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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807 Comments:

  1. murali India joined 12/14 & has 1 comment

    Anyŏnghaseyo Maangchi,
    Im Murali from India. Your cooking style is awesome which makes me as your fan from india. For Kimchi recipe, could you please suggest me an alternate for red pepper flakes. Because in India red pepper flakes availability very less. So instead of red pepper flakes Is there anything alternate can we add to get the same flavor? kindly awaiting for your reply…

    kamsahamnida…

  2. Utsuro USA joined 12/14 & has 1 comment

    Hello Maangchi,
    Is it OK to leave the fermented shrimp out when making kimchi because I can’t find it in the shops near me😓

  3. MsHmong Wi, USA joined 1/14 & has 4 comments

    Maangchi, HELP! I doubled the recipe and it came out bitter, perhaps I used too much garlic, is there any way to correc that? Also, I put my jar of kimchee in the fridge, should I leave it out? I live in Wisconsin so my kitchen gets pretty cold since it’s winter now. Any advice would help, thank you!!!

    • sanne Munich joined 8/14 & has 199 comments

      Hi MsHmong,

      First of all: The rice-porridge has to be thorougly cooked. If that spoils, anything else will.

      You are sure you’ve used Napa-cabbage? There is a salad called “Zuckerhut” (sugar-cone) in German. And that’s bitter.
      Not really fresh Garlic tends to be bitter, too.
      Bitter Napa-cabbage – it happens. If so, salt and water it longer next time to remove the bitterness.
      I don’t think that it’s spoiled – sometimes, a little bitter tastes quite good; there’s even Kimchi made from Dandelions!

      Maybe it isn’t fermented long enough. Or the carrots are bitter.

      Or – and that’s probably it – you cut the onions/garlic/chives beforehand and let them stand a while. When in contact with the air, they get bitter. Use a sharp knife, mix them with a little bit of oil or put them in an air-tight container right away. Or just mix them with the other ingredients asap.

      You may add a pinch of sugar before serving.
      If anything else fails, use it to make Kimchi-jjigae, Kimchi-bokeumbap, Pindaetteok, … after removing the filling. Heat destroys some of the bitterness. You may also fry it with pork.

      Storing outside the fridge: Only small batches. If you need the space, you may store your Kimchi out-doors; it even tolerates freezing over. But storing it around 0 °C is better. You may bury it in your yard …

      Good luck, sanne.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,658 comments

      I’m sorry to hear that your kimchi tastes bitter but a little bit of bitter taste is ok.
      Check your hot pepper flakes. It might have caused the bitter taste in case its quality is not good. Or fish sauce? Check the taste of your fish sauce as it is.
      https://www.maangchi.com/talk/topic/first-time-homemade-kimchi-bitter-taste

  4. gaina Poland joined 12/14 & has 1 comment

    Hello Maangchi!
    You’re the cutest person ever! And you’re cooking like a goddess :). I’m in love with this recipe and I love kimchi but… I can’t get fermented shrimps :(, can I replace this with something? I can get dry shrimps or shrimp paste kapi is that ok?
    Greetings from Poland ;)!

  5. Adam V Missouri joined 12/14 & has 1 comment

    Maangchi! Long time no talk!! Say, we have fallen so in love (and addicted) to kimchi, we are going to buy a kimchi refrigerator! They are kind of hard to find in our area so we may have to drive a long way or order with shipping. Maybe you can recommend a good brand/model of smaller, chest size kimchi refrigerator! Take care and thank you for bringing the magic of Korean cooking into our home!

  6. Caxibelle11214 Nyc joined 11/14 & has 3 comments

    Manngchi, my kimchi making is on day 2 now, my porridge is not a paste, very watery. After I arrange my cabbage in a glass bottle, it become very watery even in day2. Is this normal. Will my kimchi turn out to be ok?

  7. safak Turkey joined 11/14 & has 1 comment

    Hı Maangchi, Greetings from Turkey… yesterday i made kimchi and İt’s really delicious. Your recipe is really basic and tasty. But my biggest problem is sesame oil…it is very expensive in turkey Unfortunately so which oil can i use for other recipes ?? Thank u ….

  8. Dyani Yogyakarta, Indonesia joined 10/14 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi, I want to know after kimchi fermented, how long it last until its unable to eat? or rotten?

  9. Farlance United States joined 10/14 & has 1 comment

    Hi, Maanchi.

