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 side 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 recipe), which is very similar but is easier because you to chop up the cabbage into bite size pieces 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. (I also have a vegan kimchi version of this recipe, too!)

For me, this kimchi recipe has the traditional flavor I am looking for. It 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.

To make this kimchi we need to first soak the cabbage in a salty brine to soften the leaves (some people swear by sea salt but I always use Kosher salt in all my Korean dishes). Then lactobacillus bacteria can do their work and convert sugar into lactic acid, which preserves the cabbage and changes the flavor over time. But you don’t have to wait for the kimchi to ferment before you enjoy it, you can eat it right away and keep eating it as it ferments and eventually goes sour. Then it’s perfect for dishes like kimchi-jjigae and kimchi stir fried rice.

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)

For making porridge:

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

Vegetables:

  • 2 cups Korean radish matchsticks (or daikon radish)
  • 1 cup carrot matchsticks
  • 7 to 8 green onions (scallions), 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 with your knife over your cutting board.
  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 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, give them a final rinse, 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. In a large bowl, 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. If you’re using a sealed jar with a lid, be sure to open it once a while, let it breathe, and press down on the top of the kimchi.
  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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957 Comments:

  1. [email protected] Boston joined 6/22 & has 2 comments

    I made your kimchi, and OMG!! It was the best kimchi I have tasted. Homemade is way better than store bought! Thank you so much for posting the video and recipe. I learn best from watching videos, so thank you and please keep making these great videos.


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  2. Mcromero0915 Massachusetts joined 6/22 & has 1 comment

    Hello! I have a question about this recipe. I made it once a couple years ago and loved it but haven’t made it since because I moved and have had some trouble finding ingredients. I found daikon radish, is that okay to use instead of the Korean radish in your recipe? Also, what do you think of using asian pear in the recipe? I’ve seen some recipes that use it and some don’t so I’m not sure what to think. Thank you! Love your recipes

  3. Mythos Romania joined 5/22 & has 1 comment

    Thank you for the recipe, i use it to make kimchi since 6 years now. Yesterday i made a new batch of kimchi and is magnificent, i have used honey instead of shugar and i have also mixed in som thin slices of Kohlrabi.
    Thank you again!!

  4. Gaelicat Russia joined 5/22 & has 1 comment

    Hello, Maangchi!

    I saw different types of kimchi recipes on your page and all of the use some type of fermented fish product. Is it required? I can’t get fermented shrimps or good fresh squid or oysters where i live, but i really want to make some kimchi.

  5. Cloudyun Netherlands, Amsterdam joined 4/22 & has 3 comments

    Thank you for the recipe Maangchi!

    I’ve been using it for the past 2 years, and it’s delicious every time! Last winter I made some and put it to ferment in our backyard barn, but the temperature suddenly dropped and my kimchi froze! I ended up letting it sit for 2 months before eating.

    The cabbages looked really delicious and green today, so I decided to buy some and make kimchi. I was running out of my last batch anyway :)


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  6. xiaoli Australia joined 3/22 & has 1 comment

    Love this recipe! Tried once and taste great! I do have a question, I’m not sure if the fermenting process went well, as I didn’t have enough brine that covered the cabbage? I only used half a cabbage to try. Should I have used more porridge?

  7. Emjacl Hampshire joined 2/22 & has 1 comment

    I can only get shrimp paste locally. How much shrimp paste should I use in this recipe and do I still need to use fish sauce. Thanks

  8. TheBolt Florida joined 12/21 & has 1 comment

    What size of container would match this recipe? 2.1 Gal?

    Aloha,
    Tony

  9. Lovecraft Vancouver Island joined 11/21 & has 1 comment

    Maangchi! SO GOOD. I make this batch of kimchi every few months and we eat it every day. It’s the best kimchi I have ever had. I do everything exactly as you’ve written (except I haven’t been able to find minari every time). It takes three days in my kitchen and I use a heat mat in the fall/winter. I’ve given some to friends and have converted them all to your recipe. Thank you!! :)

  10. Armoon Netherlands joined 10/21 & has 1 comment

    I’m trying to make this as well! Hope it comes out well! I couldn’t find the “saeujeot”, so I’m using extra fish sauce instead. I did see “fermented salted fish” which had other kinds of fish in it, but I didn’t dare to buy it. It was a Thai brand I think. Do you think that would work? In my area they always have lots of Chinese/Indonesian products but few Korean products.

    They also had this stuff: https://www.tokogembira.nl/nl/kimchi-base-multipurpose-sauce-473ml-surasang.html
    Do you have any experience with that?
    Thanks best regards!

    • Cloudyun Netherlands, Amsterdam joined 4/22 & has 3 comments

      Hi, I also live in the Netherlands.

      I leave the dried fish/anchovies out, because our toko doesn’t sell ones without fish bones! Just use more of the other fish ingredient + also the salted shrimps! (Those are usually in every toko, but sell quickly). Readymade kimchi base can be used, but it simply isn’t as good as homemade! Making it yourself doesn’t take a lot of effort + it tastes twice as good

  11. dancing_dave2003 Blountsville, Al. joined 10/21 & has 1 comment

    Question, When The Napa cabbage is Fermenting in the Fridge, how many Days do you Wait Before Eating it? Wanting to Make, for So long. Had Korean Style Before, But the Lady is No longer Part of My Friends Family, any longer. But I Miss her Kimchi!

    • Soobin Ithaca NY joined 2/21 & has 6 comments

      Normally kimchi is not fermented in the fridge but instead somewhere warmer like your kitchen. If you want to ferment it in your fridge it takes somewhere between 1 and 3 weeks depending on how sour you want it.
      Hope this helps!

  12. Babbella10 Lethbridge Alberta joined 9/21 & has 1 comment

    Hi – I just recently made the Kimchi recipe on here – the one without the squid. I had it on the counter for 3 days and it was bubbling great.in fact I had to remove some…( I used fermenting lids) – after 3 days I put it into the fridge and when I checked on it yesterday – the liquid had disappeared – not all of it..but it certainly wasn’t covering the veggies anymore – it smells okay…but I am a little nervous because I did use fish sauce and salted shrimp. I love kimchi and need to learn how to perfect it – I eat at least a cup a day!! HELP

  13. I made this kimchi for some friends, and one of my friends brought home some for his Korean mother in law. She said it was some of the best she’s had in a long time. I was very proud. Thanks, Maangchi!

  14. Marc C Quebec joined 7/21 & has 1 comment

    This recipe is a real monster, it keeps getting bigger every time I make it !!!! Thank you very much for the education, it is delicious !!!!

  15. Mauiomi Maui, Hi joined 4/21 & has 3 comments

    Maangchi please help. Made my 2nd batch which doesn’t have the great flavor of my 1st batch. I’m guessing that I did not let the salted cabbage sit long enough since I may have rushed the process. I now have watery and not much tasty kimchee, like the store bought kind. Should I drain the kimchee and add more of the porridge and seasonings, or just add more of the seasonings – shrimp paste, pepper flakes? Please help. Thanks!

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