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 napa cabbage (3 to 4 heads of medium napa cabbage)
  • ½ cup Kosher salt

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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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581 Comments:

  1. medusagurlyeah Adelaide joined 1/14
    Posted May 8th, 2015 at 2:06 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi, I’m planning a Gimjang party as a housewarming theme for my new house. My guests can take the fresh kimchi home as gifts when they go home. When is the traditional time for Koreans to make Gimjang? Thanks!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted May 8th, 2015 at 4:20 am | # |

      “My guests can take the fresh kimchi home as gifts when they go home.” It sounds great! : )
      Traditionally Gimjang (Winter kimchi) is made from November to December because the kimchi will be eaten during the cold winter.

      • medusagurlyeah Adelaide joined 1/14
        Posted May 9th, 2015 at 6:40 am | # |

        Thank you for your reply! It’s mid-autumn already here in Australia. By the time the house is ready, it’ll be winter and the party can start! Yay!

  2. medusagurlyeah Adelaide joined 1/14
    Posted May 8th, 2015 at 1:34 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi, I’m trying to organise a kimchi-making party as a house-warming event to celebrate the purchase of a new house so my guests can take their fresh kimchi home. When do people in Korea get together to make make kim-jang? Thank you.

  3. vamlavia joined 5/15
    Posted May 6th, 2015 at 8:13 am | # |

    Hi angchi,I really like eating kimchi but my mother don’t like the smell of garlic. Is it ok to make kimchi with less garlic or even without garlic at all. Thank you

  4. junlee joined 4/15
    Posted April 29th, 2015 at 10:21 pm | # |

    Hi maangchi, pls reply me Asap.
    I did it yesterday, and I added too much fish sauce. Now I taste it a bit salty. What should I do now???
    Many thanks.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted April 30th, 2015 at 12:06 pm | # |

      I would add more radish to the kimchi. Just cut a few radishes into disks and insert them into the salty kimchi. The radish will absorb some salt from the salty cabbage.

      • junlee joined 4/15
        Posted May 1st, 2015 at 10:25 pm | # |

        Thanks a lot maangchi.
        I love u and ur receipt soo much

      • gerry c joined 3/15
        Posted June 7th, 2015 at 1:40 am | # |

        This comment is golden.
        I made a batch where I think I didn’t wash the cabbage well enough and it was way salty.
        I thought of trying to “correct” it but didn’t know what to do and I ended up throwing it in the compost.
        Of course the radish soaks up the flavours and helps to balance it back out.

        Maangchi – great advice!

  5. misakiusui joined 4/15
    Posted April 21st, 2015 at 10:57 am | # |

    Hello, Maangchi i love korean food and it’s the tierd time i make the kimchi. But for this time i would like to try this method. Befor i had use the easy to make kimchi method.
    I have one question in the vegan option you use miso. I have bothe the japanese miso but Doenjang is the same? Or is good to? Or is better japnese miso?

  6. diegonaut joined 4/15
    Posted April 17th, 2015 at 8:59 pm | # |

    WOO!! I like this recipe! SPICY!!! Little too much fishy sauce, but good nonetheless… Thank you!

  7. Jaya joined 4/15
    Posted April 11th, 2015 at 6:36 pm | # |

    Thank you so much Maangchi…

    I love this recipe… I leave out the fish products, because my husband doesn’t like the taste. I put one Nashi pear in matchsticks, also, and some soy sauce.

    We have soba noodle soup with kimchi and eggs, every morning for breakfast.
    Lately I have made mak kimchi more often, because we use it quickly. I love to open the fridge and smell the sour kimchi after 3 days.

    I always make the porridge, because the flavour is a bit different if it’s not there, and it doesn’t stick well.

    I always bring some to the lady who sells me the gochugaru… she says she is lazy, and she just buys it, but she gets excited when I bring her some… she says I am like a Korean lady, getting happy about good kimchi. We have it for lunch together, when I bring it.

    Thank you so much for your perfect recipe!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted April 12th, 2015 at 8:37 am | # |

      Yes, it sounds like you are a Korean lady just like your neighbor said! : ) Thank you for sharing the story!

  8. marikel france joined 12/14
    Posted April 4th, 2015 at 6:47 pm | # |

    Hello Maangchi!
    I wanted to make kimchi but my boyfriend bought the gochugaru in powder instead of flakes.. Is it a problem? Can I replace the hot pepper flakes by hot pepper powder in any receipe?
    Thank you!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted April 4th, 2015 at 6:49 pm | # |

      No problem. Hot pepper powder is made with the same Korean hot peppers but finer than hot pepper flakes.

