Welcome: 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).
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)
2 – 3 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!)
1 – 2 large bulbs of garlic
1 cup of red pepper powder (kochukaru)
1 small knob of ginger
3-4 chopped large green onions (or 3-4 bunches of small green onions)
1-2 medium Korean radish (cut into matchsticks)
1/2 cup of glutinous rice water (2 tablespoon of glutinous rice powder with 1/2 cup of water)
1/2 Tbs or more of kelp powder
1/2 Tbs of vegan mushroom oyster sauce (optional, we use the Wan Ja Shan brand, it can enhance the flavor, but you really do not want to use too much of this, as it will ruin the kimchi)
1 cup of Asian pear ground (optional)
3 Tbs of Sugar (optional, I like to use a bit to soften the flavor)
- 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 longer until you see the cabbage wilted.
- Dice (we use our food processor) the garlic and ginger. Mix all the sauce ingredients. It shouldn’t be too dry. If too dry, add a bit of water water.
- Mix it well with hand. 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 more salt or sugar so it tastes good to your palate, it should be salty and spicy enough for you to think it’s tasty – but not be too salty or too sweet.
- If the salted cabbage is slightly wilted, take the cabbage and rinse and squeeze out the water very well at least 2-3 times. 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. Obviously, the more salt you add when soaking will also impact how salty the kimchi is, so you can add more or less based on your taste. 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.
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!)