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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659 Comments:

  1. BrianKrecik United States joined 3/15 & has 1 comment

    I made Kimchi for about 8 years and experimented. I didn’t really have a recipe per se, more of a general idea of how much salt, how much porridge, how much red pepper flakes (et al) to use. This meant that sometimes the kimchi was exceptional – other times just edible.

    Your recipe fixed all that. It solved my proportions problems as my wife mentions, I have big hands when I cook. I love to add layers to add texture and flavors. Things like Asian pears or oyster are always nice but I never knew up much or how little. Thanks to you and your informative website I am saved and now make kimchi like a rock start – all the time every time.

    Thank you for making this available as food should be enjoyed both while we eat it and prepare it.

    Warmest,

    Brian Krecik

  2. Vickykoay0711 Singapore joined 3/15 & has 4 comments

    Hi Maangchi,

    This is my first to make Kimchi wanted to try for a head of cabbage, can I know the salt still using 1/2 cup to salting the cabbage? Thanks.

  3. Vickykoay0711 Singapore joined 3/15 & has 4 comments

    Hi Maangchi,
    I’m very first to kimchi, I only use one head of cabbage to do a testing.
    Should I still using 1/2 cup of salt to salting the cabbage? Thanks

  4. AMYC98 Malaysia joined 8/12 & has 4 comments

    Hay Maangchi, we have Cincalok in Malaysia, which is fermented small shrimp looks like 세우젓, Cincalok is a little salty and has a pungent smell, I’ve seen people using Philippines’ Bagoong Alamang as a substitute to Cincalok. We eat it as a banchan like a sauce or Sambal, but I make a sweet, spicy, sour dipping sauce with to eat with spring rolls as a Vietnamese heritage. Do you think it’s the same? I’ve never tasted 세우젓 as it is or in Chinese 김치.

    • medusagurlyeah Adelaide joined 1/14 & has 25 comments

      Hi AMYC98, I’m from Singapore. Ive added cincalok to my kimchi paste to make my kimchi. It works! Very tasty result. Cincalok is slightly different in flavour to the Korean fermented shrimp but difference is subtle. It’s my ever-ready substitute to raw oysters!

  5. Heshell Philippines joined 8/14 & has 1 comment

    Hello Maangchi,
    Is there a substitute for salted shrimp sauce so I can make this recipe as well?
    Thanks in advance!

  6. Huskergirlpdx Oregon City, OR joined 2/15 & has 1 comment

    I so enjoy your You Tube videos. It is a pleasure to watch you cook and I’ve learned a lot! A quick question: I made your Tongbaechu-kimchi and I don’t think I had the correct hot pepper flakes. I made my own hot pepper flakes by grinding ground chili flakes. The result was very very hot and I only used 1/2 cup. My question: what brand hot pepper flakes do you use? Are they really flakes (you can see the pepper seeds) because it looks more like a powder on your video. Can’t wait to hear your response so I can obtain the proper ingredient! You are A #1 Tops!! Thank you!

    • Umami Rochester, NY joined 2/15 & has 1 comment

      Based on what I know, Korean pepper flakes don’t use the seeds, they’re too spicy!
      I’d look on the labels for pepper flakes intended for use with kimchi, that’s what I did. I hope that helps!

    • Jina.x Oklahoma joined 3/15 & has 1 comment

      Hi maangchi!
      Quick question. Yesterday I made some kimchi following your recipe, but I didn’t read the last part about fermenting. I put the kimchi in the fridge right after I finished. I woke up today to check on it but its not fermented. Will that ruin my kimchi? Will it still ferment if I leave out on the counter now?

      • sanne Munich joined 8/14 & has 181 comments

        Hi Jina.x,

        Don’t worry.
        Usually, it takes more than one day until any Kimchi starts bubbling.
        Slowly-fermented Kimchi keeps longer and is really good.
        Just take a small batch of your kimchi, put it in a smaller container and keep that outside the fridge until fermented enough. Keep it in the fridge afterwards.
        That’s how Maangchi does it, and that’s a really good idea!

        Bye, Sanne.

      • Oxide California joined 2/15 & has 47 comments

        Hi Jina,

        As the other member said, don’t worry. All you did was slow the fermentation down. Take it out of the fridge and leave at room temperature and it will resume fermenting as if it was never in the fridge. The cold in the fridge slows the lacto bacteria responsible for fermenting. Once warmed it will pick up where it left off.Leave it out for a day or two, then back to the fridge until consumed.

        The disadvantage of doing all of the fermentation in a fridge is the bacteria growth is really slowed down, more so than the fungus (mold) that is also always present. Fermenting only in the fridge will take a very long time — hence the advent of a refrigerator in the first place … to preserve food without spoilage, so it could allow your kimchi to develop mold before it ferments. Once you have fermentation the lacto bacateria creates an environment mold cannot survive in. Lacto bacteria is one of the few bacteria that grows in a salty environment — hence pickling brine.