      • marikel france joined 12/14
        Posted April 4th, 2015 at 6:52 pm | # |

        Thank you Maangchi!
        So do I have to use less quantity since its finer?

        • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
          Posted April 4th, 2015 at 6:53 pm | # |

          It’s up to you. I usually use hot pepper flakes when I make kimchi.

  9. Rae26 joined 3/15
    Posted March 23rd, 2015 at 7:32 pm | # |

    THANK YOU MAANGCHI! I made this recipe with green cabbage (Yangbaechu Kimchi) but with porridge unlike the ’emergency’ kimchi recipe. It is the best kimchi I have ever had, even better than what I have bought from the store (and so much cheaper)!

    A tip for kimchi novices: when I first made my kimchi and ate it fresh, I thought there was something wrong because it seemed too bland compared to kimchi I have tasted in the past. I ended up adding WAY too much salt and ruined it! The second time around I followed the recipe closely and let it ferment out of the fridge for 2 full days. Wow… SO MUCH flavor comes from the fermenting! My second try turned out perfect. I recommend letting kimchi ferment first before adding more salt if you think it is bland. I also used a can of sardines instead of shrimp… sounds a bit gross maybe but the flavor turned out great.

  10. gerry c joined 3/15
    Posted March 22nd, 2015 at 11:47 pm | # |

    Have made kimchi quite a few times in the past but about to try your recipe.
    Do you know if the water dropwort is sometimes sold as “chinese celery” ?
    It’s the only item I’m having trouble sourcing.
    The online images of minari look the same as the “chinese celery” so I might just give it a try anyway.

    Thanks for the recipe.

    Cheers

    Gerry C

  11. ajcollins3@comcast.net Mill Valley joined 3/15
    Posted March 15th, 2015 at 12:35 pm | # |

    Hello Maanghi – I made this recipe with abouut 7 pounds of cabbage. Unfortunately, the kimchi had a “chemical” taste and smell. I think it is possible that this taste is coming from a plastic cooler I used for salting the cabbage. It was clean but maybe a bad kind of plastic. Do you have any suggestions for what type of large (5 gallons or so) container to use for salting and mixing?

    • junkka South Korea joined 3/15
      Posted March 16th, 2015 at 3:48 am | # |

      For plastic, I advise using Lock&Lock containers. It’s a Korean brand and commonly used in Korea.

      • sanne Munich joined 8/14
        Posted March 16th, 2015 at 8:32 am | # |

        Hi junkka,

        I totally agree!
        I started with “Good&Good”, which seems to be the same, and bought a few sets of “Lock&Lock” recently. The price varies, it’s not easy to find a good deal, but totally worth it!

        Bye, Sanne.

        • ajcollins3@comcast.net Mill Valley joined 3/15
          Posted March 16th, 2015 at 6:20 pm | # |

          Hello Junnka and Sanne,
          Thank you for the Lock & Lock suggestion. I am looking for a container of about 20 liters and it doesn’t look like they make one that big. Cambro makes a polycarbonate container of that size but it is quite expensive.

          With warmest regards,
          Andrew

          • sanne Munich joined 8/14
            Posted March 16th, 2015 at 7:19 pm | # |

            Hi ajcollins3@comcast.net,

            They do – 21 litre, about 40-45 $ per unit.
            Maybe there are better deals; that’s what I’ve found right now.

            Bye, Sanne.

          • ajcollins3@comcast.net Mill Valley joined 3/15
            Posted March 16th, 2015 at 8:27 pm | # |

            Hi Sanne,
            I found the one you are talkking about but it is $96 on US Amazon! They have a “Lustroware” 4.2 gal. (16 l) for $26 – that should be big enouugh.

            Thanks again for you help,
            Andrew

          • sanne Munich joined 8/14
            Posted March 17th, 2015 at 4:02 am | # |

            Hi Andrew,

            I had no idea that the HPL896 is that expensive in the US!
            On amazon.de, it’s only 33.33 to less than 35 Euro (weak Euro, strong US-Dollar; therefore, about the same in your currency at the moment!) – free shipping in Germany. Shipping from here to the US is horrendously expensive!

            Do you happen to know someone who travels to Germany and knows someone here who would order it for that person? Or buy it in a store, we’re lucky here: http://www.locknlock.de/haendlersuche.html

            Same question goes for Korea, but I don’t know the prices there… Meshil-pyeong from 25 to 30 litre are quite cheap there, though (man [10.000] won), I use those for mul-Kimchi and large amounts of maneul-jangajji.

