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Kimchi + Q & A


What is kimchi?  Spicy fermented napa cabbage.  It is a living food, preserving the nutrients of the vegetables going into it while self generating other health benefits.  

What is in kimchi?  It primarily consists of cabbage and salt but you can also include Korean radish/mu, scallions, sesame seeds, onions, garlic, ginger, Korean pepper flakes, fish sauce, baby brine shrimp, raw seafood, Asian pears/apples, and so much more depending on the kind of kimchi you want to prepare as different regions also prepare it differently.

What does it taste like?  It is bright, briny, soured, and spicy.  Not exactly, but kind of like a spicy sauerkraut.  There are hundreds of different kinds and each one has its own special characteristics.

How do you serve it?  Kimchi is a side dish that is present for every single Korean meal.  Some people enjoy it like a salad while others enjoy it in a recipe.  You can use well fermented kimchi as a topping for hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza or tacos to more traditional applications like kimchi stew or even a curried kimchi pancake.

What are some of its health benefits?  It is high in fiber, probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins a, b, c, and calcium and iron while being low in calories and fat.  A well-fermented kimchi has anywhere from 100 million to 1 billion bacteria of genus Lactobacillus.

How long does it last?  My grandmother would have kimchi buried in the ground and some of it would be 2 years old or more.  Film yeast was never a deterrent for her.  My mother has a kimchi refrigerator that is specially climate controlled for preserving kimchi and hers tastes just right for up to 6 months or more.  There are tons of debate on the matter but use your own discretion.  It’s a good practice to regularly turn over the leaves of prepared kimchi and spoon over the juice to re-saturate leaves.  It is after all, a controlled pickling environment.  Over fermented kimchi is definitely an acquired taste and Koreans have a name for each stage the kimchi enters.  Please use your discretion, sight, and smell.

Here are a few other noteworthy tidbits.

  • listed kimchi as one of the top five healthiest foods in the world.
  • Studies have shown that kimchi has compounds to fight and prevent the growth of cancer.
  • When getting your picture taken in Korea, it’s customary to say “kimchi” instead of “cheese.”
  • Koreans consume around 40 lbs or more of kimchi each year.
  • When the price of napa cabbage rose in 2010, it was considered a ‘national crisis.’
  • Kimchi is so adored in Korea, that they have an entire museum dedicated to it.






5.0 from 3 reviews

Easy Traditional Kimchi + Q & A
Prep time

Total time



  • 5 lb napa cabbage
  • ½ c coarse sea salt {no substitutions for this recipe}
  • ¾ c cold filtered water
  • 3 tb sweet/glutinous rice {not regular rice} flour
  • ¾ c Korean red pepper flakes- not regular red pepper flakes {adjust for less/more spicy}
  • 3 tb fish sauce*
  • ¼ c fresh garlic
  • 1 tb fresh ginger
  • ½ c vidalia onion
  • Half of an Asian pear/fuji apple
  • Extra additions: ½ c each of green onions/carrots/daikon/leeks/Chinese water celery/raw oysters, squid or fish/etc

  1. In a large bowl/basin, chop the cabbage in desired pieces, discarding any wilted/brown outer leaves. Sprinkle evenly with salt and toss to coat.
  2. Allow the cabbage to soak up the salt for an hour ½ to 2 hours, depending on how salty you like it. It’s important to toss and turn over the leaves every 30 minutes or so.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the water and stir in the sweet rice flour. Cook until the mixture gets thick, smooth, and milky. Set aside.
  4. In a food processor, add the fish sauce, garlic, ginger, onion, and pear. Pulse to puree.
  5. To the cooled sweet rice flour mixture, stir in the Korean red pepper flakes and pureed mixture. This will be your kimchi paste.
  6. After the cabbage has finished soaking, rinse several times and drain well.
  7. In a large bowl, carefully begin coating the cabbage with your paste. Add in your veggies. Toss to coat, taking care not to squeeze the leaves. If using, this is the time to gently add in your raw seafood.
  8. Mix until everything is nicely coated. Transfer the kimchi to glass containers/bpa free plastic containers and gently press down and seal.
  9. Allow the containers to sit at room temperature for 1-2 days to jumpstart fermentation then refrigerate.

*I look for a “virgin” protein/nitrogen dense sauce that is all natural {without fillers/msg/etc} that’s slowly produced. Look for the one with the least amount of ingredients. Traditionally, fish sauce is made with just one type of fish and sea salt. That’s it. A quality fish sauce should have a depth of umami flavor with an almost subtle sweetness to it–never bitter. I highly recommend not omitting or substituting good quality fish sauce here. It’s one of the most important components.


Fish Sauce:

Sweet Rice Flour:


Your Squishy Monster

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16 thoughts on “Kimchi + Q & A

  • Anna @ shenANNAgans says:

    Perfect! I have been wondering what exactly Kimchi is for a few weeks now, it seems to be interpreted differently in almost every Asian restaurant and country I visit. Cheers for the recipe, Ill be having a crack as soon as I am home, especially if it is one of the healthiest eats in the world.

  • Evelyne@cheapethniceatz says:

    More good reasons to enjoy the stuff, now if I can actually get around to making your great recipe one day!

  • Kelly - Life Made Sweeter says:

    My husband and I are crazy about kimchi – so many great benefits and tastes great

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    Ooh thank you so much Angela for sharing this recipe with us! I’ve always wanted to make kim chi

  • brian says:

    yeah now i can make kimchi not so spicy. thanks Squishy.

  • Maureen | Orgasmic Chef says:

    I want to visit a kimchi museum! On the bucket list!

    Last month I watched a doco on tv about commercial preparation of kimchi followed by how to make it at home. I was all inspired and then Christmas came.

  • francesca says:

    One of my most favorite Bourdain “No Reservations” was digging kimchi pots from the ground <3

  • cailee says:

    I want some kimchi!! I can’t believe it lasts so long!! haha… that’s crazy!!

  • Louise says:

    Hi Angela:)
    Thank you so much for sharing this Q & A on Kimchi. I have often wondered about the history of the dish and about the various ways of preparing it. I have only had homemade Kimchi once and I must say, it look a couple of mouthfuls for me to get use to it. However, I am now a fan:)

    I visited that Museum link. I bet it is going to be great when it reopens in March. I’ve bookmarked the link.

    Thank you so much for sharing, Angela and thanks for the recipe too…

  • Choc Chip Uru says:

    Kim Chi is so popular here, I would love to make it for my friends

  • Priscila says:

    Kisses from Spain.
    Xoxo, P.

    My Showroom

  • K / Pure & Complex says:

    How did you know I’ve always wanted to make this? I love this post. Now I think I’m going to give it a try

  • Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl says:

    Can you believe I never tried it, but when you describe the taste it just sounds perfect! Looks like I better try it!

  • I Wilkerson says:

    This looks so good. I really do have to try making my own. Perhaps this will be the push I need!

  • Steve says:

    Can’t wait to try. I lived in Korea for a year and really miss the fresh flavor not found in jars on a retail shelf.

  • The Squishy Monster says:

    Happy kimchi making and happy holidays, Steve!

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