coarse)
- 1/2 cup beef stock, preferably homemade (fat skimmed completely)
- 1/2 cup Chinese or Korean chives, thinly sliced diagonally (scallions will also work)
From the root end, cut each cabbage in half lengthwise and place on a large baking sheet. Using your hands, work salt in between the leaves down to the root. Put cabbages into a large bowl and let sit, turning occasionally, until softened, 4 hours. Rinse cabbages and squeeze to extract excess water; set aside to continue draining.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine remaining ingredients to make the kimchi seasoning paste. Stir in fresh chopped chives for color and texture. Use your fingers to work the paste mixture between the leaves, starting with the innermost leaves and working outward. Repeat with remaining cabbage halves, reserving a handful of the filling. Transfer seasoned cabbages to a clean 6-qt. glass jar, adding some of the remaining seasoning paste and pressing down to compact the cabbages. Rub any remaining paste over the top of the packed cabbages and cover jar with 2 layers of plastic wrap and secure. Let the kimchi sit at room temperature to ferment for 4 days, but not in direct sunlight. A dark corner of a basement works perfectly. It will start to smell pungent by the second and third day. Don’t worry! This is completely normal.
Uncover the jar to release any gasses that have built up. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4-6 more days to let the flavors develop. Refrigerated, this kimchi will keep for at least 6 months (though the cabbages will become soft- which I do not care for). To serve, remove desired amount of cabbage and snip leaves into bit sized pieces.
I actually made three different types of kimchi: bae chu kimchi (Napa cabbage), a twisted variation of kak ku di kimchi (1/2 daikon radish 1/2 kohlrabi), and a shredded vegetable kimchi made with carrot, green cabbage and daikon. I made sure the recipes were safe and tasty before posting this blog entry. Again, most of the vegetables are from my CSA share. Fresh ingredients make the best kimchi.