Napa cabbage kimchi

Tongbaechu-kimchi 통배추김치

Hello everybody!
Today I’m going to show you how to make classic, spicy, traditional napa cabbage kimchi called tongbaechu-kimchi, a.k.a. baechu-kimchi or pogi-kimchi. But this dish is so common and iconic among Koreans that we simply call it “kimchi.” When people talk about kimchi, this is the dish they’re referring to, despite the fact that there are many kinds of kimchi in Korean cuisine, and many made with napa cabbage, too.

Over the years I’ve posted recipes for a few of them, but I’ve never made an in-depth video for making tongbaechu-kimchi! I’ve made a video for mak-kimchi (easy kimchi), which is very similar but is easier because you to chop up the cabbage first, and I’ve made an ultra simple yangbaechu-kimchi (emergency kimchi). Many years ago I even posted a recipe showing how to make baechu-kimchi with kkakdugi in one batch. But until now, I’ve never posted the most classic and traditional napa cabbage kimchi.

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This kimchi uses the whole cabbage leaf, which makes it more labor-intensive than the other ones on my website, because you’ll need to take time to spread the spicy paste leaf by leaf. It’s more work, but this is the traditional style and if you can make this kind of kimchi well, you can consider yourself good at Korean cooking.

As I mention in the video, my mom used to make kimchi from 200 heads of cabbage! This was kimjang kimchi, made with her friends at the beginning of winter, and meant to last until the spring. 3 to 4 of her friends would come over and help her chop vegetables and most importantly, spread the paste on the leaves. This always needs to be done by hand. They would bring their own rubber gloves, and spend the day talking and laughing, and always had pollock stew or beef radish soup for lunch. They had a lot of fun!

At the end of the day they would take some kimchi home with them, but my mom would get all the rest, which lasted my whole family through the winter. And when my mom’s friends needed to make their winter kimchi, my mom brought her gloves over to their houses and helped them, like they did for her.

In the video I also show you how to ferment it in a traditional onggi. Using an onggi is not mandatory, but for those of you who have one already, this is how you use it! If you don’t have one, just use a BPA-free plastic container, or a glass container.

I answer many other frequently asked questions about kinchi-making in this video:

I hope you enjoy the recipe, and if you love kimchi, I encourage you to make your own kimchi at home. It’s delicious, easy, and a fun thing to do!

kimchi_onggi (포기김치)

Ingredients

Makes about 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of Kimchi
For salting cabbage:

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For making porridge:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons sweet rice flour (glutinous rice flour)
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (brown or white sugar)

Vegetables:

  • 2 cups radish matchsticks
  • 1 cup carrot matchsticks
  • 7 to 8 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped Asian chives (buchu), optional (substitute with 3 green onions, chopped)
  • 1 cup water dropwort (minari), optional

Seasonings and spices:

Directions

Prepare and salt the cabbage:

  1. If the cabbage cores stick out too much, trim them off.
  2. To split a cabbage in half without shredding the densely packed leaves inside, first cut a short slit in the base of the cabbage, enough to get a grip on either half, and then gently pull the halves apart so the cabbage splits open. kimchi_cut cabbage
  3. Cut a slit through the core of each half, 2 inches above the stem. You want the cabbage leaves to be loose but still attached to the core.napa cabbage_cut (배추)
  4. Dunk the halves in a large basin of water to get them wet. Sprinkle the salt between the leaves by lifting up every leaf and getting salt in there. Use more salt closer to the stems, where the leaves are thicker.Salting cabbage cabbage_salting (배추 소금절이기)
  5. Let the cabbages rest for 2 hours. Turn over every 30 minutes, so they get well salted. From time to time you can ladle some of the salty water from the bottom of the basin over top of the cabbages if you want to.kimchi_cabbage salting (배추소금절이기) kimchi_cabbage salting (배추소금절이기)
  6. After 2 hours, wash the cabbage halves a few times under cold running water. Giving them a good washing, to remove the salt and any dirt. As you wash, split the halves into quarters along the slits you cut into earlier. Cut off the cores, and put them in a strainer over a basin so they can drain well.

