Fermented Foods – Making Homemade Vegan Kimchi 5

EARLIER THIS WEEK, I covered how I’d been inspired to get back into super-healthy fermented foods after a Smoothie Club session (see here). Fired up with enthusiasm, not to mention a hankering for loads of sauerkraut and kimchi, my first batch was ready to go within a day or so.

In this post, I showed just how easy it is to make sauerkraut at home, and it really is as simple as crunching up some cabbage with a bit of rock salt and popping it into a jar to merrily ferment away.

Kimchi is almost as easy to make, and truth be told, it’s even more delicious than good sauerkraut. If you haven’t heard of kimchi before, it’s a traditional fermented side dish from Korea. Visit a Korean restaurant or household and you’re sure to get a little plate of kimchi with your meal. Basically it’s safe to say that kimchi is Korea’s national dish. The hassle with it is that in almost a decade of searching through the fridges at local Asian supermarkets and checking out the ingredients list on every traditionally made, commercial kimchi in town, I’ve only ever found one that doesn’t have some kind of fish sauce in it, and I only ever saw it once.

I asked ‘The Happiest Man in the World’ about this fishy situation and he said the only way to get kimchi to taste right is by adding the fish sauce. To clarify, he’s the guy who works at the Asian market on Christopher Street in Tauranga. I’ve never met anyone like him; the dude seems to pretty much have one mode – ecstatic. Whatever he’s on, I want some. At any rate he’s Korean, so one assumes he knows what he’s talking about but when I told him I was a vegan, he looked at me like I had 13 eyes, so no help there.

Delicious and available at your local organic shop.

Delicious and available at your local organic shop.

The good news is that there’s a delicious kimchi available in the local organic shops from a brand called Be Nourished – they also make a number of tasty sauerkraut variations but given that I go through a jar in around three days, it’d be an expensive way to have a healthy gut, which is why I’m making this stuff at home.

Arguably, kimchi is even healthier than sauerkraut because in addition to the goodness of the fermented probiotics, it also contains foods with prebiotic effects such as onion and garlic, along with ginger and other vegetables, all of which are good for you. It might not be ideal for people with severe IBS or other conditions where spicy foods or garlic and onions are contraindicated, but that’s where good old sauerkraut comes in.

It’s worth noting that the aforementioned ‘The Happiest Man in the World’ would no doubt be less happy, horrified even, to hear this described as kimchi because this is by no means the traditional way to make the stuff. This is the recipe I got from Nicola at Smoothie Club earlier this week, and while it’s probably closer to “sauerkraut with extras” in the eyes of any Koreans, my early taste testing tells me it’s yum! Hot, spicy and piquant.

Doesn't this look yumbo?

Doesn’t this look yumbo?

So to make this non-traditional kimchi, just follow the exact recipe and process that I outlined here but instead of only using cabbage, add the following (amounts are about right for half a medium sized cabbage but it’s not critical, just go with your gut):

1 medium onion

3 cloves garlic

1 carrot

2 small beetroots

1 thumbnail sized piece of fresh ginger

1 capsicum

1. Roughly chop up the onion but you can roughly grate the carrot, beetroot and capsicum. The garlic and ginger can also be roughly chopped.

2. Pop the garlic and ginger into a blender or small food processor with half a teaspoon of paprika powder and half a teaspoon of chili powder, and blend it up with a bit of warm water to make a liquid.

3. As per the sauerkraut method, crunch up the cabbage, onion, capsicum, carrot and beetroot along with a teaspoon and a half of rock salt. Then once you start getting some liquid coming out of the cabbage, add the liquid with the garlic, ginger and powders and keep crunching till the cabbage is well and truly soaked. This is a bit of a stinky process; so powder-free sterile gloves aren’t a bad idea, or just wash the heck out of your hands both before and after the crunching (especially after unless you like to waft around on a mighty pong of garlic and onion).

4. Then put it all into jars with lids that seal, pressing down the veggies quite hard and making sure that there’s plenty of liquid on top of the veggies. Check out the previous post for more information on how long to ferment the kimchi for, what to do when there’s not enough liquid to cover the veggies etc.

Bubbling away nicely. Can i resist long enough for it to ferment all the way?

Bubbling away nicely. Can I resist long enough for it to ferment all the way?

Once it’s ready to eat, your taste buds will tell if you need to add more of the paprika and chili powders to the next batch – I’ve erred on the side of caution here because not everyone likes fiery hot kimchi (I do, mine is much stronger than that).


PS, An influx of fermented foods might well make you a bit gassy, at first if you know what I mean. But this soon passes, and the health benefits are totally worth it.

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5 thoughts on “Fermented Foods – Making Homemade Vegan Kimchi

  • Frances

    Thanks for the great recipes. I just have one question as I’m a little confused about various things I’ve read about fermented veggies. I see you say to seal your jars. But I don’t understand why they don’t explode with the gas produced by the fermentation process? I have glass jars just like yours with rubber seals. But some sites have fancy jars with air release valves ? I’m keen to try but don’t want exploding glass jars ?? Cheers Frances

    • Ash Kramer

      Hi Frances – I’ve made a lot of fermented foods and have never had anything explode 🙂 Even my water kefir (which can get very gassy) has no problems. This stuff doesn’t build up enough pressure to even pop off a lid from what I can tell but in any event, you can just open the lid occasionally if you’re worried – I usually do that daily to make sure that the kimchi or sauerkraut is properly submerged in the brine.

  • scott

    hi, am liking your site. just wondering- how come your sauerkraut and/or kimchi dont explode in the sealed jars???