            But I agree: 16 litre should be large enough.

            Bye, Sanne.

          • ajcollins3@comcast.net Mill Valley joined 3/15
            Posted March 17th, 2015 at 11:42 am | # |

            Hi Sanne,
            Here is what I just purchased: Lustroware 4.2 gal. + 2.9 gal. both for $33. Seems like a good deal.
            http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EVZW9WW/ref=sr_ph?ie=UTF8&qid=1426606701&sr=1&keywords=lustroware+4.2

            With warmest regards,
            Andrrew

          • sanne Munich joined 8/14
            Posted March 17th, 2015 at 12:20 pm | # |

            Hi Andrew,

            seems like the tree’s getting a little deep now…

            I agree; looking good!

            Bye, Sanne.

  12. stage89 singapore joined 2/15
    Posted March 14th, 2015 at 2:26 pm | # |

    After finish making the kimchi how do I keep so that it teste very nice

    • junkka South Korea joined 3/15
      Posted March 16th, 2015 at 3:51 am | # |

      The definition of ‘nice taste’ for Kimchi can vary greatly. Some people prefer them fresh, some people like me like them aged and sour. If you would like to keep the taste, you must try to minimize the exposure to air. It’s better to preserve them in large batch, in a single container and only open it when you need it. I normally take about a week’s worth every week.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted March 17th, 2015 at 7:22 am | # |

      I usually put all my kimchi in the fridge except for a little bit in a small container. I like fresh kimchi, so this way the kimchi in the fridge ferments slowly and stays fresh, while the smaller container ferments faster and gets sour. I use this sour kimchi for making things like kimchi jjigae where sour kimchi is better. Then, when the small container is empty, I fill it up again with kimchi from the big container. It takes a little management, but experiment and you’ll get the hang of it!

      How do you know it’s fermented or not?
      One or 2 days after, open the lid of the Kimchi container. You may see some bubbles with lots of liquids, or maybe sour smells. That means it’s already being fermented.

  13. Serena Ong Jakarta joined 3/15
    Posted March 13th, 2015 at 12:51 pm | # |

    Hello maangchi.. I am your new friend.. Im looking for kimchi recipe and i find your brilliant video and recipes..
    I have a question, Why we have to use rice flour paste? Is it gonna help the cabbage with the fermentation?

    Thank you Maangchi

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted March 17th, 2015 at 7:12 am | # |

      Porridge helps hot pepper flakes, fish sauce, garlic, ginger and all spices mix together. Otherwise, the kimchi paste will be too thick to put it between cabbage leaves easily. So you can use sweet pear juice instead of making porridge if you want. I sometimes use pear to make kimchi

      • sanne Munich joined 8/14
        Posted March 17th, 2015 at 7:47 am | # |

        Hi Maangchi,

        You just have to spread the leaves so that they look like a fan, spread the filling and wrap it all up again, using the outer leaves to pack it up nicely.

        Nowadays, I prefer mak-kimchi – and that’s easy to mix anyway.

        Bye, Sanne.

  14. DY California joined 3/15
    Posted March 12th, 2015 at 8:57 pm | # |

    Hi! New here, and loving it!! I’ve always wanted to make Kimchi so this is wonderful Thank you! :)
    Although I do have a few questions. I was looking for Fish sauce online and came across 2 Korean types? One was made form (Myul Chi)? Anchovy and the other (Kanari)? Sand Lance.
    And if Anyone could answer where I could buy Gochugaru online, I’d be very thank full Thank you :)

  15. monkeyloveskorea Hong Kong joined 1/15
    Posted March 11th, 2015 at 4:43 am | # |

    Hi:)
    I had made my second batch of kimchi around one month ago and it has been stored in the refrigerator. I just found out that the leaves of the cabbage went very soft and the smell is quite bad…is this kimchi still okay? Can someone please reply me soon!!Thank you very muchh

    • sanne Munich joined 8/14
      Posted March 11th, 2015 at 12:56 pm | # |

      Hi monkeyloveskorea,

      Define “smell quite bad” – my katmul-kimchi doesn’t smell like roses, either ;-D, but it *tastes* delicious.

      Remove the uppermost layer, remove and toss moldy leaves, if any. No mold, no problem. This layer is still good for recipes that require “shin” (*very* well-aged) kimchi.
      Submerge the deeper layers in their brine and see to it that they stay submerged!

      Good luck! Bye Sanne.

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