Making kimchi always seemed like a difficult project, especially since the idea of fermentation conjured up visions of bubbling concoctions and exploding jars. But if you can measure ingredients and chop, you can make kimchi—and you don’t even need to turn on the stove.
Here are my latest three versions, currently fermenting, and I’m comparing how each one tastes as time progresses. They all have the same amounts of napa cabbage, daikon radish, scallions, salt, sugar, garlic, and ginger. The jar marked T2 has less Korean chile powder and fish sauce; it’s one week old. The jars marked T3 and T4 are a mere two days old. They both have more Korean chile powder and fish sauce, but T4 has an extra ingredient: tiny brined shrimp. These little guys are very traditional, so I wanted to see if they added enough oomph to warrant buying them from an ethnic grocery store.
Time is the key element in a successful kimchi. The mixture goes from fresh and crunchy to savory and saturated with flavor. You make it in big batches, but don’t fret that you’ll have more kimchi than you can handle; here in the CHOW test kitchen it’s already gone into fried rice, a beef short rib braise, and a roasted Brussels sprouts dish with resounding success.