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My Kind Of Kimchi

Dearie me. I was once more beset by cabbages.

Multiple heads of the green stuff were inhabiting my kitchen and wearing a look that said if I didn’t do something soon, their mate turnip would show up and then there’d be real trouble. This time, however, I would take charge of the situation. Nothing like a bit of fermentation to show those brassicas just who was boss. Yes indeed, the time had come to make kimchi.

Kimchi a la Spud

Kimchi a la Spud

Now, kimchi is really an umbrella term for the Korean approach to preserving raw vegetables. They’re seasoned in various ways, fermented and then (as I had seen at first hand on a visit to Seoul) eaten with just about everything. Lots of vegetables get the kimchi treatment but cabbage is probably the vegetable most commonly associated with it.

Traditional kimchi preparation, National Folk Museum, Seoul

Traditional kimchi preparation, National Folk Museum, Seoul

Traditionally, vegetables for kimchi were packed into large earthenware pots and then buried in the ground while they fermented over the winter months. I had no plans to bury anything as part of the war on cabbages and, luckily, there would be no need to go to that extreme. While foraging around the internet, I found that David Lebovitz, he of all things chocolate and ice-creamy, had dabbled here and there with making kimchi. Using his later version as a guide, I launched my cabbage offensive and a mighty successful campaign it was too.

What I produced may not have been authentically Korean – I didn’t have the Korean chili pastes and powders, so I used harissa instead – but, with its nice chili/gingery bite, I have had no problem eating devouring vast quantities of this with all manner of things. With eggs, with rice, with noodles, with itself. Not with potatoes, though. Well, not yet. It’s only a matter of time, however, because when next I am beset by cabbages, I will be making this again.

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Kimchi a la Spud


This was adapted from the David Lebovitz formula posted here, which, in turn, was based on Alex Ong’s version here. My version involved using a different kind of cabbage, adding more ginger and using harissa as a substitute for Korean chili paste, of which I had none. It is thus not an authentically Korean preparation, but it’s my kind of kimchi all the same!

The Summary:

  • Makes one 750ml jar containing a tasty solution to the problem of excess cabbage & takes approx. 3 days for prep and initial fermentation, and about another 4 days before you can start using the kimchi
You’ll need:
  • 1 head cabbage– typically kimchi recipes specify chinese or napa cabbage but I used a head of savoy cabbage, weighing about 800g
  • 2 tblsp coarse non-iodized salt
  • 80ml white rice vinegar
  • 3 tblsp harissa paste
  • 1 tblsp finely minced garlic
  • 1 tblsp finely minced fresh root ginger
  • 4 spring onions, sliced in 5cm batons (white + green parts)
You’ll also need:
  • A colander and large plastic, glass or ceramic bowl
  • An airtight preserving jar (or jars), about 750ml capacity
Day 1:
  • Remove any tough outer leaves from the cabbage, slice in half lengthways and remove the core.
  • Slice the cabbage into bitesize pieces, approx. 5cm x 5cm each.
  • Toss the cabbage pieces in a large bowl with the salt, then place in a colander and sit this over a bowl or sink. Cover with a plate and weight it down.
  • Leave for 24 hours, at the end of which a small amount of water will have collected underneath the colander.
Day 2:
  • Combine the rice vinegar, harissa, garlic and ginger in a large glass, ceramic or plastic bowl. I let this stand for a few hours.
  • Taking the cabbage in small handfuls, squeeze it well to remove any excess water and add to the chili mixture, stirring to coat.
  • Add the spring onions and stir to coat.
  • Pack the mixture tightly into the preserving jar(s). Leave to stand at room temperature for 48 hours, while the fermentation gets underway. Chill for about another 4 days before using.
  • It’s generally recommended to use the kimchi within about 3 weeks. Mine won’t last anywhere near that long.
The Variations:
  • I’d like to try this with traditional Korean chili, substituting 3 tblsp of Korean chili paste (gochujang) plus 2 tblsp of coarse Korean chili powder (gokchu garu) for the harissa.


  1. kickpleat

    Sounds good to me!

  2. Jenni

    Well done! Way to take the Situation in Hand and Subdue the cabbage with style and grace. And harissa! I love that stuff–we used to put it in our spicy gazpacho that our bar used to make Bloody Marys (Maries?) Yum.

    And, I see no reason not to make some sort of hybrid kimchi bubble and squeak, but what do I know?! :)

  3. adel

    I think this kimchi is brilliant! I like the presence of scallions in it..give potato a go with it!

  4. Daily Spud

    kickpleat: yep, it is!

