Kimchi is a type of sauerkraut from Korea that is fiery, garlicky, gingery and piquant. Usually made with napa or Chinese cabbage, which is a little drier than European cabbage, it is brined first to soften it before all the delicious aromatics are added. Make this as punchy as you like and add it to stir fries, salads, rice and anything else that needs a fragrant chilli hit – just add it after cooking to preserve the friendly bacteria.
The night before you plan to make your kimchi, brine your cabbage. Put the cabbage into a non-reactive bowl. Add the salt to the water, stirring until dissolved, then pour this over the cabbage and leave to soak for about 8–12 hours.
Reserve 500ml of the cabbage brine. Drain and roughly chop the brined cabbage and put into a large mixing bowl with all the remaining ingredients, but only add half of the chilli flakes. Using clean hands, mix well and massage until the cabbage starts to look a little softer and the juices start to flow, about 2–3 minutes. Taste and add more chilli flakes or fish sauce, if you like.
Wash your preserving jar with hot, soapy water (no need to sterilise), rinse well and then pile everything into it. Press down really firmly with clean fingers or a rolling pin until the juices come up to the top of the vegetables. To hold the vegetables under the liquid, place a ziplock freezer bag into the jar and pour enough brine into the bag so that the juices come up around it. Zip up the bag, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to ferment at cool room temperature (19–20°C) for 10 – 14 days.
Your kimchi is ready when it tastes pleasantly sour, but is not fizzy on the tongue (a PH indicator strip will read between 3.2 and 4). Taste it after 10 days using a clean fork, but you can allow up to 14 days for it to become properly sour. When it is ready, transfer to clean smaller jars, squash it down well, seal and keep it in the fridge where it will keep for up to 9 months. Open and reseal the jars once daily for the first few days of refrigeration to release any gas.