Baek Kimchi (White Kimchi)

Baek Kimchi

It’s kimchi making season again! Last weekend, I bought a big box of napa cabbages and made two types of kimchipogi kimchi and this baek kimchi (white kimchi). Baek kimchi (백김치) is a variety of kimchi that’s made without red chili pepper flakes. Baek means white. Kimchi is obviously much more popular in its red spicy form, but white kimchi is enjoyed for its mild, refreshing taste. It’s child-friendly and great for people who have issues with spicy food!

Napa cabbages are in their prime these days, and they tend to be larger than the ones you find in the summer. Look for medium size cabbages (about 4 pounds) with deep green outer leaves and yellow inner leaves. Large ones tend to be soft and less sweet because of the high water content.

The best salt for salting the cabbages is Korean coarse sea salt, which are available at Korean markets. Korean sea salt is known for superior quality and high mineral content, which helps prevent the cabbages from softening quickly, while improving the taste of kimchi. It seems like kimchi recipes take so much salt, but a lot of it is washed off once the cabbages are properly salted.

The stuffing for white kimchi varies but usually includes typical kimchi ingredients such as radish, garlic, ginger, scallion, minari, pear, etc.  I like to add colorful bell peppers, which are called paprika in Korea, for sweetness and additional colors. Traditionally, other ingredients such as pine nuts, jujubes, and chestnuts are also thrown into the baek kimchi stuffing. They are nice things to have, but not absolutely necessary.

Baek kimchi typically has a lot more water content than its red, spicy counterpart. The brine can be simply water and salt or flavored with other ingredients such as grated pear, garlic, ginger and salted shrimp. I usually add sweet rice (aka glutenous rice) powder paste. The rice paste is commonly used in kimchi. Among other reasons, the rice paste promotes fermentation by feeding healthy bacteria and helps develop the flavors of kimchi.

After a few days of fermentation, you will have mild kimchi that’s crunchy and full of subtle flavors with a bit of tang. The refreshing brine is great as a soup base for cold noodles.

DSC_2905

(If this recipe is too much kimchi for you, you can easily half it.)
Ingredients:
2 medium napa cabbages (about 4 pounds each)
1-1/2 cups Korean coarse sea salt
7-1/2 cups water

Stuffing:
1 pound Korean radish (mu)
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 orange or yellow bell pepper
1/2 large Korean pear
3 – 4 scallions
1 ounce minari, 미나리 – optional

1 tablespoon pine nuts – optional
4 to 5 chestnuts – optional
4 to 5 jujubes (daechu, 대추) – optional

1/4 cup salted shrimp (saeujeot, 새우젓), finely minced
1 tablespoon myulchiaekjeot (fish sauce)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)

Brine:
1 tablespoon glutinous rice powder*
(*Mix it with 1/2 cup water, simmer over low heat until it
thickens to a thin paste and cool. Yields about 3 – 4 tablespoons.)
4 cups water
salt to taste (start with 2 teaspoons)

DSC_0062Cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters by cutting the stem end in half (only about 4 inches in) and then slowly pulling apart to separate into two pieces by hand. Do the same for each half to make quarters. Running the knife through all the way would unnecessarily cut off the cabbage leaves.

 
DSC_0079In a large bowl, dissolve 3/4 cup of salt in 7.5 cups of water. Thoroughly bathe each cabbage quarter in the saltwater one at a time, shake off excess water back into the bowl, and then transfer to another bowl.

 

 
DSC_0100Using the remaining salt (3/4 cup) and starting from the outermost leaf, generously sprinkle salt over the thick white part of each leaf (similar to salting a piece of meat). You can use a little more if needed. Repeat with the rest of the cabbage quarters. Pour the remaining salt water from the first bowl over the cabbages. Set aside for about 6 – 8 hours, rotating the bottom ones to the top half way through.   

The cabbages for white kimchi should be ready to be washed when the white parts are soft and flexible, but not totally bendable. Rinse thoroughly 3 times, especially between the white parts of the leaves to wash off any lingering salt. Drain well, cut side down.  
DSC_0114Cut the vegetables and pear into match sticks (use a mandoline if available). Cut scallions and minari into 1-inch long pieces, collecting them in a bowl.

 

 

DSC_0122Combine the vegetables with the seasoning ingredients. Mix well by hand. Taste — It should be a bit too salty to eat as is. Add salt if necessary. Let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour. 

 

 
DSC_0127Cut off the tough stem part from each cabbage quarter, leaving enough to hold the leaves together. Place one cabbage quarter in the bowl with the radish mix. Spread the radish mix over each leaf, one to two tablespoons for large leaves. 

 

Fold the leaf part of the cabbage over toward the stem and nicely wrap with the outermost leaf before placing it, cut side up, in a jar or airtight container. Repeat with the remaining cabbages.Once all the cabbages are in the jar or airtight container, firmly press down to remove air pockets.

DSC_0186Make the glutinous rice paste and cool. Add 4 cup of water to the bowl that contained the radish mix. Stir in the rice paste and salt to taste (start with 2 teaspoons). Stir well. Pour over the kimchi.

 

 
Leave it out at room temperature for a full day. Then, store in the fridge. Wait 5 to 7 days before eating. White kimchi doesn’t keep well as long as red spicy kimchi because it’s seasoned lightly and lacks chili peppers that help keep the kimchi from softening. Thus, it’s best eaten within a few weeks.
 

Baek Kimchi
White kimchi

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Comments

  1. Myung Moon says:
    Thank you sooooo much! I have been waiting for a Baek Kimchi recipe. I have been checking the site for this recipe for a while for the posting. I can't wait to make it. Thank you again.
    • You're welcome! Hope you make it soon and enjoy. We are eating the baek kimchi I made two weekends ago. It's delicious!
  2. Thank you again for another fine looking recipe. I've been looking to make a different kimchi, maybe a more seasonal one using pear and some other fall ingredients. This could be it, only I'll miss the gochugaru. It would no longer be baek, but what to you think of adding the pepper flakes to this recipe? Also, of the ingredients you list as optional, which do you think really add the most? And what would be a better substitute for the minari -- parsley or cilantro? Thanks.
    • Yeah it won't be baek kimchi anymore if you add gochugaru, but it would still be a nice kimchi. It's hard to say which one. Each one of those has their place, but if you must choose, how about pine nuts? Parsely may be better. See my traditional kimchi recipe also for spicy red kimchi. Thanks!
  3. This recipe looks AMAZING! Just checking though, are the chestnuts water chestnuts or the European kind?
  4. thanks for your recipes, i learned a lot about ingredients. i sometimes go to asian market and do not know what some of the ingredients are. thanks again.
  5. hello..I am spanish but love korean food...I have made white kimche a couple of times, following your recipe. I must go on practicing but the result was not too bad.I omited Minari as it is impossible to find it here. Can I substitute it for buchu... Thanks for your website...I will try some other dishes bye
    • Hi Emilio - yes, you can. It will be slightly different, but still good. You will get better at it each time you make. Try other recipes and let me know how they turn out. Do not hesitate to ask any questions. Cheers!
  6. Thanks for this recipe! I tried making but the outcome is brownish yellowish not as nice as in your pics I wondered why. Could it be the jujube's skin as it is dark maroon..
    • Could be, although you don't use that much of it to make a big difference in color. The only other thing is fish sauce, but again that's only one tablespoon. Is your fish sauce very dark? Regardless, I am sure it still tastes good. Try to use less jujubes or fish sauce next time if the color bothers you.