I first wrote about homemade vegan kimchi, way back here in 2012. For sometime, I have known I need to update the blog with my current, new and improved kimchi recipe, so here it is!
Since I started making my own kimchi, I have made some tweaks and refined the recipe, I also found some additional tips and tricks. My recipe is adapted from a traditional Korean method, the key changes I made are in the ingredients, in order to make a vegan version, and in the extra time I allow for fermentation. Don’t let the time involved put you off, the actual time in the hands on making is very short, it’s the pickling and fermenting which takes time, and that just happens quietly on the bench. Life is busy, and the time frames in this recipe are actually very flexible, if you think you cannot keep on track, don’t panic! I have found ways to avoid losing the whole batch when I have had to delay a step, just read on and I’ll include these tips along the way.
So, without delay, here’s what you’ll need:
The basic process involves washing and chopping veges then leaving them to salt pickle, which can take between 1 -3 days, followed by making the spice sauce and combining it with the veges, and allowing to ferment, this may take a further 3 – 5 days.
My recipe uses one large daikon radish, two large wong bok cabbages, sea salt, approximately half a cup, one head of garlic, two large, thumb size chunks of ginger root, a teaspoon dried chilli flakes, 2-4 large juicy lemons and a half a cup of tamari soy sauce. Feel free to experiment with the spices, omit the chilli if you dare, or up garlic or ginger…play around until you find a flavour you like.
I use two litre pyrex jugs (one or two for big batches) for the salt pickling process, with plates to cover, a blender to make the spicy sauce, and clean glass jars to ferment and store, you’ll need tongs (or fingers) to mix and something like a wooden spoon or pestle, to press into the jars to remove air bubbles. You can use large ceramic bowls for pickling, as long as they allow for air flow.
Step one, the salt pickling method…
Wash and prepare your veges, the diakon and wong bok, ensure that the veges are as fresh as you can manage, there are no signs of spoiling, I don’t worry much about holes, but remove any brown edges and discard any rotten outer or inner leaves. You wont want to risk wasting a batch over a bad cabbage leaf or two! Trust me.
I wash and leave the wong bok in the sink while I peel and slice the daikon.
These photos demonstrate how I like to chop my veges, I like them close to bite size, but it’s up to you really.
The thing to remember is, some veges will take on the salt and flavour faster than others, for consistency I like my veges around the same size. The wong bok wilts and becomes salty faster than the denser more substantial daikon, which I then prefer thinly sliced.
When I was learning how to understand this part of the process and when it was complete, my Korean friend described the salt as ‘killing’ the cabbage, it does this by stripping water out of the vege (daikon too) and imparting it with a lovely saltiness…
I add a layer of chopped vege in the bottom of my jug or bowl, then sprinkle as evenly as you can with sea salt, it probably takes about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt over each layer, this depends on the coarseness of the salt and depth of the layer. I usually fill two two litre jugs with this, and as you’ll observe, the pickling reduces down the veges and produces a brine in the bottom.
Next, I cover the jugs with a plate, mainly to keep anything from falling in, but allow air flow, and leave it on my bench out of the sun for 1 – 3 days. You will want to keep an eye on this if the weather is warmer, as it may spoil if it gets too hot for too long. The best way to check is just take a look, have a taste (rinse it first, as it will be very salty). You see the level of veges drops down and brine collects at the bottom, just leave it, the brine is good, and we don’t want the veges drying out.
Now, if some unforeseen event happens and you simply cannot move onto the next step within the 1 – 3 day period, all is not lost! I have had great success by putting the salting veges in jugs as they are, in the refrigerator until I can come back to them, I have only left them four days, maximum, so that will give you a ball park to work with. This slows down the process enough to buy you some time, this is also good if you realised you have used the lemons in your Gin and Tonic!
The next step: Washing veges and making the spicy sauce.
The easiest method I have found is to take the jugs of salty, wilted veges, and fill them with fresh water, let them sit for a bit in water while you begin to prepare the spicy sauce. Pause in the sauce making process periodically to drain and re-rinse the veges using a colander in your sink.
When I began making kimchi, I hand chopped the garlic and ginger, but I find using a blender is faster and incorporates all the flavours of the spices really well, so if you have one, use it, if using a bowl, simply combine the following and mix well.
Peel the ginger and garlic cloves, place in blender with the zest of the lemons, and a teaspoon of chilli flakes, pour juice of lemons into a measuring jug, I usually aim for about 1/3 to 1/2 of lemon juice, then add Tamari to top it up to one full cup of liquid. This is approximate. Add the lemon and tamari to the garlic, ginger and chilli in the blender and set it on a medium speed to throughly chop and combine.
While the blender is on, come back to the veges. I wash and squeeze out the salty water from the veges about 3 times, tasting occasionally to gauge flavour. If you have not already, tip the veges into a colander, and with the water running, take handfuls, rinse and squeeze them out in your hands, you want to remove most of the salt water, have a taste as you want to retain the salt flavour though, so don’t go too far with the rinsing, return the veges to the now clean jug or a bowl large enough to mix the whole batch.
When that is complete, pour the spicy sauce over the veges and mix well, you can use your hands, but all that chilli and lemon is a bit of a killer if you have any small cuts on your fingers! I use tongs to grab and turn to mix, it might look a bit like this:
Perhaps not that appealing…but it will taste great already!
Now, take the clean jars, I pour just boiled water over the lids and into the jars before I fill them. When they are cool enough to handle I pack the jars, using tongs, then I use my wooden pestle to press the veges down, letting excess air escape. Start this when the jars are about half full as the liquid may overflow.
My recipe makes enough to fill one or two large jars, about 700ml size, plus a smaller jam jar (this is the one to give away to friends) and there is usually plenty of liquid to cover the veges well. Ideally for the fermentation process to go well, you want to have any veges covered with liquid, I find bits and pieces always float to the surface, and it is fine, so I just do my best to press out any air bubbles, and cover with the juicy spicy liquid.
Next, tighten lids, and rinse off the outsides of the jars, then dry, loosen lids, you want to allow air flow, but keep the kimchi covered, and place the jars on the bench out of the sun to ferment for 3 – 5 days.
You can eat it straightaway, try some now! Then check in each day if you like to see how the flavour changes, and refrigerate when ready. If I’m all out of the last batch, I’ll have a jar fermenting which we use daily on the bench (just remember to use a clean utensil).
What can you do with your kimchi? How do you incorporate with a meal?
We use it as an everyday condiment, it is great with rice, soups, eggs, salads, just experiment with the flavours. You can use the juice for kimchi fried rice, or to add a bit of spice to a vege soup with noodles. Steam broccoli, bok choi, cauliflower to eat with kimchi with your meal.
If there is excess juice, keep it, drink it, use it in cooking. You can add the spicy sauce/juice from a previous batch to a new one, however, I find each batch is different, and keep the various jars going rather than making an homogenous mix.
My favourite way to eat kimchi, is with eggs for breakfast or brunch, like this:
Enjoy! Any questions? Please comment below.