    Jenni: hybrid kimchi bubble and squeak? that is genius that is, the Spud applauds you and will be trying out same in due course; cabbages will have nowhere left to hide…

    Adel: I will be trying potato with it, I will :)

  5. Chef E

    In the Indian household I work in, one of their favorite dishes I make is the potato and cabbage saute…so I think your combo would so compliment each other…I like the idea of sour with these two ingredients and you know I am all about ‘Play With Your Food’!

  6. Greg

    I did a video of me making kimchi! If you have not seen it here it is http://www.sippitysup.com/kimchiblog
    Mine was pretty traditional, but yours is so sleek and modern, I can imagine all sorts of non-Korean food applications. GREG

  7. jenn

    Goodness…. kimchi!!!!!! I’ve never made some of my own. I either buy it or get it from a friend’s mom. I think it’s time I try making my own batch.

  8. Reeni

    I’d like to help you devour some of that! It looks delicious!

  9. GrilledShane

    Always learning something new when I visit! This looks really yummy! I will have to research kimchi and harissa as this is the first time I have heard of either.

  10. Sophie

    Love it!! Love it!! Love it!!
    have a Happy Easter!!

  11. Lori

    I’ve heard of kimchi, but have never had the opportunity to try it. Thanks for sharing. Maybe I’ll just attempt it myself. From the sound and look of it, I’m sure I would really enjoy it. Glad to hear you got some use out of all that cabbage! :)

  12. aoife mc

    This looks very nice indeed! There’s a Korean restaurant called East just off Dame Street, down the lane near Thomas Read’s pub, my Korean students have told me it’s wonderful. Might go there and then try your kimchi at home!

  13. Will

    Yes! Another kimchi lover. Few people I know like it. I’ve been dying to try this recipe http://thepauperedchef.com/2007/05/ah_me_and_kimch_1.html which emanated from the Good Fork in brooklyn.

    I’m definitely going to have to pick a day when my friends are not around, and cook this up! Thanks!

  14. zerrin

    I’m not familiar with kimchi, but this sounds so appetizing! And the way of its preperation is very similar to cabbage pickles we make here, the only difference is the lemon juice we add.

  15. OysterCulture

    What a great idea to use harissa – pure genius. It looks delicious.

  16. Daily Spud

    Chef E: absolutely, I will be playing with the kimchi that I’ve got left…

    Greg: another excellent video, makes me want to try making something a bit more traditionally Korean!

    Jenn: go for it, there’s a first time for everything

    Reeni: sure, I still have a little bit left, we can share :)

    GrilledShane: I’m sure you’ll find some way of combining grilled cheese with both kimchi and harissa and I look forward to hearing about it :)

    Sophie: thanks and have a good Easter yourself!

    Lori: yes, it was indeed a good way to deal with the cabbage for sure

    aoife mc: I’ll have to check that restaurant out – especially if it’s recommended by Korean students!

    Will: because I only made a small batch and had a well sealed jar, I didn’t suffer greatly from fermenting odours, but I have heard that with kimchi and sauerkraut, it can be a bit of a problem :)

    zerrin: I’d love to hear about your cabbage pickles sometime!

    OysterCulture: I liked it a lot!

  17. sarah gostrangely

    Hi Spud,

    Thanks for recipe…was always curious re kimchi.

    Could you use regular chilli powder do you think?



  18. Tangled Noodle

    That’s showing those brassy, bratty brassicas! Kimchi was a food that I wouldn’t have touched with a ten-foot fork in my younger days but as my tastebuds have become more discerning and sophisticated (or maybe just old and dulled out, so I need stronger flavors), I really relish it now.

    BTW, I love the miniature Korean kitchen!

  19. Daily Spud

    Sarah: you’re welcome and thanks for dropping in! As to alternatives to the harissa, you could certainly try using regular chili powder. Because the strength of chili powders can vary, you’ll probably want to experiment with the amount you use. Maybe start with, say, a tblsp of chili powder in place of the harissa and see if it’s got the right level of heat for your taste.

    Tangled Noodle: I’ve always been a big fan of pickles and preserves, so with kimchi it was love at first bite!

  20. Marybakes

    What a great combination- nicely prepared raw veggies and a spud ahh!!

  21. gastroanthropologist

    My mother is Korean so I grew up with kimchi for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is a condiment for everything (really good with mashed potatoes!). When my mom and sisters get together its just like the picture above (today its minus the traditional dresses though). The way it changes tastes after days and weeks is interesting to note too – I like more fresh kimchi, but for my mom the more sour and fermented the better. I like the sour kind stirred into soups.

