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On The Side: Kimchi

Ingredients for traditional kimchi can be picked up from most Asian grocers. Photo By Angela Eunjae Chung

Kimchi is a spicy fermented side dish traditionally made as a way to preserve vegetables for harsh Korean winters. These days, its significant health benefits have made it popular in many other cultures.

Photo By Angela Eunjae Chung

The history of kimchi goes back 3000 years and it still remains an essential item on any Korean table. In Korea, it is served as a side dish with every meal or, by adding extra ingredients, is often turned into a delicious meal in its own right.

Most commonly made using wombok cabbage, there are more than 200 existing modern varieties. Freshly made kimchi has a strong and unique flavour: tangy, spicy and salty with a crunchy texture. Over time, the flavour develops into mature, sour and sweeter tones and its texture softens, making it perfect to use in savoury pancakes, fried rice, soups, stews and dumplings.

Health Benefits

As well as the benefits of eating the vitamin-rich cabbage, it’s the probiotics which are present as a result of the fermentation process which appeals to so many and has recently popularised the centuries-old dish.

Found within is Lactobacillus Kimchii, a lactic-acid bacteria which aids digestion and boosts immunity. As well as boasting anti-inflammatory properties and improving gut health, kimchi is said to promote weight loss and some believe it can even slow the ageing process.

Making Kimchi

Photo By Angela Eunjae Chung

Depending on the region of Korea, kimchi is traditionally made using brined vegetables such as wombok cabbage, daikon radish or cucumber mixed with a seasoning of salt, sugar, chilli powder, garlic, ginger, chives and Korean fish sauce (usually made from fermented anchovies). The kimchi-making process itself is quite simple; brine the vegetables and mix them with seasoning before packing into jars to start the fermenting process.

Wombok does make the most delicious kimchi, but it’s well worth trying other vegetables you’ve got on hand such as green cabbage or bok choy. Kimchi works with almost any vegetable and is therefore a great way to preserve the vegetables from your garden, with all of the added benefits that come with the fermentation process. And if you’d rather not add sugar to your kimchi, apple is an excellent substitute.

Here we look at two ways to make kimchi; a traditional recipe for those looking for authentic results, as well as a less-complicated version which is a great way to use the outgrown greens in your garden.

Traditional Pogi kimchi


1 wombok cabbage
1 cup coarse sea salt
6 cups of water
1 small daikon radish, julienned
¼ nashi pear, julienned
3 spring onions, cut into 1 cm slices
1 tbsp glutinous rice flour for rice paste
1 tbsp sugar
½ cup Korean chilli powder
¼ cup seaujeot (salted fermented shrimp), finely minced
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
5 cm square dashima (dried kelp)


Remove dirty or damaged leaves from wombok and cut it lengthways into quarters. In a large bowl, dissolve half of the salt in five cups of water and rinse the cabbage. Sprinkle sea salt between the leaves and allow to brine in salty water for at least three hours, though overnight is better. Rinse cabbage well and allow it to drain in a colander.

Boil the dashima square in half a cup of water for five minutes. Mix rice flour and sugar with half a cup of water and simmer over low heat until it forms a thin paste before allowing it to cool.

Mix garlic, ginger, salted shrimp, fish sauce, Korean chilli powder, dashima broth and rice paste to form the seasoning, before adding spring onion, pear and radish and mixing well. Working in the bowl of seasoning, spoon the mixture between the cabbage leaves making sure it’s fully covered.

Roll up seasoned cabbage quarters and place in an airtight container, spooning any remaining seasoning over the top. Press kimchi to remove any air bubbles, seal with a lid and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours (or 12 hours if it’s particularly hot) before moving to the fridge.

Kimchi is ready to be eaten immediately, but flavour will be better after two weeks. Slice rolled kimchi and serve on a small plate.

Top, from left Coat the brined cabbage with the seasoning and store in a container to ferment. Above Great results can still be achieved using what’s in abundance in the garden. Photos By Angela Eunjae Chung

Easy garden kimchi


1 wombok cabbage
1 cup coarse sea salt
1 apple, peeled and grated
½ medium onion, grated
2 spring onions, cut into 1 cm slices
3 tbsp fish sauce
½ cup of Korean chilli powder
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
5 cups of water


Wash the cabbage leaves in running water to remove dirt, and slice roughly. Dissolve the salt in four cups of water and brine the cabbage in the solution for three hours before draining and setting aside.

Mix the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, add the cabbage and coat thoroughly. Place the kimchi in clean jars, spoon any remaining seasoning over the top and, using tongs, press the kimchi down firmly to ensure it’s completely covered.

Seal with a lid and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours before moving to the fridge. For best results, leave in the fridge for two weeks before serving.

This article represents the permaculture principle CATCH AND STORE ENERGY.


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