Kimchi and thoughts on trial & error

There is probably much to be said about trial and error. Not from me. Other than trial which equals error also equals see you again, never. Now, I’m not a quitter, and some things just have got to go right, even though it only generates failed attempts, and so I will power through. However, when it comes to cooking – I just don’t have the patience for a pancake batter that sticks to the bottom of the pan and what parts are cooked are strangely sponge-like. My (frustrated) thinking being that this means, pancakes just is not meant to be. I will abandon the idea, although not happily.

But then there are times when I make something quite inedible and I know exactly what it is I have to fix to make the dish into something really great. It’s pretty much that I added too much or too little of a certain element, and in those cases I have the patience. Like I had with this kimchi which initially turned out to be a fish sauce vessel made from cabbage – not enjoyable and definitely not edible. So I made another batch, cut the disrupting element out altogether, and as predicted it came out perfect and balanced. 

As it turns out I do have some things to say about trial and error. This strange little contradictory ramble is just to say that if you let go of preconceived ideas about perfection and incorporate a little error, it will benefit you and your learning curve immensely. 

Lecture aside, I use few ingredients and a very low-key preparation method. It is beautifully deceiving – it makes for some really crunchy, savory, fresh and honest kimchi that has taught me more than the process of making it, and I guess that is food for thought.

makes 1 large jar

1 head of Chinese cabbage
10 cups of water
80 grams coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon cane sugar
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 (2 inch) piece of ginger, minced
4 spring onions, sliced
8 tablespoons Korean chili powder (gochugaru)


  • Wash and trim, if necessary, the cabbage. Cut the cabbage in half and then either cut strips of about 2 inches thick, and cut the strips into 1-2 inch pieces OR cut the halved cabbage in thin boats. I like to do a mixture of both. Either way, discard the hard bottom. 
  • In a big bowl, whisk together the water, salt and sugar until completely dissolved. Add in the cabbage. To make sure the cabbage is completely submerged in the brine, place a plate with something heavy on top. 
  • Let stand at room temperature for 5 hours.
  • Meanwhile, mix the chili paste, in another big bowl, by combining the minced garlic and ginger, sliced spring onions and the chili powder.
  • When the cabbage has been soaking for 5 hours, drain and wash thoroughly to remove the salt. Squeeze off excess water and pat dry.
  • Add the cabbage to the chili paste bowl and mix it with your hands. The key here is to really put your elbows into it, mixing and squeezing to make the chili paste get into every nook and cranny.
  • Pack the kimchi into a glass jar and press it down hard to avoid any air (at some in point the process, there will be air pockets formed, but don’t worry – it’s the bacteria doing their job) and make sure that the chili paste rise over the cabbage, so as to seal the mixture. Cover the glass jar and let stand at room temperature for 1-3 days, depending on your climate. It takes me about 2 days, when I start to see bubbles. At that point taste the kimchi for ripeness. It should be crunchy and slightly fermented in taste. Then transfer the glass jar to the fridge. You can eat it right away or let stand undisturbed for 5-10 days for further development in flavor.

It keeps several weeks in the fridge.

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