Monday, January 24, 2011

Kimchi Making 101

Anyone can make kimchi
Few activities could lure me out of my toasty East Village apartment on the coldest day of the year. Kimchi making class at the Brooklyn Brainery happens to be one of them.

Ever since I first tried kimchi a few years ago, I am obsessed with coming up with new combos of eating it. Hummus + kimchi sandwiches, and grilled cheese + kimchi sandwiches are two of my favorites.

And in the dead of winter, when I'm told kimchi is a powerful food to ward off colds, what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The secret is in the right blending of seasonings
Clearly I wasn't the only one. The Brainery was packed when I arrived. So packed I could barely open the front door. Kimchi lovers unite! Single file we snaked our way around the assembly line of ingredients as Brainery co-founder Jonathan Soma talked us through the finer points of the fermentation process, which creates a good bacteria, making it one of the world's healthiest foods.

Following a basic recipe projected on a large screen, and armed with a big metal prep bowl, we "students" made our way around the ingredient stations: shredded Korean radish and carrots, sliced scallions, fish sauce, ginger and garlic pastes, sweet rice porridge, Korean pepper flakes, and salted cabbage. Mix well, very well. Place in a glass container. Take home. Leave on the counter for 2 days of so until the salt releases the liquids. And place in the fridge to eat.

Look but don't touch for two days
I am no kimchi expert. I just know I haven't met a version of Koreans' national side dish I didn't like. It even made international headlines last October as skyrocketing Napa cabbage prices in South Korea caused a serious national kimchi shortage.

While in line at class today, I overheard a guy musing about how nice it would be if kimchi became as common as hummus in US grocery stores. Couldn't agree more.

Kimchi Recipe Courtesy of Brooklyn Brainery:

This is just a sample guide.

1 tsp garlic
1 tsp ginger
¼ cup shredded radish
2 tbl shredded carrot
3 tbl green onion
4 tbl sweet rice porridge
1 tbl onion paste
1 tbl fish sauce
1-3 tbl Korean red pepper flakes
1 ½ cups cabbage

Kimchi Technique:  With any kimchi recipe, there are three steps.

1: Brining
After you cut up your cabbage, you need to salt it to draw out the water and do some magic on the texture and flavor.
Method 1: Mix 1 cup of salt into the cut-up cabbage for every 10 pounds of cabbage. Let sit for 1 ½ hours, mixing every half hour.
Method 2: Mix 2 cups water with ½ cup salt for every pound of cabbage. Cut the cabbages into quarte­rs, sprinkle salt on the stems, and submerge them in the salty water for 4-5 hours.

2: Mixing
Mix together everything except your cabbage.
Tip: The more finely you mince your garlic and ginger, the better the end product will be. If you can get it paste-like with the help of a food processor you’re in good shape! Now mix it up with your cabbage.

3: Fermenting
While you can eat your kimchi right away, it doesn’t get awesome until it’s started to ferment. Fermentation happens when little friendly bacteria work their way through the sugars, turning them into acids and CO2.. This is what makes kimchi taste sour.

How do you ferment? Just leave your kimchi alone and they’ll get started without you. It happens a lot more quickly on the countertop than in the fridge – I like to set my kimchi on a table in the kitchen for a couple days before I move it into the fridge. Don’t worry about it spoiling – the good bacteria have all sorts of methods they use to keep everything clean. If you notice a little white scum on top, scoop it off before you put it in the fridge. Once it’s been around for 3-4 weeks, it’s probably gotten to the point where it’s pretty sour and a good candidate for kimchi stew!


  1. I am a recovering Kimchi addict and this post sent me into a 21-day rehab program.

    Fantastic writing, per usual.

  2. I love sour kimchi. Makes the best stew!

  3. Wow. So you were right, your food blog was simple enough to find.
    Didn't realize it would have me immediately salivating like one of Pavlov's Dogs though.
    I've been a huge Kimchi fan ever since I was stationed in Korea in the early 90's - can't say I ever thought back then that I would see the day of a Brooklyn Kimchi class teaching its finer points
    And your Korean pork BBQ post below almost had me throwing my substandard Cosi Cobb salad out of the 15th floor window where I work. Best I've done in midtown for lunch is a Korean Street meat cart on 6th ave. A few of us have talked about hitting one of the BBQ places in KTown but your post makes me think about skipping that entirely and heading straight to Flushing. If the food is even 1/3 as tasty as you describe it - I have to get my ass there ASAP.
    Great meeting you Saturday at the Brunch

    Sorry, couldn't resist

  4. To Tom

    So glad you decided to hide your kids, hide your wife and find KikaEats. You've paid me some very high compliments to which I am grateful. All food obsessed are always welcome. Stay in touch + get your kimchi fix (no Fido, please). You can also find me at