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Whole Kimchi (Tongbaechu Kimchi)

This kimchi uses napa cabbage and a tasty paste to create the traditional Korean side dish
Whole Kimchi (Tongbaechu Kimchi)
Tara Pearce

This is a traditional way to make kimchi. It not only looks quite beautiful but is great because you can pull the cabbage out and chop it to the size you’d like. You can make lovely perfectly layered squares, or chop it finely for adding to another dish. It’s up to you. Pulling it from the vat whole is … memorable, I think.

Adding raw seafood, such as oysters, is common, particularly on the southern tip of South Korea, which makes sense, being near the ocean. If you decide to add seafood, because you are adding it raw and it’s going to ferment, make sure it’s fresh and of high quality. Clean it in a salt water bath and drain before using. The seafood is best added to small batches that you’ll ferment in the fridge and eat up pretty quickly. — Sharon Flynn, author of Ferment for Good

Preparation time: 2 hours

Fermentation time: 3+ days

Equipment: Large crock or jar, your chosen lidding system

Notes

This is delicious cut neatly and topped with its juices and toasted sesame seeds. Or you can chop it up and add it to soups and other cooked dishes.

Ingredients

  • 3 wombok (Chinese cabbages) or napa cabbage

For dry brining:

  • 1/2 Cup salt

For normal brining:

  • 2 Cups good coarse sea salt (calculate the percentage based on the weight of the cabbage; see method)
  • About 5 fluid ounces water

For the kimchi paste:

  • 2 Cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons (sweet) glutinous rice flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 –2 garlic bulbs, peeled and crushed (use less garlic if you don’t love it, more if you do)
  • 1 -inch piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 7 fluid ounces good fish sauce
  • 1 –2 cups Korean chilli flakes (gochugaru)
  • 1/2 onion, peeled
  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 1 small daikon (white radish), peeled and julienned
  • 5 spring onions (scallions), sliced

Directions

Trim the bottom of the wombok and cut them down the middle halfway, enough so that you can pull the cabbage gently apart.

Then cut a small slit in the bottom, just to open the bases up a bit, but keeping them together.

For dry brining:

To dry brine (which takes less time), dip the cabbages in clean, cold water and then sprinkle the salt all over, making sure you get salt in between the leaves.

Pile the cabbages together and leave them to sit for 2 hours, flipping and turning them every half hour.

They may need some more time depending on the temperature.

The cabbages should be shrinking and producing more water after each 30-minute period.

For normal brining:

To brine in the normal way, immerse the cabbages in a clean sink in a 15–20 percent brine (use the amounts in the ingredient list as a guide for this), using something like a large plate to keep the cabbages under the brine.

You can leave them overnight or for a few hours.

The cabbages are ready when you can bend a leaf backwards without breaking it.

Whatever method you use, when the cabbages are ready, wash and drain a few times, and then gently pull them apart into quarters.

After rinsing well, have a taste. It will be saltier than you’d like to eat, but not too salty.

If you think it is too salty, rinse again.

For the kimchi paste:

To make the kimchi paste, first heat the water in a saucepan over low heat.

Add the rice flour until it’s paste-like, stirring to avoid lumps.

Add the sugar and keep stirring until dissolved.

This will thicken your kimchi paste so it stays on and within the cabbage, rather than drip down and away from it.

Blitz the garlic, ginger, fish sauce, chilli flakes, and onion in a blender and add to the flour mixture, stirring to combine.

Mix the carrot, daikon, and spring onion into the paste.

Now take your drained wombok and remove the hard core at the end.

Then wipe each layer with the kimchi paste, smearing it between the leaves, making sure the entire cabbage has paste on and in it.

Fold each piece as you finish and place into your crock or jar, or even a BPA-free food-grade plastic container.

Pack down tightly so there are no air pockets, put on the lid and let it sit.

A couple of days later, check it — upon pushing down there should be a lot more liquid, and it should have started fermenting.

If it’s bubbling, you’ll know it has started. You can let it go for a couple more days, or pop it into a root cellar or fridge to ferment slowly for longer.

It will keep in the fridge for months, getting sourer with time.

Recipe adapted from Ferment for Good by Sharon Flynn (Hardie Grant, 2017)

Nutritional Facts
Servings10
Calories Per Serving94
Total Fat2g4%
Sugar7gN/A
Saturated0.5g2.3%
Protein4g8%
Carbs18g6%
Vitamin A381µg42%
Vitamin B120.1µg2%
Vitamin B60.6mg28.2%
Vitamin C22mg37%
Vitamin E4mg20%
Vitamin K29µg37%
Calcium68mg7%
Fiber5g19%
Folate (food)45µgN/A
Folate equivalent (total)45µg11%
Iron2mg9%
Magnesium76mg19%
Monounsaturated0.4gN/A
Niacin (B3)2mg10%
Phosphorus69mg10%
Polyunsaturated1gN/A
Potassium504mg14%
Riboflavin (B2)0.2mg9.6%
Sodium2004mg84%
Sugars, added3gN/A
Zinc0.6mg4%