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:

  • 6 pounds (about 2.7 kg) napa cabbage
  • ½ cup Kosher salt (2.5 ounces: 72 grams)

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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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708 Comments:

  1. Sue88sharp Indonesia joined 9/18 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi,

    How my kimchi turn to sour? What should i do?

  2. saranyasr Chennai, India joined 9/18 & has 1 comment

    I love kimchi…and I tried it using your recipe….except few things like shrimp…I managed to add everything….and it turned out awesome….my hubby said it tasted exactly like what it was in Korea….Thank you Maangchi….hoping to try more Korean recipes soon….


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  3. gem16 Israel joined 9/18 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi! Thank you for this GREAT website!
    I really love Korean food and your website and videos are a blessing!
    I especially love kinchi and try to make it as often as I can. BUT being Jewish I had some difficulty with the ingredients.
    So ! I have some questions. PLEASE HELP!!
    – I can not use seafood (doto religion) SO – What can I use instead of shrimp? (regular fish are ok)
    – In Israel it is not easy to find Nappa cabbage so I used regular white cabbage but I have been told the taste is not the same! How can I fix it?
    Thank you so much forthe help!

  4. eatallrecipes US joined 8/18 & has 4 comments

    This kimchi is absolutely fantastic in its pure form, but making it in smaller batches I’ve often had disastrous results, mostly with it being too salty or watery. Of course, I didn’t have a scale when i made them, so I may have better luck next time.

    Would you consider making a scaled down version in the future?

  5. Jackie123 Philippines joined 8/18 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi! First of all, thanks for this recipe. I really enjoyed making this today. I’ve only recently acquired the taste for kimchi and have been buying them from the store when I could (and they tend to be pricey in small quantities) but then I always feel like something is lacking from store-bought ones, or even from Korean restaurants I’ve been to.

    I really love the color, taste, and spiciness of your recipe! However, my mom seems to think it’s almost a bit too salty. I read from your forum to add radish discs to dilute, but can I also add another pound of brined napa cabbage tomorrow since I only just made this today?

    … now if only I can find an onggi somewhere… ^____^


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  6. LizHeartsBaking Elmira, New York joined 8/18 & has 2 comments

    I finally made it! I love Kimchi so much. I was always buying Mother In Law’s Kimchi but it was just getting too expansive for me. So I figured I should give it a try at home. It took me a while to get some of the ingredients. But it was worth it! Homemade is the best! I have it fermenting in the fridge right now. The smell as your making this so refreshing to me. This was my first time making Kimchi and It was super easy to make too. I can’t wait to dig in! Thanks Maangchi!


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  7. juls Montgomery TX joined 10/14 & has 2 comments

    Ok, third time I’ve made it. This time made a small batch and yes, I have it in my onggi pot. We will see how long it lasts. My husband loves this so much. I made the mistake of making your recipe and now store bought kimchi is out of the question. For those of you living in the South, H-mart is your best and freshest source for all things Korean.

  8. ManamiB Phoenix Arizona joined 7/18 & has 2 comments

    Hello! I have a question! Instead of using the fermented shrimp, can I use the fermented squid you made in your videos? I love kimchi. So yummy!

  9. italianstallion Bedford Stuyvesant, NYC, NY joined 7/18 & has 2 comments

    Ok, so I just love cooking. And I always like to attempt to make xyz dish in the traditional method first to get a handle of the basics before I use short cuts. Plus…it’s sooooo much fun. I made this today and while being in NYC all the ingredients were quite easy to find the Onggi (which I insisted I must have) was harder to find. Lo-and-behold, I found it the first place I thought of going but the last place I actually went – Hmart in flushing. I was inspired by my dear friend (who is Korean) and plus I just love Kimchi. I will attach pictures of my dish. I added diakon to mine, as well as regular red radish only because I had them in the fridge and its as either throw them out or use them. To those who comment on the saltiness, this is a technique used in many cultures to “soften” vegetables or extract bitterness. Italians do it too, the key is, if you over salted just rinse a lot. The best way to tell if you have rinsed away the saltiness or rinsed to an appropriate amount of saltiness is to rip a piece and taste it. I do that to eggplants, cucumbers, zucchini….anything I may salt.


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    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,418 comments

      Homemade kimchi in onggi! What else do you need? We Koreans use salt to preserve vegetables and seafood for a long time and keep them crispy and prevent them from going bad.

      • italianstallion Bedford Stuyvesant, NYC, NY joined 7/18 & has 2 comments

        I do have a question I’m sure others have asked. After I let my kimchi ferment a day at room temperature, I did put it in the fridge. I know it’s a matter of taste but how long after fermenting more slowly at the lower temperature can I remove it from the onggi and put it in air tight jars (thereby cutting off oxygen supply and severely stunting fermentation)? I make beer so I’m well versed in bacterial growth and how to start or stop it and prevent oxidation.

        • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,418 comments

          No matter where you put the kimchi it will ferment. As long as it’s in the onggi, just put it in the fridge and eat it until it runs out. You don’t have to transfer it to an airtight container.

  10. Freckledmaniac Indiana joined 7/18 & has 1 comment

    I haven’t made this yet. I watch the video almost every night. I can’t wait to make my own. I have made several other dishes and I loved them. Rhank you for sharing all your knowledge!

  11. deedle2038 Austin, TX joined 3/18 & has 4 comments

    thanks! it is a very cute 옹기; I was surprised it holds 10 pounds! I do cook Korean food all the time — your website and videos have helped me so much. <3

  12. deedle2038 Austin, TX joined 3/18 & has 4 comments

    I finally did it! I made your kimchi. I forgot to buy the saeujeot (whoops), so I added 1/4 cup more of fish sauce to make up for it. I hope! I used young 갓 at the Korean grocery while I was there, and added that to my julienned vegetables and kimchi paste. it tastes wonderful and almost all of it fit in my onggi. I’m cooking some japgokbap to eat with one of the small containers of it fresh (with roasted sesame seeds, of course) for lunch! thanks so much.


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