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Napa Cabbage or Bok Choy Kimchi

Napa Cabbage or Bok Choy Kimchi Recipe - Most traditional kimchi is made with fish sauce or some form of salted shrimp, or both. Vegetarian versions are a little lighter and brighter, drawing more flavors from fermentation, garlic, and ginger. While this one is very garlicky and gingery, it has a clean finish that I find irresistible. The trick is to get the salt and sugar right—taste carefully before you pack it up. And good salt makes a difference. One of my favorite ways to eat it is with a fork, right out of the jar.

MAKES ABOUT 1 QUART
Napa Cabbage or Bok Choy Kimchi Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Napa cabbage or mature bok choy
  • ¼ cup kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons sweet (glutinous) rice flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 bunch watercress, tough stems discarded, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 thin scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch segments
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons Korean pepper flakes, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon good-quality, textured salt, like fleur de sel or sel gris, plus more as needed

How to make Napa Cabbage or Bok Choy Kimchi

  1. If using cabbage, discard any limp or discolored outer leaves. Quarter it lengthwise, so that you have 4 wedges, then trim out the core. Cut each quarter into thirds so that you have lots of long strips. If using bok choy, trim the leaves off the core and separate the leaves from the thick white stems. Cut the stems into 1½- to 2-inch segments. Wash thoroughly, swishing in a large bowl of water. Cut the leaves into halves or thirds, depending on their size.
  2. Place the cabbage or bok choy in a large mixing bowl or food-grade bucket that can comfortably fit it. Stir ¼ cup kosher salt into 4 quarts of water in a large pitcher with a slotted spoon until dissolved. Taste the brine—it must be well seasoned, as salty as, if not a touch saltier than, seawater. Stir in additional salt or water as needed. Pour the brine over the vegetables. If it isn’t enough to cover them completely, prepare more brine, 1 tablespoon salt to 1 quart of water. Weigh down the vegetables with a plate so that they are fully submerged. Leave out at room temperature for 24 hours. Drain, gently pressing on the vegetables to extract liquid. Place in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour with ¾ cup water in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and, whisking constantly, cook until thickened to the consistency of glue. This will happen quickly, in about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely. This mixture can be made up to a day ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients to the cabbage or bok choy. Add about half of the flour paste and, using gloved hands, mix well, making sure to coat the vegetables thoroughly. The kimchi should be thoroughly moistened; if it seems dry, add additional flour paste as needed. Taste the kimchi: as it ferments, it will develop a lot of funky flavor, but at this point you should taste for balance of salt, sugar, and heat, and adjust as necessary.
  5. Pack the kimchi into glass pint or quart jars, making sure to evenly distribute the watercress and scallions and leaving at least ¾ inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean and seal tightly. Put the jars on a baking sheet, which will catch any juices that might bubble out of the jars, and leave out for 48 hours at room temperature. Move to the refrigerator. The kimchi will generate more liquid and the cabbage will collapse in the jars. Turn them upside down periodically to redistribute the liquid, and open them every few days to release some of the gas pressure inside.
  6. The kimchi is safe to eat at any point, but it’s best after at least a week of fermenting. It will keep for at least a month, and often much longer.