7 Do’s And Don’ts Of Making Sour And Spicy Korean Kimchi

Kimchi is the soul food of South Korea. Its importance in the culinary culture of the country has been portrayed to perfection in K-drama. From youngsters to adults, you must have witnessed actors in series making loads of kimchi that would end up filling quite a few containers. The fermented dish is then stored in the refrigerator and served with almost every meal.

Video Credit: Chef Kunal Kapur/ Instagram

With the exponentially amplifying popularity of Korean food in India, many pioneers in the Indian culinary world have shared kimchi recipes on their YouTube channels or Instagram. From using napa cabbage to cucumber, Indians are now fans of South Korea’s national dish that feeds their hungry soul with a kick of spices.

If you are making a new batch of this sour and spicy delight at home, note the tips below to achieve the right flavours and textures.

Use Generous Amount Of Salt

Kosher or sea salt is the best pick to add to cabbage, cucumber, and other vegetables you are adding to the kimchi. It helps to draw out the moisture which acts as a catalyst for the fermentation process. Salt is also essential to preserving vegetables for a long time and the growth of moulds. A generous amount of it is also added to Indian pickles for the same reason.

Don’t Overpack Kimchi Containers

After you are satisfied with how the kimchi mixture has turned out, it is time to load the fermented dish in airtight containers. While K-dramas might show mothers filling the jars to the brim, you should not practice the same. Always leave some headspace for the ingredients to expand a bit during fermentation. If you pack containers tightly, kimchi might start overflowing which will increase the chances of contamination too.

Keep Surroundings Clean

Fermentation leaves room for the moulds to grow aggressively if the surroundings are contaminated. Therefore, whenever you are making kimchi or storing it, always ensure that the surroundings are clean. Ensure utensils, containers, spatula, vegetables, and hands are clean before you start making kimchi. Keep your refrigerator clean as well so that harmful bacteria do not contaminate the batch.

Don’t Forget To Check

When the ingredients of kimchi start fermenting, they develop a unique smell. Keep a regular check to ensure the batch has fresh sour and spicy aroma. This is a sign that the fermentation process is headed the right way. However, if you get a whiff of rotten vegetables, the batch has gone bad beyond saving. You should throw it right away and prepare a fresh one.

Use Fresh Ingredients

Since kimchi takes a couple of days to ferment and you can store it for weeks, it must be prepared with fresh ingredients. Make sure the cabbage, radish, carrot, onion, garlic, cucumber, and even spices are fresh. This will elongate the shelf life of the fermented food, and you will be able to enjoy it without any worries. This will also add a distinct crunch adding to the experience of savouring South Korea’s national dish. 

Don’t Skip Fermentation

Though cucumber kimchi is an instant recipe, it tastes better after a few hours of fermentation. Similarly, if you are making this dish using napa cabbage, leave it to ferment for a couple of days at least at room temperature. This will ensure all the spices and vegetables blend nicely and boast of impeccable tangy and spicy flavours when you serve it. If you immediately consume it, the underdeveloped texture and flavour will ruin your experience. Store it at 18°C-22°C for 1-2 days before sliding the containers into the refrigerator. 

Use High-Quality Containers

The taste of kimchi will also depend on the types of container you use to ferment and store it. Food-grade plastic or glass containers are best picks because they won’t leach chemicals into the dish during or after fermentation. The tight-fitting lids will also prevent contamination of ingredients.