Tongbaechu Kimchi

Time3 hours
YieldsMakes about 11 cups
Tongbaechu kimchi
(Emily Kim)
Print RecipePrint Recipe

This whole napa cabbage kimchi can be cut into smaller pieces before you serve it and can last a while if it’s kept at a cool temperature. The kimchi will start crisp, but the depth of its flavor will change as it ferments. Pro tip: Well-fermented kimchi also makes for the best kimchi jjigae (stew) and kimchi fried rice.


Cut a 3-inch slit through the core of the cabbage. Using both hands, split the cabbage in half by pulling it apart at the slit. Cut a 2-inch slit just through the core of each half so that the leaves are loosened but still attached to the core and the cabbage half is intact.


Fill a large bowl with water and dunk the cabbage in the water. Drain the water and put the cabbage back in the bowl. Sprinkle the salt between the leaves, more on the thick white ribs than on the thinner green leaves. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, turning the cabbage every 30 minutes to distribute the salt evenly.


Meanwhile, combine the flour and 1 cup water in a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Stir until the mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar and stir until the mixture is slightly translucent and has the consistency of a runny porridge, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool thoroughly.


Drain the cabbage, place the bowl in the kitchen sink, and fill it with cold water. Split the cabbage halves in half again and rinse under cold running water. Swish the cabbage around in the water to remove any dirt between the leaves. Change the water a few times and repeat until very clean. Put the clean cabbage in a colander to drain well. Dry the bowl.


Purée the garlic, ginger, pear and onion in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to the bowl along with the cooled flour mixture, fish sauce, fermented shrimp and hot pepper flakes. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the radish, carrot, chives and scallions and mix well.


Cut away as much of the cabbage cores as you can, taking care to leave each quarter intact. If the cabbage is still wet, squeeze gently to remove excess water. Spread some garlic paste from the bowl over each leaf by hand (wear disposable gloves if you like), then put the quarters in one or more glass jars or airtight containers. Press down on the kimchi so it’s well packed and no air can get inside, then put the lid on the container.


You can serve the kimchi right away, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. (We don’t serve fermented kimchi with sesame seeds.) Or you can let the kimchi ferment. It takes about 2 weeks to ferment in the refrigerator; for faster fermenting, leave it at room temperature for 1 to 2 days, depending on the warmth of your kitchen, until the kimchi smells and tastes sour. Before serving, put the kimchi on a cutting board, cut into bite-size pieces, and transfer to a plate or a small, shallow bowl.

You will need a kimchi crock or a 64-ounce wide-mouth mason jar.

Excerpted from “Maangchi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking: From Everyday Meals to Celebration Cuisine.”
Make Ahead:
The kimchi can be stored in the refrigerator and used as needed until the kimchi runs out. The kimchi will continue to ferment in the refrigerator and become more sour. You can enjoy it at every stage. Whenever you remove kimchi from the jar, be sure to press down on the remaining kimchi with a spoon to prevent it from being exposed to air.