kimchi-cabbage wash (배추씻기)

While the cabbage is salting for 2 hours, and in between the times you’re turning it over, you can make the porridge:

  1. Combine the water and the sweet rice flour in a small pot. Mix well with a wooden spoon and let it cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until it starts to bubble. Add the sugar and cook 1 more minute, stirring. Remove from the heat and let it cool off completely.
  2. Pour cooled porridge into a large mixing bowl. Add garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, fermented salted shrimp, and hot pepper flakes. Mix well with the wooden spoon until the mixture turns into a thin paste.salted fermented shrimp (saeujeot: 새우젓)kimchi_seasoningskimchi_paste (김치양념)kimchi paste
  3. Add the radish, carrot, and green onion, plus the Asian chives (or more green onions) and the water dropwort if you’re using them. Mix well.Kimchi making (김치)kimchi paste (김치속) kimchi paste

Make kimchi:

  1. Spread some kimchi paste on each cabbage leaf. When every leaf in a quarter is covered with paste, wrap it around itself into a small packet, and put into your jar, plastic container, or onggi.
  2. Eat right away, or let it sit for a few days to ferment.

kimchi makingwhole-cabbage-kimchifresh-kimchi (포기김치)

On fermentation:

  1. The kimchi will start fermenting a day or two at room temperature, depending on the temperature and humidity of your room. The warmer and more humid it is, the faster the kimchi will ferment. Once it starts to ferment it will smell and taste sour, and pressing on the top of the kimchi with a spoon will release bubbles from beneath.
  2. Once it starts to fermented, store in the refrigerator to use as needed. This slows down the fermentation process, which will make the kimchi more and more sour as time goes on.

fermented kimchi (포기김치)

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675 Comments:

  1. jasa73 Cambridge, MA joined 4/13 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi!

    I have been making your kimchi recipe for years. Napa cabbage, ponytail. I am going to make white kimchi next, and i may even try making your fermented bean paste. I wanted to ask you two questions about kimchi.

    1) My hairdresser is Korean. I told her I make kimichi in the summer and she told me that i should only make kimchi when it starts to get cold. Is this true?

    2) Is it possible to make kimchi with local vegetables. I am in New England and have wondered about making kimchi with asparagus, or even fiddlehead ferns or wild ramps.

    Finally I wanted to share one of my most treasured possessions from when i went to Korea many years ago. A CD Rom of kimchi knowledge from the Kimchi museum in Seoul!


    See full size image

  2. AlexHart Hangzhou, China joined 6/18 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi!

    I first made this kimchi back home in NYC 4 years ago, so probably right when you posted this recipe. Just made it for the first time here in China – tastes great! Served it fresh with Domi-yangnyeom-gui 도미양념구이 and Buchujeon 부추전. Thanks for the recipes!


    See full size image

  3. ae627 Home joined 5/18 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi,

    I can’t find (sweet rice flour) glutinous rice powder near my area. But i have some pea flour with me. Can I use that as substitute?

    Thanks.

    • OhHai US joined 6/18 & has 1 comment

      I’m not Maangchi but I’ve used white / wheat flour for this before with no issues. It ferments along with everything else despite additives after being cooked down. If you’re in the US (or elsewhere probably) look for gluten free flour either in regular or baking isle and it’s likely to be a rice flour or at least a blend.

      Potato flour could work as well but I’ll leave it to the expert :-)

  4. MelG Baku, Azerbaijan joined 5/18 & has 1 comment

    Where I live, they don’t have any Korean restaurants, but my husband and I loooove Korean food. I’ve already made several of your recipes and they have all been very tasty.
    I just made my first batch of kimchi and am super excited to taste in a few days how it turned out. Unfortunately, they don’t have daikon here, so I hope it still tastes good.

    You’re awesome and so personable! It’s always fun and interesting to watch your videos. I wish you were my neighbor :-)
    Keep up the good work!

