Cooking Traditional Korean Food with Seyoung Park: Dish #1
How to Make Vegan Kimchi

Napa cabbage kimchi sits on a small side dish plate. Photo by Korea.net/ Korean Culture and Information Service.

In this series, Home: Soil, Soul, Society’s Seyoung Park will share recipes and instructions for cooking traditional Korean dishes. The goal is to guide and educate blog readers, cooking enthusiasts, and anyone at home trying to make a particular Korean dish. Park is a longtime culinarian and the operator of the Mokpo restaurant Home: Soil, Soul, Society. One of her goals is to spread food culture to foreigners who might be unfamiliar with traditional Korean cuisine. Many of her recipes blend traditional Korean influences with vegan and organic-centered food philosophy. Because of her influences, Park has a unique take on each of these dishes, and she has decided to share the way she cooks them with the public. The first dish Park will teach in this series is kimchi.

 

Kimchi is a national side dish in Korea. It has been a staple of Korean cuisine since the beginning of the first millennium, according to some sources. It is a salted and fermented vegetable dish that has various ingredients. Traditionally, it is made of napa cabbage or Korean radish. Other ingredients that are included in contemporary kimchi are chili peppers, ginger, garlic, spring onions, and salted seafood. In the past, it was stored in big earthenware pots called onggi, and was stored in the ground in winter to prevent freezing and was kept cool in the summer. Kimchi is often served as a side dish, but is also used in a variety of dishes. Kimchi stew, kimchi pancakes, and kimchi fried rice are amongst the most popular ones that use kimchi as a main ingredient. 

 

Before getting to the recipe and instructions, Park recommends to start eating the kimchi right away upon completion of the dish. In her experience, some people want to avoid a sour taste. So, the kimchi can be served immediately and it will be fresh-tasting. Kimchi lovers who like their kimchi sour can just keep their kimchi refrigerated. The kimchi will ferment day by day, so it will take time for the kimchi to taste sour. The serving size for the recipe listed below is for six people. It can be adjusted accordingly, based on how many people are to be served. 

 

Recipe 

 

TOTAL TIME

About half a day 

Servings 6 

Does it keep? 1-2 weeks for a fresh taste / 3 weeks for a sour taste

 

Ingredients

 

CABBAGE

* 0.4 head napa cabbage (outermost leaves removed-well rinsed)

* 0.4 Tbsp sea salt (plus more as needed)

 

CHILI SAUCE

* 0.8 Tbsp Soy sauce 

* 0.8 Tbsp Plum juice (plus more to taste)

* 24 ml  Vinegar 

* 24 ml warm water

* 1.2 Tbsp fresh ginger (peeled and chopped)

* 0.4 head garlic (1 head yields-1/3 cup cloves)

* 0.4 small white onion (or sub 1/2 large per 1 small)

* 1 big size of boiled potato (smash it*)  

* 48 g (or more) Korean red chili flake

 

Add more if you want 

* 0.8 whole carrots (finely chopped or grated into matchsticks)

* 2.4 green onions (roughly chopped)

 

Instructions

* Make sure that you are using clean surfaces and utensils. Wash your hands throughout the process of preparing your kimchi in order to prevent the introduction of bad bacteria and disruption of the fermentation process. 

* Start by quartering your well-rinsed and dried cabbage (savoy or napa) and carefully remove the bottom core (hard white section) with a sharp knife. Discard.

* Next, place your cabbage in a large mixing bowl and begin packing a generous amount of sea salt in between each of the leaves. Do so by lifting each individual leaf and sprinkling with sea salt. Repeat until all leaves have been salted. Then press down and let rest for 30 minutes. This softens and breaks down the cabbage, drawing out moisture, priming it to be coated in the sauce.

* While your cabbage rests, prepare your vegan fish sauce by adding all ingredients to a small mixing bowl and whisking to combine. Set aside.

* Next, prepare your chili sauce by adding fresh ginger, garlic, onion and red chili flake to a food processor or blender. I started with 1/2 cup chili flake. Taste and adjust the flavor as needed.

* Add sauce and smashed potato to this mixture and pulse to combine. Set aside.

* At this time, your cabbage should be ready to flip. Wash your hands and turn each section of cabbage over so it’s facing the opposite direction. Then pack down with the hands to compress it. You’ll repeat this process 3 more times (for a total of 4 times), waiting 30 minutes in between, and washing your hands before touching the cabbage.

* In the meantime, add your chopped carrots and green onion (optional) to a medium mixing bowl, along with the sauce. Stir to combine, then cover and set aside.

* While waiting, this is a good time to sterilize your storage containers. Bring a pot of water to a boil and place it in your containers, in a clean sink and pour the boiling water over the top (I used 1 large mason jar, and 1 small glass container; adjust if altering the batch size). Let the containers cool slightly, then dry with a clean towel and set aside.

* Once you have flipped your cabbage 4 times (it should be tender and shrunken down quite a bit), it’s time to rinse. Run very cold water, and rinse each section of the cabbage to remove excess salt, then place it on 2-3 absorbent clean towels and pat it dry. Also, separate the cabbage leaves at this time, so they’re easier to work with.

* Rinse and dry the mixing bowl the cabbage was in, then return the dried cabbage to the bowl. Get your sauce with carrots and green onions and begin coating each leaf with the sauce. If you have gloves (disposable or rubber), use them at this time as the sauce can irritate sensitive hands (I didn’t, but thought it was worth mentioning).

* Be generous when coating, but also keep in mind you need enough sauce to coat all of the cabbage. Once the cabbage is thoroughly coated with sauce, wash your hands and get your sterilized storage container(s).

* With clean hands, begin placing the coated cabbage leaves in the container, packing them down to ensure there is as little air as possible between leaves. Continue until all the cabbage is packed in, then press down very firmly to remove air. Top it with a clean, sterilized lid, and set it in a cool dark place (such as a cabinet, not the refrigerator) to ferment.

* Kimchi will keep in the refrigerator for a long time (it depends on the condition of the refrigerator). You’ll know it’s gone bad if mold has formed or the smell is sour or unpleasant.

 

The kimchi is now ready to be served or used in a dish. Enjoy!

 

The recipe and instructions in this article were created by Seyoung Park. Seyoung Park can be found on Instagram and Facebook. Her restaurant Home: Soil, Soul, Society is also open to visitors.