I had high hopes for the cabbages in my garden this year. They were lush and bright and growing rapidly, protected against wildlife by chicken wire and fish net, diligently watered, weeded and loved with my dream in mind: a large batch of my own kimchi made from seed to table.
Yet, despite my best efforts, I came out one evening to find my cabbages had sprouted flowers and had stalks shooting up from their centers, and so would certainly not become the tightly packed heads with which the best kimchi is made.
A few days later and with deep disappointment I skuttled under the fish net, gently pulled them from the earth, and stacked them in my son’s kiddie pool. I was then dismayed to find my efforts to prevent it had done nothing to stop the invasion of slugs now residing in my kimchi.
I contemplated offering the whole bunch to the compost, but the months of nurturing those green babes couldn’t be forgotten, so I dutifully searched through each head and found the leaves I could salvage to make my kimchi anyway.
The procedure for this quick kimchi is much less labor-intensive than the traditional whole head method, and takes less time to ferment, making it ideal for first-time kimchi-makers.
Just like with my radish kimchi, the Korean red pepper flakes should not be substituted. The specific variety of pepper has a distinct flavor that cannot be replicated.
Kimchi can be used in soups and stews, pancakes, fried rice, and, of course, as a side dish for rice or noodles. I love it straight from the jar.
1 head napa cabbage (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup shredded carrot
2 teaspoons sweet rice flour (or all-purpose)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup Korean red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 garlic cloves finely minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
¼ cup onion, finely minced
2 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Sanitize a 2-quart glass mason jar and lid.
Thoroughly wash the cabbages, cut into bite-sized pieces, and move to a very large mixing bowl.
Add ½ cup water and sprinkle the salt over the cabbage. Mix well to evenly salt the leaves.
Allow the cabbages to rest for 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes, making sure to wet all the leaves with each toss.
While the cabbage is salting, simmer ½ cup water and the rice flour in a small saucepan for 5 minutes, stirring often, until it thickens. Allow it to cool.
Add the red pepper powder and sugar and stir until smooth.
Add in the fish sauce, garlic, ginger, onion, green onion and carrot and toss until it forms a loose paste.
At the end of the 30 minutes, rinse the cabbage well in lots of very cold water and drain.
Use gloved hands to mix in the seasoning paste. Take your time and be thorough. Do not skip the gloves or your hands will burn for days.
Toss in the sesame seeds at the very end.
Transfer to your jar and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours to begin fermenting before moving into the refrigerator. Do not tighten the lid until the next day to prevent the buildup of gasses.
Enjoy for up to a month, but if you see mold, or if the kimchi smells rotten, it must be thrown out.