Quick Dongchimi (Radish Water Kimchi)

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I thought this was perfect timing for this kimchi recipe after my recent attendance at The International Kimchi ConferenceDongchimi (동치미) is a mild water-based kimchi made with a small variety of white radish called dongchimi mu. It’s typically made in late fall, when radishes (무) are in season, and eaten in the winter. The word dongchimi means “winter water kimchi“. Traditionally, dongchimi is made with whole radishes and therefore takes weeks to mature.

This recipe is a quick version which is commonly called “summer dongchimi” in Korea. The radishes are cut into small pieces for quick salting and maturing. Within two days at room temperature, you’ll see bubbles rising through the brine which is a sign of active fermentation. I had some trouble finding good radishes this summer, so I used a little bit of sugar here to balance out the bitter taste of summer radish. The good news is that radish season is right around the corner. Soon, you’ll be able to find sweet, juicy, and crunchy Korean radishes, which will be perfect for this recipe!

During fermentation, healthy bacteria, acidity and sweetness develop, producing a tangy, refreshing broth with perfectly pickled radish. Due to a digestive enzyme (diastase) that is plentiful in radishes, this kimchi promotes digestion, which is why it pairs especially well with meat dishes or starch heavy foods such as rice cakes. The broth (국물) is great as a soup base for cold noodles like naengmyeon (냉면) and dongchimi guksu (동치미 국수). Try this recipe, and find out how easy it is to make with only a few ingredients. I guarantee you will be hooked forever! 

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2 pounds Korean white radish (preferably small variety)
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt (less if smaller grain salt)
1 tablespoon sugar

dongchimi - Quick Dongchimi (Radish Water Kimchi)

1/2 pound napa cabbage (tender inner parts) – optional*
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
(*Make baechu guk with the left over cabbage. If omitting, use 1/2 pound more radish.)

2 green and/or red chili peppers, thinly sliced
2 scallions, cut into about1-inch lengths
1 small Asian pear or apple, peeled and cored
5 – 6 plump garlic cloves
1-inch ginger piece
1/4 small onion (optional for additional tartness)

1 tablespoon glutinous rice powder
1 cup water

9 cups water
about 2 tablespoons sea salt
(If using smaller grain salt like kosher salt or table salt, use much less.)

One 1-gallon jar or air-tight non-reactive container.

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If you’re using cabbage, start with it first because the cabbage takes longer to be salted. Cut each leaf of the cabbage into 2-inch long and 1/2 – 1-inch pieces. 

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Dissolve the salt in a cup of water and pour over the cabbage. Stir to coat the cabbage pieces with the salt water. Let sit for a couple of hours until softened. Rotate the bottom ones to the top once or twice midway through the process. Rinse and drain.

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Clean the radishes by scrubbing with a brush and/or scratching off the impurities with a small knife. Peel the skin only if necessary. The skin is packed with nutrients. Cut each radish crosswise into about 2-inch logs. Then cut each log into 1/2-inch thick pieces and then each piece into 1/2-inch thick sticks, placing in a large bowl. 

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Sprinkle the salt and sugar over the radishes and toss well to coat evenly. Let sit for about 30 – 40 minutes until the radish sticks have softened and released some liquid. Drain, saving the liquid to add to the brine later. Do NOT rinse.  

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Whisk together the glutinous rice powder and 1 cup of water, and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens into a thin paste. Set aside to cool.

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Place the pear (or apple), garlic, ginger and optional onion in the blender. Add 1/2 cup water. Puree it as fine as possible. Run it through a fine strainer to remove any leftover solids, if desired.

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To make the brine, add 9 cups of water to the reserved liquid from salting the radish. Stir in the salt, aromatic vegetable puree, and glutinous rice paste. Stir well to dissolve the salt. (Start with a smaller amount of salt, taste after stirring before adding more salt.) 

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Place the salted radish and cabbage in a jar or air-tight container. Add the scallion and peppers. Pour the brine over. Stir well together. Taste the brine. Add more salt if necessary. If the brine is too salty, add more water to dilute. It should be a tad salty to eat as is.


Leave it out at room temperature for a full day or two until bubbles rise through the brine. Taste again and adjust the salt level if necessary. Then, store in the fridge. Although you can start eating it any time at this point, it will need about a week or two in the fridge to fully develop the acidic, tangy flavors. It keeps well for several weeks in the fridge. 

Stir from the bottom each time you ladle the broth from the jar or container to serve.