    Long-time admirer, first time commenter. I’ve been meaning to make homemade kimchi for years now; I saw your original recipe about 4 years ago and it sounded amazing.

    So, I went to the market, bought 10 lbs of napa cabbage and everything else (They even had buchu and minari!), and went home to get started. It was a long process, but honestly, I’ve never had better kimchi in my life, and don’t even mind the enormous container of it in my fridge. I’ve been eating it with almost every meal since, and I’m looking forward to making more once this batch is gone!

    I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge with us. You make fantastic food.

  10. peacelove14 Wisconsin, USA joined 11/14 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi! Thank you so much for the recipe and the video. This was the fourth time I have ever made kimchi, each time I’ve used different recipes. I have an allergy to seafood, so I’ve never been able to eat kimchi at a restaurant or made traditionally. It’s been fun to experiment and try different variations all leaving out the shellfish and the fish sauce. Your recipe is unique and taste is the best and my family agrees. We all enjoy it and will be using your recipe from now on.
    For anyone else who may have a similar allergy, this recipe tastes great without the fish and shrimp too!
    Thanks again. :)

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,658 comments

      Thank you so much for your nice words. I’m very happy to hear that you love this recipe. Good luck with your Korean cooking!

      • UC22 india joined 11/14 & has 1 comment

        hi maangchi……
        Annagaha-seo…i am new joinee to your club…
        I am an Indian , and been very found of the Korean Delicacies and love
        the way the Korean recipes are prepared….I saw and loved your recipe of ggriyanchim and kimchi jijigae…..i love it a lot….thanks for your great
        contribution to explore the Korean recipes from our home..
        would be following up with you always…Thanks

  11. thomasanp Washington joined 10/14 & has 1 comment

    Is there a way to use fresh red peppers instead of pepper flakes?

  12. xtralargepho USA joined 10/14 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi,

    Can I use fine Korean sea salt for the tongbaechu kimchi? Do I use the same amount? Thank you!

  13. Tonyas969 TN joined 10/14 & has 3 comments

    Let me first say I think this is the first time I have ever written to a blog before…. And I have NEVER made anything Korean or anything like this EVER. Your recipe looks awesome and my fiance’ is so excited as he loves Korean food. I have a couple of questions, as I was supposed to make this today, but am still too nervous. I have watched your FAQ and these are not listed- I am sure I am not the only one with these questions! I sure hope you can respond soon…
    1. I am using one LARGE cabbage that weighs almost 6 pounds. I will be cutting my cabbage into pieces. Some recipes call for soaking your salted (cut up) cabbage in water overnight- then rinsing thoroughly the next morning- what do you think about this- is it necessary? How long do you soak before salting?
    2. I only have Red Pepper Powder, will this work as a replacement for the flakes? How much should I use?
    3. If I make the paste the night before, will it be ok sitting/marinating in the fridge overnight?
    4. How do you store it? Do you use small glass jars or one big gallon jar? I have read that if you put the lids on tight for the glass jars they can explode- what do you recommend?

  14. Crystal Tan Singapore joined 10/14 & has 1 comment

    Hello Maangchi, may i know why does the sauce seems to separate after i storing it for an hour? The sauce seems to be divided into two, with a layer of liquid at the top.

  15. Marimo Seoul joined 10/14 & has 1 comment

    Hello Maangchi!

    Thank you for sharing all your great recipes! I’m currently living in Seoul and they have helped me a lot with cooking with the local ingredients.

    I’ve tried this kimchi recipe and it turned out pretty good but not perfect (according to my taste anyway…) I find the the balance between the spiciness and the sourness to be a little off; in other words, I find that the spiciness overpowers the sourness. It’s not too spicy mind you, just not sour enough I guess. Any idea why that is? Maybe I used too much kimchi paste? It seems like there will be a lot left over once I’m done eating the cabbage…

    In that regard, I’d also like to know if it’s possible to re-used the left over kimchi paste (not the left over fresh one, i mean the already used one that’s left in the container when all the kimchi has been eaten)

    Thank you~

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,658 comments

      Hell Marimo,

      It will get more sour as time goes on. Koreans have many different recipes for kimchi, you can keep experimenting and modifying until you get it how you like it.

      I never use the kimchi paste leftover in the container, but you can try something and let us know about it.

      good luck with your kimchi making!

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