When most people think of kimchi they usually have Mak Kinchi in mind. Made with napa (Chinese) cabbage it is perhaps the most commonly found variety of kimchi, especially outside Korea. Of all the kimchi out there (and there are many) Mak Kimchi is still my personal favourite; it is versatile, its ingredients readily available, and most importantly, it is easy to make.
I used to buy my kimchi ready made from my local Asian supermarket, but it wasn’t really spicy enough for my palette and that it often went off very quickly. I found the latter odd, given that kimchi is by its very definition preserved and therefore shouldn’t go mouldy after just a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Determined to make my own, I bought various kimchi making contraptions on my last visit to Japan. I scoured the internet looking for recipes and I stocked up on an obscene amount of Korean Chilli Powder. My first few attempts were a bit disappointing but eventually, through trial and error, I started to make passable Mak Kimchi. I must confess that I no longer use any of those weird and wonderful kimchi contraptions that I hauled all the way back from Japan. All you really need is a large glass jar, a little patience and you too can make your own kimchi!
I have no doubt that my attempts would be a mockery compared to kimchi in Korea itself; but thankfully I’m not in Korea. I live in Cape Town and here my kimchi is pretty damn good!
Mak Kimchi (Napa Cabbage Kimchi)
- 2 Medium Napa/Chinese Cabbages
- 1/2 cup salt
- 4 large spring onions, green parts only, thickly sliced on the diagonal
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup Korean Chilli Powder
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 5cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp. Korean Anchovy Sauce, (substitute with Thai fish sauce if unavailable)
- 2 tbsp. dried shrimp (salted if available)
- 2 tsp. white sugar
Cut the cabbage into squares. Wash thoroughly and then combine with the salt in a large bowl. Using your hand, mix the salt and cabbage well. Cover with a plate and weigh it down with something heavy. Leave to brine for 1 hour.
Combine all the seasoning paste ingredients into a food processor and pulse until a paste is formed. Transfer the paste to a bowl and mix in the sliced spring onions and the Korean chilli powder. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle.
Rinse the brined cabbage and then allow to dry in a colander for 20 minutes, alternatively you can use a salad spinner to accelerate the drying process.
In another large mixing bowl, add a handful of the cabbage with a dollop of the seasoning paste. Mix to combine the two thoroughly before adding more cabbage, followed by another dollop of the chilli paste. Continue until both the cabbage and seasoning paste have been used up.
Note: the seasoning paste can stain your hands, use gloves if this is a concern
Add the cabbage to your jar, packing the mixture firmly as you go.
Add 1/4 cup of water into your mixing bowl and swirl it around so that it combines with the remaining seasoning paste. Add the water to the jar and secure the lid tightly.
Store the jar in a cool, dry location for 3 days, opening the jar once a day to release any gases that may build-up. After the 3 days are up, store the jar in the refrigerator and consume within 6 months.
Note: The jar used to ferment the kimchi will forever smell of it, so I recommend buying a jar for the sole purpose of making kimchi.
Serve with: Serve as a side dish to any Korean meal. It can also be added to numerous Korean dishes as an ingredient such as soups, stews, rice and pancakes. I like to just eat it with some rice and a fried egg on top, total kimchi bliss