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May 24, 2010 11:55 AM

Kimchee Question

Hey all,

I joined this place just to ask this question. Can you ever have too much of something in kimchee?

I made my first batch of kimchee saturday night. It has yet to buble.

My ingredients:
1 head of nappa cabage, salted for 2-3 hrs ahead of time.
2 cups, or so of cayenne peper powder.
1/2 cup of fish sauce.
Six green onion cut up.
Lots of garlic.
A chunk of ginger
1/2 cup of salt.

I have everything mixed, and sitting in a plastic container on the kitchen counter. I checked it earlier for the first time, and it looks a little liquidy. I also have not see any bubbles. My container is pretty tight. I tried to get the best container possible without access to a jar, or walmart.

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  1. Oh AnimalFarm2006, I truly hope you mistyped your recipe.

    If you really used TWO CUPS of cayenne powder to one head of cabbage, your kimchi will be not only absolutely inedible -- it is literally a hazardous material at this point. If most people were to take a big bite of that, it would send them to the hospital.

    If that's what you've made, you absolutely must throw it away where nobody will eat it. I would almost guarantee that much capsaicin is also what's inhibiting the fermentation.

    3 Replies
    1. re: dmd_kc

      Well, AnimalFarm2006, did say "or so"? :-)

      1. re: ipsedixit

        Ha, that's a wide "or so" range, but true!

        Seriously, Korean chili powder is moderately spicy, at most like a jalapeno/chipotle. It's worlds milder than cayenne.

      2. re: dmd_kc

        I have to (reluctantly) admit that even I think that 2 cups of cayenne sounds like a lot. Two tablespoons of (preferably Korean type) chili powder sounds like a good starting point for anyone who likes "heat". Most recipes I've seen that don't use Korean chili powder usually call for about 3-4 red chilies for good heat.

        That said, I think it's the amount of salt that is the biggest problem. A half a cup (even if it's coarse) is what's causing it not to ferment. According to my sources, vegetables ferment best in a saline solution of about 3.6%. That's about 2TBS of (coarse or sea) salt per quart of water. Since (I believe) one head of cabbage will produce about 1 QT. of kimchi, after the initial salting (and rinsing) of the leaves, not much more than that should be needed in the "paste".

        Finally, as long as I'm here, I might add that even if you adjust quantities, you don't want to use table salt with iodine. Nor do you want to use water with chlorine. - Both will inhibit fermentation.

      3. First off - I'm no kimchi expert, having only started making kimchi in the last year or so. You and others can take what i say with a grain of salt.

        The 2 cups of cayenne does seem like overkill to me. I've previously used about 1/2 cup of various powdered chilis with good effect. But I've seen kimchi recipes calling for fairly large amounts of habanero peppers, and they reputedly work just fine, so I doubt that it's actually just too much capsaicin that is causing your problems.

        When I've made kimchi (based mostly off of improvised variations off the momofuku recipe), I've put it in the fridge afterwards. I read somewhere (sorry, no idea where) that cooler temperatures promote the type of microbes you want acting in kimchi. I don't know if that would be a deal breaker. Or how warm your kitchen counter is. I know I've had good results in the fridge.

        Also, I typically use less salt - just a couple tablespoons beyond the salt content from fish sauce (or fish sauce + soy sauce). That could be your problem. Maybe.

        Finally, my kimchi often takes up to a week to actually start bubbling - producing CO2. Whether this is the result of my recipe or of refrigeration, or normal for kimchi, I don't know. However, it tastes notably more palatable, bubbles or no, after only a day or two, so some microbe action must be taking place.

        5 Replies
        1. re: cowboyardee

          I am still new to Korean cooking in general, and kimchee in particular..... why does it have to start bubbling?

          We had a wonderful meal of Korean BBQ two weekends ago for a special family occasion and every single one of us (ages 6 through 75) went absolutely BONKERS for the kimchee pancake. It was freakin' unbelievable. Any idea how they make that? My DH would be forever grateful not to have to drive me to downtown LA every time we crave it!!!

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Aaaaah, yes of course. I should have known, since I was my DH's assistant in his Home Brew days!!

              PS - Do you know how Park's makes their kimchee pancake? I was afraid to ask, since I had a hard time understanding the waitress at times....(typical gringa that I am!)

              1. re: Phurstluv

                hannaone's recipe looks good to me. It's similar to one I've made with great success (but without the pork):


        2. I've been making kimchi since I was a wee babe, and never heard of adding cayenne pepper to it. Also, I keep it in the fridge, and it takes about 3 days to begin bubbling.

          1. You need more time to get it going, but next time you want to try a great kimchee recipe, let me steer you to the best kimchee recipe that is so authentic and good. This is the closests one that I used to get at a favorite Chinese restaurant (yes Chinese. I love this stuff. It turns out just the way I want everytime, the asian pear is a nice addition, which I hadn't seen in other recipes. Here is the link to a very respected chowhound member's recipe.
            Hannaone's recipe, and it's one of many, many wonderful recipes he has so graciously gifted us with. Trust him.

            By the way you should be making this in a glass jar or sealed pottery piece.


            Pardon this whimpy looking kimchee, it is is my very first batch that I made a few years ago.Clearly its not nearly red enough, and another ill move was that I didn't add the shrimp paste because I was afraid I'd get food poisoning. It was mid July and the temperature in triple digits, andI if I remember right after a few days in I added fish sauce.

            All in all it still tasted good, and since this first batch I've gotten more comfortable with making it. I admit at first, I was a little squeamish about the fermenting process, but after sharing my fears with hannaone, he assured me it was ok, and so I processed the rest in the fridge, and it just took a little longer. But even so, each day that it was in the fridge it still was fermenting and getting better and better.


            1. Neither fish sauce nor shrimp paste are absolutely necessary.

              Korean ground chilis are available at any decent asian market.

              That's waaaaay too much cayenne, if that's what it really was. Also, waaay too much salt.