Kimchi – Part 2: Making Kimchi

The first cabbage turned into kimchi was our lunch ^^
The first cabbage turned into kimchi was our lunch ^^

So, if you’ve read some of my other food posts, you might know that I love kimchi (김치) in pretty much all its forms. But I’d never made it until two weekends ago, when my friend Ryan invited a group of us over to make a massive batch of baechu kimchi (배추김치, napa cabbage kimchi). Okay, I have made cucumber kimchi (오이 소박이) before so I had an idea of what to expect. Plus I’ve eaten lots over the past seven years so I knew what the end product was supposed to taste like. But even though I helped Ryan edit the recipe he was teaching us from (thanks for all your hard work on the recipe Ryan!!), I was a little surprised by the sheer amount we created. Man, was it a lot. Thankfully, it was totally delicious. ^^

I’m happy to say that my first experience making kimchi – in fact, it was everyone’s first experience making kimchi (except one guy, whom we called kimchi master because he was the only one with any experience) even though we were a mix of Koreans and Korean culture/food lovers – was a success. Yay us! We did cheat a little though as we started with already salted cabbage but other than that… we followed a fairly normal recipe.

How did we make it?

Chopping the radish into matchsticks
Chopping the radish into matchsticks

The recipe isn’t mine to share but I can tell you the basics from my memory. We started by chopping all the veggies. First, we peeled and chopped the Korean radish into matchstick sized pieces (there was some debate over this as one guy wanted to chop it into cubes instead so we did both – matchsticks works better). The radish is then salted and put aside for a little while to make it limp. While waiting, green onions are chopped into 3-4 cm pieces and garlic & ginger are pureed.

Pouring the red pepper flakes into the bowl
Pouring the red pepper powder into the bowl

Then you need a massive bowl so you can pour a huge amount of red pepper powder (seriously, look at the picture). Mix the pureed garlic & ginger, the chopped green onions, salted shrimp, and the now limp radish into the red pepper powder. Use anchovy sauce and rice water to make it into a paste. Here comes the fun part – taste it to make sure the flavour is right (you may need to add salt or more red pepper powder). Best way to taste it – grab a piece of radish.

Mixing everything together (except the cabbage)
Mixing everything together (except the cabbage)

Take a head of salted cabbage, put it into the massive bowl with the red pepper & veggie paste and use the paste to coat EACH and EVERY leaf of the cabbage. Once it’s completely red and filled with red pepper paste (and the veggies) put it onto a cutting board and chop it into kimchi-sized pieces. And of course, do a taste test. We did our taste test on tofu. ^^ Mmm… kimchi and tofu!

Adding the veggie/red pepper mix to the cabbage
Adding the veggie/red pepper powder mix to the cabbage

Put the chopped kimchi into containers. Allow it to marinate/ferment for a couple of days (time varies according to taste) before putting it into your fridge. But don’t forget to save some to eat!

Sampling our freshly made kimchi with bossam, tofu and Korean fruit salad
Sampling our freshly made kimchi with bossam, tofu and Korean fruit salad

And of course, we had to sample our freshly made kimchi and what better way than to enjoy it at lunch. Along with, of course, bossam (보쌈, steamed pork), dubu (두부, tofu), Korean fruit salad (sorry, don’t know the Korean spelling T.T) and makgeolli (막걸리, a milky rice wine). Everything was so yummy (well, except the makgeolli but it was better once we added ginger ale – no joke, although adding Sprite/Cider is more common). Oh, and while we were making the kimchi we also ate kimchi pajeon (김치 파전, Korean pancake with kimchi), the perfect breakfast.

Best part - doing it all with friends! Becky, Jenn and Annie are ready to eat.
Best part – doing it all with friends! Becky, Jenn and Annie are ready to eat.

What did we do well?

  • We started early in the morning. Okay, it was 11:00 am by the time everyone arrived but I was there at 10:30 and that’s early on a Saturday for me.
  • We had lots of cutting boards and large knives which meant several people could be chopping at once. Lots of hands – i.e. friends – also helped and made it lots of fun.
  • We had lots of empty kimchi containers to put the finished product in.
Lots of helping hands made the kimchi-making fun and fast.
Lots of helping hands made the kimchi-making fun and fast.

What could we improve on?

  • Definitely should have had one of those plastic picnic tablecloths to both protect the floor and make clean up easier.
  • We really needed at least one other gigantic bowl. While we were able to make do fairly well without it, it would have made life easier.
Pre-salted cabbage ^^
Pre-salted cabbage ^^

What did I learn from the afternoon?

  • Mu (무, Korean white radish) is really easy to peel. But after peeling my fifth one (or was it my sixth), my arm holding the radish was getting sore. Hey, they’re heavy.
  • You can buy already salted cabbage – thereby skipping a step – at Korean grocery stores.
  • Making kimchi with friends is fun. So much so that I am definitely doing it again.
  • It’s not very difficult, just a lot of work. But having lots of hands (see above comment) makes it easier and quicker.
  • The world really is small. ^^ Ryan invited several friends not knowing that some of us already knew each other. It’s always neat when your friends are also friends.


I absolutely loved my first time making kimchi, or rather making napa cabbage kimchi. Thanks so much Ryan for all your hard work putting it together. It was so much fun. ^^ I definitely recommend making kimchi with friends.

Have you made kimchi? How did your first kimchi turn out?

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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