    • Oxide California joined 2/15 & has 47 comments

      Hi Huskergirlpdx,

      You can buy the red pepper powder on Amazon. Search for ‘Korean red pepper’. Look for one with a picture of kimchi on it. The difference is the grind size. If it has kimchi on the bag it is ground to the size used for kimchi.

      I live near a Korean market so I went there and asked a Korean, “do you know which of these red pepper powders I need to make kimchi?” The polite Korean gentleman pointed at a bag and said, “the one with the big picture of kimchi on it.” Yeah, I felt a little dumb.
      (*^_^*)

  7. Virginia New Jersey joined 2/15 & has 1 comment

    Wow! I really enjoyed watching your lovely video on how to make Kimchi. Beautiful!!!! Thank you so much😸. Oh, it looks so good and healthy too!

  8. tomhel NJ joined 2/15 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi!
    I live in NJ and experience the same seasons as you. When is nappa cabbage in season and when’s the best time of year to make kimchi?

  9. stage89 singapore joined 2/15 & has 10 comments

    I’m peishan from Singapore. …I would like to ask in singapore where I find korean ingredients store I mean got korean shop in singapore? ?

  10. Smoothie girl Hawaii joined 2/15 & has 1 comment

    I am having difficulty finding an onggi where I live. Do you know of any sources that would ship me a good quality, authentic onggi from South Korea?

  11. Jstanfa Sunnyvale, CA joined 2/15 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi!
    I love your website and recipes! I notice you use kosher salt a lot vs. korean sea salt to salt before fermenting. Is there a reason, or is it preference? I would like to attempt to make the traditional kimchee, but I wanted to check on the salt, as I have the korean sea salt on hand but I also have kosher. :) Thanks!

  12. ChociiePie Australia joined 2/14 & has 3 comments

    Hello Maangchi,
    I tried to make kimchi but i did the salting process incorrectly, so now my kimchi taste very bland. Is there a way to increase the salt flavour, or kimchi flavour in general?

    • MILY GUATEMALA joined 1/15 & has 1 comment

      Hello Maangchi

      I made kimchi with a friend and stay salty. I think we put a lot of fish sauce . When this happens there is any solution to remove salty??

      • ChociiePie Australia joined 2/14 & has 3 comments

        Hey Mily,
        The previous time i made kimchi, it was also very salty so i put some normal/plain cabbage leaves (that hasn’t been fermented or salted) with the salty kimchi.
        Can i ask, is the kimchi salty before it has been fermented? Because after mine fermented for a few days, the saltiness went away and was eventually replaced by a bit of sourness. That wasjust my experience with the salty kimchi i made.

        Anyways, how can i add more flavour into my kimchi because the cabbage taste quite plain and the flavour in general is quite plain. Just has a lot of chilli flavour hahaha.

      • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,274 comments

        When the salty kimchi ferments, it will taste better but if you like to fix it, add more radish to the kimchi. Just cut a few radishes into disks and insert them into the salty kimchi. That’s my way to dilute.

  13. brallym USA joined 2/15 & has 1 comment

    I made kimchi this week based off of your recipe.

    Since I eat vegan, I experimented a bit… I used shiitake mushroom broth instead of fish sauce, and white miso paste instead of fermented shrimp. It’s only been 2 days so the kimchi isn’t fully ripe yet, but early indications are good! Maybe next time I will add some soy sauce to my mushroom broth to make it a bit saltier and tangy? The experiments will continue :)

    Thank you for the recipe!

  14. DeeVonZee Edmonton, AB joined 2/15 & has 5 comments

    Hello Maanchi, I’m new to the board, but I have been following for a while. My sister in law moved to Canada from Korea over a year ago, and gets homesick for her comfort foods. I live in a big city and have access to the ingredients she loves, so I try to bring as much as I can pack in my suitcase for her so she’ll feel more at home when I visit. Over the holidays we decided to make kimchi, which makes it easier for me, packaged kimchi weighs a lot in the suitcase. She mentioned she likes pear in her kimchi, but at the time we didn’t have any, so we tried apples. It was amazing, and even she said she would use them again. I recommend people try some sliced apple and pear in their recipes, the crunch and sweetness makes the kimchi even more addicting!

    • dedmund San Angelo, Tx joined 2/14 & has 1 comment

      Excited to try making Kimchi. What kind and how many apples and pears did you use? sliced thin? I will cut Maanchi’s recipe in half since it is just my husband and I don’t have a lot of storage space.

      • DeeVonZee Edmonton, AB joined 2/15 & has 5 comments

        She told me to look for “Asian pears” but these ones are a bit browner than the common yellow ones I’ve seen. We used one green apple for the recipe, maybe as thick as the radish. It’s a nice pop of flavor for sure!

  15. Kajova United States joined 2/15 & has 1 comment

    Hello Maangchi, could you share the recipe for the multigrain rice with green peas recipe you cooked in the pressure cooker? wow I’d love to learn it please, I have made your kimchi a couple of times, it;s the best!! sometimes i just watch your recipes just to feel happy!!! thank God for Korean food. KamsaHamnida!!

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