  22. Daily Spud

    Marybakes: a fine combination indeed!

    gastroanthropologist: how interesting! I really could imagine eating it with a lot of things, mash included. I also noticed the taste change over the couple of weeks that the kimchi lasted. I reckon that I prefer the fresher stuff too and am not sure I would have wanted to eat mine after any more than about 2 or 3 weeks of fermentation…

  23. Kevin

    Making your own kimchi is always fun. I like the sound of this one.

  24. Daily Spud

    Yep, it’s fun and tasty :) (and thanks so much for dropping in!)

  25. Stacia

    Normally I do not learn on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up compelled me to check out and do it!
    Your writing style has surprised me. Thanks, very great post.

  26. Daily Spud

    Why thank you Stacia, glad I was such an inspiration (and flattered too, naturally)!

  27. speedwell

    Spud, I found your post on Kimchi in Ireland today. I’m a US expat who used to live across from a Korean restaurant in Texas, and I got my kimchi fix whenever I wanted. I’ve made it a few times too, with authentic Korean ingredients (Korean daikon, gochu jang, fish sauce, and pak choi). Here in Sligo… well, I went slightly nuts the other day and bought a beautiful local pointy York cabbage, some big fresh carrots with the dirt still on them, an enormous Bermuda onion, a fat lemon, and some tiny green onions, trusting that I’d find a proper chili paste. Two unexpected finds made this a “must do”: Tesco carries fish sauce, and at Lituanica I found a Russian chile paste called “adzika” that stands in well for gochu jang.

    Adzika can be tomato-based, but I found a super hot version that had a huge amount of chile and a comparatively small amount of tomato. The tomato actually helps deepen the flavor a bit; it complements the fish in giving the mixture its essential “umami” taste. I prefer fish sauce, when I can get it, to anchovies because the fish sauce is already fermented and I think it tastes more authentic. Using lemon juice in place of the vinegar is a matter of personal preference, and I always use carrots and sweet onion.

    I proceed like this:

    1. Slice the carrots paper-thin and the other veggies in bite-sized pieces. Put everything in a large bowl and toss with salt, making sure everything gets some salt on it. Leave to wilt for 4 to 24 hours (depending how much water is coming out of the veg).

    2. Toss and mix the salted veg every so often while wilting. When you can’t stand it anymore and you’re tired of eating bits out of the bowl, add cold water up to the top of the bowl and swish it around a bit. Then squeeze double handfuls out between your two hands until as dry as possible, and drop them into another bowl.

    3. Rinse the first bowl out, and mix your chosen chili paste, a lot of grated fresh ginger, several big cloves of minced garlic (my garlic press gets a workout), the juice of a lemon, a big spoonful of sugar, and additional hot sauce to taste (I used ghost pepper sauce this time and my mouth is going WHAT). The marinade should be about the consistency of spaghetti sauce without the ground beef.

    4. Dump the veg into the sauce bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. Yes, hands. Do not attempt this with a measly spoon. Use your hands. Pack into glass containers and ferment.

    I will eat a big batch in about a week by myself, but once I went on a three-week business trip and left it in the refrigerator. I thought it was probably too “done”, but a Korean friend came over and took custody of the poor unappreciated batch, calling it “perfect like this”. :)

  28. Daily Spud

    Thanks so much for your comment Speedwell and for letting me in (and in such detail too) on your kimchi methods – haven’t made a batch in a while but this has inspired me to remedy that, and soon!

  29. Mike

    Just to be clear, this recipe is not for kimchee at all, but rather pickled cabbage with korean spices. As you pointed out, Kimchee is naturally preserved through the process of fermentation. That there is no mention of fermentation whatsoever anywhere in the recipe should have been a clue to the fact that you weren’t actually making kimchee. The by-product of this fermentation process is lactic acid which is very mild and not at all sharp on the palate as compared with the acetic acid found in all vinegar – and it is this lactic acid (Along with the salt) which serves to preserve kimchee. Additionally, the fermentation process produces massive quantities of beneficial lactic acid bacteria (microflora), which have high anti-oxidant properties and numerous associated health benefits. Rather than fermenting the ingredients, the recipe you have followed simply adds vinegar to pickle it. I’ve done some similar pickles and have no doubt that what you have made is tasty, but it is completely different in taste and structure from kimchee, lacks all of the health benefits produced during fermentation, and should never be confused with the real thing. Just call it what it is – Asian spiced pickled cabbage, NOT kimchee. Having worked with Alex Ong way back in the day, I expect better from him.

    • Daily Spud

      Mike, thanks for the clarifications – I’ve had more experience with fermentation since this was written several years ago, and take the point about pickled vs. fermented (and yes, what was produced was still tasty, if not, as you’ve described, the real kimchi deal).

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