I’m very excited to introduce chonggak-kimchi to you today, a special kind of kimchi made with radishes called chonggakmu. Chonggak-kimchi is often translated as “ponytail kimchi.” I think it’s an awesome translation because the name not only sounds cute but the greens on the radish look like real ponytail. You’ll never forget the name once you hear it.
The radish is firm and crispy and the greens are soft, so you can imagine the texture and taste of this kimchi: both crunchy and smooth. This kind of radish is not found in many countries outside for Korea, but I found a few companies that sell the seeds online, so you can grow your own.
But you can easily get this radish at a Korean grocery store. Ask them, “I’m looking for chonggakmu!” “I want to make chonggak-kimchi!” Good quality chonggakmu have a radish that looks like a cute curvy bulb, and are not more than 4 inches long, with soft greens.
My late father used to love this kimchi. I still remember the crunchy sound that came from his mouth when he ate it. The sound that I remember still stimulates my appetite for this kimchi. Whenever I eat this kimchi, I want to make the sound just as my father did. “sheeguruk sheeguruk” : )
When I lived in Canada, one day I went to a Korean vegetable farm with my friends, 1 hour by car from Toronto. The farm was several acres and run by a Korean man growing a variety of Korean vegetables. Once we found him in the field, he gave each of us a huge plastic garbage bag. “Fill this with cabbage from my field, and pay me $10 per bag.”
All we could think about was how to fill the bags the most efficiently. My friends and I were almost going crazy to stuff as much as we could into our bags. I filled 2 huge bags and my friends also made a few bags each. Our hands, clothes, under fingernails, the farm soil and dust was everywhere. We laughed at each other. “Haha, check out your face!”
After he got paid, he led us to his home on the farm, and made warm rice with a rice cooker. “I’m making rice for you now. When the rice is done, eat it with kimchi. That’s all I have for you.” He opened his refrigerator and took out a huge glass jar filled with ponytail kimchi! Rice and ponytail kimchi, that was our lunch! It was amazingly tasty and everybody made loud crunching sounds. “Ahh, delicious delicious!” I kept saying until I emptied 2 bowls of rice!
Total preparation time: 1½ hours
Prepare the radishes:
- Peel the radishes but keep the green stems attached. Cut off the tails and remove the dead leaves.
- Cut the radishes in half lengthwise. Grab the 2 halves with both hands, split the greens, and put them into a large basin or bowl. Repeat this until you’ve cleaned all the radishes.
*tip: If the radishes are small bite sizes (about 2 inches long), skip this step
Salt the radishes:
- Add some cold water to the radishes in the basin, and then drain.
- Sprinkle the radishes with ½ cup of kosher salt and mix with your hands. Let it sit in the salt for 30 minutes.
- 30 minutes later, turn over the radishes so they salt evenly and let it sit for another 30 minutes. Total salting takes 1 hour.
- Wash the radishes thoroughly about 4-5 times to remove any dirt and excess salt, and drain in a colander.
Make porridge for the kimchi paste:
- Mix ¼ cup flour and 2 cups of water in a pot and heat over medium heat.
- Keep stirring until it thickens. When you see some bubbles, add 2 tbs sugar and stir for 1 more minute before removing from the heat.
- Cool it down.
- Mince 12 cloves of garlic and half a medium sized onion (about ½ cup worth of onion). Chop 5 stalks of green onion. Set aside.
- Transfer the porridge to a large mixing bowl.
- Add the minced garlic and onion, 1 cup hot pepper flakes, ¼ cup fish sauce, and the chopped green onions. Mix well.
- Add the ponytail radishes and mix well with your hands.
*tip: Wear rubber gloves so that your hands won’t be sore later
You can eat it right after making it, but this kimchi is more tasty when it ferments.
- Transfer the kimchi to a glass jar or a plastic container and keep it at room temperature for a couple of days.
*tip: When it ferments, it will smell and taste sour, and the color of the greens will change to olive green.
- When the kimchi ferments, scoop some kimchi juice from the bottom of the container to the top so that the top layer of the kimchi won’t dry out and your kimchi will be juicy.
Keep it in the refrigerator and enjoy!