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Dec 14, 2006 11:14 PM

Seeking advice from anyone who;s ever actually made kim chee

I know how to make kim chee *in principle* and I've made it several times. But it never turns out nearly as good as commercial stuff, and I'd love to hear from anyone who's actually made more than 2 or 3 batches.

Part of the problem is that virtually every recipe I've seen for kim chee in any cookbook omits something important.

For example, it looks to me like it's important to put it into a jar when it's still fermenting. But no recipe I've seen mentions this. Am I guessing correctly that this is an important step?


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  1. I'm not sure what your recipe is, so if you want to post it I could probably comment more accurately. But, true kimchee does NOT have vinegar. Quick style kimchee is made this way but the fermentation traditionally doesn't happen with vinegar. Also, usually there is some form of small brined shrimp that is added. I remember my mother even chopping up octopus and adding it to batches. As with so many things, the quality of the ingredients will effect your final batch. My mother would never buy napa cabbage at certain times of the year because it was not the right season for the cabbage. Those were the times she would make turnip kimchee and in the summer a lot of cucumber kimchee.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bostonfoodie111

      Did the op say he was using vinegar? I didn't see that.

      1. re: bostonfoodie111

        Only a barbarian would add vinegar to kimchee! Key ideas for me: degorge the nappa, use Korean red pepper, add some sort of dried fish, ferment in the absence of air.

      2. You need to find yourself a Korean female. The making of kimchee is one of those skills that needs to be learned at your mother's knee (an experienced stand-in will do). The tricky part for me was knowing how much salt to add, and when the salting process was done. You really need someone who knows what's what to show you what the veg looks like/feels like when it's ready. Once you know. it's easy. The actual seasoning is a matter of personal taste and varies a lot.

        4 Replies
        1. re: pikawicca

          What if I find a Korean female and ask her to make it for me? I'd only eat about 2 gallons a week! People hate to eat with me at Korean bbq places because I try to hog all the kimchee and MOST of the other, is it pan chan?, dishes, too.

          1. re: oakjoan

            yes it is called pan chan or ban chan. I hope you ask for more kimchi when you've eaten it all, because it's free

          2. re: pikawicca

            I suspect you are right re a Korean female, and in fact I often comment about my kim chee that "it's not what mamasan used to make!"--and I'm not Korean!

            1. re: Howard_2

              I don't know what "mamasan" means, but "san" as an ending is very Japanese, and could be offensive to many Koreans, so I would avoid saying that. Just a friendly tip. The word for mother in Korean is "uh-mma."

          3. There are so many slightly different styles of "basic" bok choy kimchi alone - don't get stuck on "which one is real."

            Then there are other kimchees - I had incredible luck with cucumber kimchi last week (ferments in a day or less, doesn't keep well):

            3 cucumbers (oh-ee) (pickling variety if you can get them)
            2 stalks green onion
            1/2 onion
            1 jalapeno
            1 tablespoon gochujang (red pepper paste)
            1 tsp minced garlic
            2 teaspoons vinegar
            2 teaspoons sugar

            Slice cucumbers in half and then into thick slices. Cut green onions into 2 inch pieces. Slice jalapeno. Quarter onion and then slice. Put all veggies in a bowl, add the spices, and mix. I use a disposable plastic glove like the one pictured above to mix everything together. Taste and if it needs salt, add to taste. If you like it sweeter, feel free to add more sugar. Serve chilled.

            5 Replies
            1. re: wayne keyser

              Kimchi is usually made with Napa Cabbage not Bok Choi, although Bok Choi kimchi sounds like it might be interesting.

              1. re: Humbucker

                I thought kimchi was made with just about any vegetable you could think of. The Korean market I go to in New Malden (London) sells bok choi, Napa cabbage, cucumber, radish, and loads of other kinds of kimchi! Cabbage is the most common, though.

                1. re: Kagey

                  Kimchi is really any fermented veggie. It doesn't even need to be spicy.

                  1. re: Kagey

                    Kimchi applies to a wide range of fermented vegetables, but traditionally, bok choy is not one of them. Far be it from me, though to prevent the creation of new traditions in food. Where would we be if Italians had refused to use the strange tomato from the New World?

                    1. re: AppleSister

                      I was actually going to try making kimchi with roasted napa cabbage. I'm curious to see how that would turn out.

              2. Two vital things to check:

                Are you using Korean chile powder?
                Are you using kosher salt during the salting step?
                Are you using enough garlic and ginger?

                Protein is not necessary. I hate shrimp and/or other slimy seafood in my kimchi.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Shazam

                  seriously? I love adding salty seafood to the adds a special taste to it. Plus it makes it taste better as it gets ripe and stinky.

                  Kimchi after a few months = heaven

                  1. re: Shazam

                    Yes re kosher salt and Korean red pepper and garlic; have not yet used ginger in kim chee.

                    One of the things that intrigues me is that all commercial kim chee that I buy, seems to be under some pressure in the jar. I'm wondering how important that is.

                    1. re: Howard_2

                      Well kimchi is a fermented product, so there is some gas expulsion going on. I've heard that some of the more vigorously fermented kimchi can blow the cap right off the jar if you're not careful.

                      1. re: Howard_2

                        You should definitely add ginger. It adds a certain bite that when missing makes the kimchi rather flat.

                        Ideally, the garlic and ginger should be ground into a paste using a mortar and pestle or a blender. The finer the better.

                        1. re: Howard_2

                          Homemade kimchi is under pressure because the fermentation process produces gas. My mom would put our jars of kimchi in buckets because sometimes the juices would be forced out of the jars by the gas. If you like kimchi that's more sour, the pressure is a good sign that it's ready to eat.

                        2. re: Shazam

                          I hate the slimy stuff too (esp. oysters) but there should at least be some ground up for flavoring, no?

                        3. wait a minute, whats the recipe? what ingredients have you bought?

                          you know how time consuming this is right? you can't just make it in a day. I mean you have to salt the stuff overnight. Which reminds me, are you making your basic baechu kimchi - cabbage kimchi? What sort of protein are you throwing in there to ferment it? Oysters? Shrimp? Squid? Octopus?

                          I have never made kimchi, but I understand the basics of it

                          When I go home for christmas (next week), I am going to ask my mother to teach me how to make kimchi. I hate to say it, but everytime she makes it I get bored and impatient. I also hate waiting for it to ferment.

                          Nothing is worse then waiting for chong gak kimchi (radish) to ferment. That stuff takes FOREVER...and it is my favorite

                          jeesh, sorry if I sound bitchy. i really didn't mean to come off that way (: I just get excited about korean food

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: bitsubeats

                            Whoa, you don't need to salt overnight. For napa cabbage kimchi, a salt time of three-four hours is more than sufficient. Any longer and the kimchi will be far too salty, even with repeated washing.

                            1. re: Shazam

                              really? thats what my mother does.

                              maybe she doesn't use as much salt? who knows...

                              I just found a few kimchi recipes. One said to salt it for 6 hours, another 8 hours, and the last one said 5 DAYS...holy crap

                              maybe its because she uses rock salt and not kosher

                              1. re: bitsubeats

                                She probably uses less salt. I salt the hell out of my kimchi - I really like it salty :)

                                It's certainly not necessary to salt overnight though. My conventional kimchi recipe is great, and I only salt for about 3-4 hours.

                            2. re: bitsubeats

                              Since kim chee is a biological product, TIME is a key element! I didn't think you sounded bitchy.