Traditional Fermented Kim Chi – Step by Step Instuctions

Traditional Kim Chi is a fermented, spicey condiment that is full of probiotics, (beautiful living organisms to support your gut and microbiome) and has immune boosting properties. Try to use organic ingredients when possible, as this is a fermented food that relies on the natural enzymes and bacteria in the ingredients to grow a broad spectrum of good bacteria.

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Making Kim Chi the traditional way takes time, and love. It is a process that helps to develop the dynamic flavours. Setting a couple of hours aside for this project will pay you in endless health benefits and bragging rights of your efforts.

Don’t let the long ingredient list scare you; these are all easily sourced and for the amount of Kim Chi this recipe makes- it turns out to be very affordable, probably around $4 per kilogram!

Have some large, glass jars on hand. Make sure they are sterilized by washing in warm water, and placing in the oven for 15 minutes at 100 degrees Celsius.

Makes 3-4 kg of Spicey Kim Chi (recipe can be altered if you don’t want it spicey).


For salting cabbage:

  • 1 large head of Wombok cabbage
  • 1/2 cup of Himalayan sale

Porridge mix:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons brown rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons rapadura sugar


  • 2 cups radish grated
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1 small bunch of green spring onions/ or brown onion, chopped

Seasonings and spices:

  • 1/2 cup garlic cloves ( or around 3 heads of garlic), crushed
  • 2-3 teaspoons ginger, minced
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup Oyster sauce
  • 3/4 cup chilli powder (for an extra hot kim chi, add less if you don’t want it that spicey)


Step 1: Cut the cabbage into quarters, and wash each quarter in water.

Step 2: While the cabbage is still wet, sprinkle the salt on each quarter- lifting each leaf and putting salt between all of the leaves.

Step 3: Let the cabbage rest in the brine for 1-2 hours. Rotating every 20 minutes so the salty brine coats the leaves.

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Step 4: While the cabbage is resting, make the rice porridge mix. Combine water and the rice flour in a small pot.

Step 5: Heat the porridge over a slow heat, whisking every few minutes. Allow to come to a gentle simmer, then add the sugar. Cook for 1-2 minutes more, whisking to ensure the mixture is thickening into a thin paste.

Step 6: Pour cooled porridge into a large mixing bowl. Add garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, and chilli powder. Mix well until the mixture combines.

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Step 7: Add the chopped/grated fresh vegetables to the chilli seasoning mix. Fold the mix through the vegetables until they are coated.

Step 8: After the cabbages have soaked, rinse them in water to remove any dirt and the excess salt. Remove the stems from each quarter.

Step 9: Take the chilli/vegetable mix and coat each leaf of cabbage with it. Probably best done with your hands. Roll the cabbage into rolls, and place into sterilized jars.

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Step 10: Compact the cabbage leaves down, after each addition. Ensure that the mix is covering all the leaves, so that they are almost entirely red.  Leave the jars in a cool, dry place (the pantry works a treat) out of direct sunlight.

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Notes on fermentation: Fermentation starts to occur 1-2 days at room temperature, depending on the humidity and temperature. The warmer the weather, the faster fermentation occurs. Bacteria loves warmth 🙂

When the fermenting process has set in, a sour taste and smell will ensue. This isn’t unpleasant (and reminiscent of the flavour of plain yoghurt, almost). There is a distinct difference between rotting vegetables, and fermenting vegetables. Fermenting has a vinegar-y flavour.

Taste test your kim chi, to gage the fermenting rate. You can leave it to the point where you feel comfortable, but a good bench mark for first time fermenters is 1-2 weeks. This can be extended out a lot longer (I’ve read some recipes that say up to 12 weeks!) so keep in mind this process is very much to your preference.

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Once you are happy with the amount of time the kim chi has fermented, place and store in the fridge. This slows down the fermenting process. The flavours will develop more over time, and become more blended and complex.

This process is really enjoyable and quite relaxing. It’s also a lovely experiment to observe the changes over time.

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