Updated: Vegan Kimchi Recipe!
Welcome to the Vegan 8 Korean! What better way to start off our blog than with kimchi? If you’re going to eat Korean food, you’ve got to get into kimchi. Koreans eat it with everything, and not only is it yummy, it’s very good for you. Filled with anti-oxidants, Koreans are very proud of their kimchi and tout it for its health benefits.
In order to launch our blog in style, (and at the determined insistence of Sunnie’s parents who firmly argued that it would not taste as good without it) we decided to go out all and purchased a traditional pot to ferment the kimchi in, which Pinch (the tabby) and Puck were highly interested in.
A good reason for vegans to make their own kimchi is that most kimchi has tiny brine shrimp ground up in it, making it non-vegan. There are some vegan kimchi’s available in the grocery stores around here, but they tend to be smaller jars and more expensive. Ultimately, the best argument is that if you make it yourself, you know exactly what is in it!
There are actually many types of kimchi but we’re going with what most people would think of if you mention kimchi, (napa cabbage) baechu kimchi. We bought 4 heads of cabbage, which our third and newest kitty, Mia, felt compelled to check out. She seems quite fond of many veggies but decided to leave these alone.
The basic process here is soak the cabbage in salt water (we cut ours up first but typically the cabbage is only sliced in quarters and cut up only when you are ready to eat it). You then create a paste of garlic, green onions, red pepper powder, ginger. Kimchi making is something of an organic process, meaning you may like more or less salt or pepper powder, for example. Give it a taste as you and adjust as necessary. Also note that the more you rinse the cabbage after salting it, the less salty the resulting kimchi will be (to a degree). Finally, one final wisdom that everyone shares is that, if you make your cabbage in warm temperature, it will not be very good. Always be sure to make it in a cool temperature.
When buying your cabbage, you’ll likely fill a 1 gallon jar with 2 – 2 1/2 heads of cabbage. We made double that since we were filling the clay pot, but the recipe here will be to fill a typical 1 gallon jar.
Classic Vegan Baechu Kimchi Recipe (Makes 1 gallon jar)
3-4 heads of large napa cabbage (more if smaller)
1 & 1/2 cups of coarse salt (approximately, from an Asian grocery store)
Sauce Ingredients: (Feel free to use more or less of any of these ingredients to your liking!)
2 big daikon/moo – Korean radish (cut into matchsticks)
5 large bulbs of garlic
3/4 cup of red pepper powder (kochukaru)
1 small knob of ginger
3-4 diagonally chopped large green onions (or 4-5 bunches of small green onions)
1/2 cup of glutinous rice water (2 tablespoon of glutinous rice powder with 1/2 cup of water)
1 Tbs or more of kelp powder
2 cups of Asian pear or apple ground
- Wash the cabbage and cut in quarters lengthwise. If desired, cut into smaller chunks (appropriate size to grab with your chopsticks). Put cabbage in a very large bowl and mix with 1 & 1/2cup or more of salt thoroughly and let it sit for around one hour or so until you see the cabbage wilted. It should be wilted but still fresh – or it will be too salty.
- Dice (we use our food processor) the garlic, ginger and fruit and then matchsick the daikon. Mix all the sauce ingredients. It shouldn’t be too dry. If too dry, add a bit of water.
- Mix it well with hand. It should get If you don’t use gloves, you’re going to feel a serious tingle from the pepper powder and be sure to keep those fingers away from your eyes and nose! Taste it and add salt or other ingredients so it tastes good to your palate, it should be salty and spicy enough for you to think it’s tasty. Let it sit and then some water will be coming out from the Korean radish. At the end, the sauce consistency should be a paste with a underlying liquidy sauce.
- If the salted cabbage is slightly wilted, take the cabbage and taste it. If it’s not too salty you do not need to rinse it and you can even keep the salted water to add it to your kimchi sauce. The salted water can seriously make the kimchi yummy. However, if the cabbage is too salty, you need to wash it. The more times you rinse it, the less salty the taste will be. Taste a leaf from each quarter. It should be salted enough, but not too salty. Here the wisdom and experience of kimchi making comes in – the newbies are never as good as the old ladies who have been making kimchi forever. SO – obviously, the more salt you add when soaking will also impact how salty the kimchi is as well as the length of time you need to soak it, so you can add more or less based on your taste and time availability. If it’s too salty and you washed your cabbage, make sure to squeeze out the water very well – you might want to let it drain overnight like many Koreans do.
- Use your hands to mix the paste in very well with the cabbage. Get to every little section/piece of cabbage! The more paste to cabbage, the spicier/stronger flavor your kimchi will be.
- Place your kimchi into your jar and fill close to the top. Really push in the kimchi so it doesn’t have any space in between. You should have the water come up at least up to the middle.
As we have a number of raccoons in the neighborhood, we thought we’d go with an extra layer of protection on the off chance that they might be Korean raccoons, so we added a flower pot to keep them from pulling the lid off.
We also filled a jar, which we’ll eat while the kimchi in the pot ferments outside. You can leave the jar out for around 40 hours if you like or put it right into the fridge. Many Koreans buy these super-fancy kimchi refrigerators that will replicate the outdoor fermentation process by keeping the kimchi at the right temperature.
If you’re using a pot like we did, bury it in the ground but not all the way to the top. You want room to be able to get kimchi out without dirt falling in. You can also eat the kimchi right away, but it will continue to ferment becoming more bitter the longer it sits. Older Koreans tend to like really bitter kimchi. And bitter kimchi tends to be better for use in kimchi jigae (stew) and other cooked kimchi dishes as it makes them more tangy. Do note that if you are making kimchi with a pot, this is to be done in LATE FALL, when the weather is done being hot. You then can eat the kimchi out of the pot until the weather warms.
I’m not going to kid you, making kimchi is hard work. In Korea, they often set aside an entire day where the whole family helps out in making huge amounts of kimchi to last for most of the year. But, it’s rewarding and nothing is more important in Korean cuisine than your kimchi. So if you make it yourself, you can get some serious bragging rights. Plus, it’s going to be way more cost effective than the tiny jars of vegan kimchi that are often the only vegan options in the grocery stores (at least around here). So give it a try and make your own kimchi!
Aja! Aja! (Fighting!)