It’s fall – kimchi making season! Napa cabbages are simply beautiful and sweet this time of year. Let’s make some kimchi!
I’ve already shown you how to make traditional kimchi, mak kimchi, and white kimchi. These kimchi recipes include fish sauce (myulchiaekjeot) and salted shrimp (saewujeot), so I’ve been getting a lot of questions about substitutes for these ingredients. Here’s my answer – vegan kimchi!
While salted and fermented seafood condiments (jeotgal) are essential ingredients for most kimchi types, vegan kimchi is not a strange concept in Korea. Buddhist temple food is 100 percent plant based, and kimchi is no exception!
In place of salted and fermented seafood, which is the source of the deep savory taste of kimchi, temple cooks use soup soy sauce (gukganjang, 국간장) or sometimes fermented soybean paste (doenjang, 된장), along with dashima (다시마, dried kelp) or vegetable broth. For natural sweetness, they commonly add fruits and vegetables such as Korean pear, apple, persimmon, pumpkin, etc.
This vegan kimchi recipe is inspired by temple kimchi, but it’s definitely NOT temple kimchi. There are five forbidden vegetables in temple cooking, and garlic and scallions are two of them. Well, I used them in this recipe.
I like the temple idea of pumpkin in fall kimchi. I steamed and pureed it, but you can use canned pumpkin puree if you want. Any deep orange flesh pumpkin works.
One of the common vegetables in traditional fall/winter kimchi is gat, 갓, (mustard green). Its aroma is prominent in kimchi in a nice way. Korean mustard green is not always available around here, so I tried regular mustard green that you can find at some of your local groceries or any Asian markets. It’s pretty close! Consider it optional, but I strongly recommend you use it!
I really liked how this vegan kimchi turned out. It tastes nice and clean! Even if you’re not vegan, I think you will love this kimchi!
- 1 large napa cabbage (about 5 pounds)
- 1 cup Korean coarse sea salt for making kimchi
- 5 cups of water
- 3/4 pound Korean radish (mu/moo)
- 3 scallions
- 3 large mustard green (gat) leaves - optional
- 1 tablespoon glutinous rice (sweet 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.)
- 1/2 cup Korean red chili pepper flakes, gochugaru (add a couple more tablespoons if you like)
- 1/4 Korean pear, grated
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic (add one more tablespoon if you like)
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons soup soy sauce (gukganjang, 국간장)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 cup dashima (dried kelp) broth (Boil 1 large piece of dashima in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes. You can add one or two dried shiitake if available.)
- a large bowl or pot (7 - 8 quarts)
- a large colander
- kitchen gloves
- a 3/4 - 1 gallon airtight container or jar
- Cut the stem end of cabbage lengthwise in half only about 3 - 4 inches in. Then, slowly pull 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.
- In a large bowl, dissolve 1/2 cup of salt in 5 cups of water. Thoroughly bathe each cabbage quarter in the saltwater one at a time.
- Using the other half cup of salt and starting from the outermost leaf, generously sprinkle salt over the thick white part of each leaf. Try to salt all the cabbage quarters with the 1/2 cup salt, but you can use a little more if needed. Repeat with the rest of the cabbage quarters. Set aside for about 6 - 8 hours, rotating the bottom ones to the top half way through.
- Meanwhile, make the glutinous rice paste and the broth and cool. Prepare the other seasoning ingredients. Mix all the seasoning ingredients. Set aside while preparing the other ingredients until the red pepper flakes become pasty.
- The cabbages should be ready to be washed when the white parts are bendable with a bit of resistance. Rinse thoroughly 3 times, especially between the white parts.
- Drain well, cut side down.
- Cut the radish into matchsticks (you can use a mandoline if available). Roughly chop the scallions and the optional mustard green. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Combine with the seasoning mix. Mix well by hand. Taste a little bit. It should be a little too salty to eat as is. Let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the flavors to meld nicely.
- Cut 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. Eyeball the stuffing into 4 parts and use one part for each cabbage quarter.
- 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, press down hard to remove air pockets. Rinse the bowl that contained the radish mix with 1/4 cup of broth and pour over the kimchi.
- Leave it out at room temperature for a full day or two, depending on how fast you want your kimchi to ripe. Then, store in the fridge. Although you can start eating it any time, kimchi needs about two weeks in the fridge to fully develop the flavors. It maintains great flavor and texture for several weeks.