  5. vivi89 New Caledonia joined 5/18 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi !
    For several years I’ve been making my own kimchi according to your recipe. But, because I live in a small island far away from everything, my kimchi is not a “real Korean kimchi” and so, it’s a “kimchi-like” ^^.
    However, last week I had a very special thing happen to the kimchi. I’ve made it 2 weeks ago and it turned out well. Today though when I opened the box the smell was normal but the water had turned gelatinous, almost like a jelly. I never had this before. Yesterday it was good and overnight, it turned like that. Do you have any idea why ?

    Thank you so much for your recipes and your advices !

  6. Juansarmen España joined 10/16 & has 2 comments

    Hi!! Maangchi, I write you from Spain! I love Kimchi. Just one question, It’s a long time since I dont prepare kimchi, months…. I bought fermented salted shrimps and hot pepper flakes and let them in the freezer… how long can I use it? Or they are timed out already. Thanks

  7. bonko NL joined 9/11 & has 2 comments

    Hello Maangchi

    I follow your recipe (but multiply the amount because I make more kimchi) but last few times my kimchi didn’t turn out right. The paste is good but when I put the kimchi in the fridge it doesn’t become a nice red liquid. There is kimchi in my jar with a lot of water instead of sauce and the kimchi doesn’t have much taste. Do you know how this can happen? In the past the kimchi turned out great! Can it be the quality of the cabbages? It is hard to get the cabbages with a lot of green. Quit often the cabbages are white with a little bit yellow. Is it possible there is too much hard ‘root’ and not enough soft ‘leaves’ and the roots containing too much water?

    • [email protected] uk joined 5/18 & has 3 comments

      Its completely true. Maangchi’s grocery store video just explained a minute ago. If the kimchi,s watery or bland it has to be.This has happened to me in the past I WILL be trying again soon..

      • bo NL joined 9/11 & has 2 comments

        What happened with the good quality cabbage?! I think the last few years my kimchi decreased in quality. I can only find cabbages with a lot of white and yellow and not the green ones. My understanding is the farmers harvest the cabbages and store them to release them by portions to the shops. To make the cabbage look fresh, they peel the outer layers of leaves and I’m afraid they remove all the nice green leaves :(

        • hzwyfee1 America joined 6/18 & has 1 comment

          I thought the darker looking Napa cabbage is usually found in winter which is why koreans start making their Napa cabbage kimchi in the winter months. It’s not the same during the warmer months, at least not where I live.

  8. KarmaP Denver joined 12/11 & has 3 comments

    Can I skip the flour and sugar in this recipe. If not are their substitutes? I think j could use a pear and apple instead of sugar but not sure about the flour.

    Thanks. Love your site.

    • paleoguy Uk joined 5/18 & has 1 comment

      Cooking and fermenting is all about biochemistry. The rice flour and sugar are prebiotic foods for the bacteria to feed on and multiply as the Kimchi ferments. It is what keeps Kimchi alive and fermenting for months in the fridge. It is one of the most powerful probiotic sources with kefir, yoghurt and sauerkraut.

      Daily Kimchi and fermented foods with every meal is what allows Koreans & Japanese to be able to digest dairy in the complete absence of the gene to be able to do it in most of the population. Its all about the amazing bacteria in fermented foods – and they need feeding….

  9. cass_tessa Malaysia joined 4/18 & has 1 comment

    hi maangchi,
    this is the 2nd time i make kimchi using your recipe. previously i made without the fermented salty shrimp and it turned out great.
    this time, i make it with fermented shrimp but i didnt use gochugaru, i used thai chili powder and it turned out terribly spicy even though i have reduced the usage to 1.5 cup instead of 2cups. its still fermenting, today is day 2, its not salty enough, only spicy, so i added some salt to it while it ferment. the colour and thickness is just nice but what can I to do with the spiciness, my husband loves spicy food but this is too much even for him.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,310 comments

      it’s best to use Korean hot pepper flakes because they are not as spicy as these. But when it’s fermented, the spiciness will tone down, but if it’s really torturing you, just rinse the kimchi in cold water before serving it.

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