Tong Baechu Kimchi (Whole Napa Cabbage Kimchi)

For wilted napa cabbage
  • 2 heads napa cabbage
  • 2 cups sea salt
  • 8 cups water
For kimchi marinade
  • 1 cup sweet rice powder
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup coarse Taeyangcho red chili pepper powder
  • 5 ounces garlic
  • 10 ounces Asian pear, peeled and quartered 
  • 9 ounces onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 ounce ginger, peeled
  • 4 ounces Fresno chilies
  • 2 pounds radish, julienned 
  • 4 ounces minari
  • 4 ounces red mustard greens
  • 4 ounces Korean chives
  • 4 ounces green onions
  • 1/4 cup Korean anchovy fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup Korean salted shrimp sauce
  • 4 ounces fresh shrimp, chopped
  • 4 ounces Korean salted shrimp
Prepare napa cabbage

1. Trim the cabbage by removing any brown leaves on the outer layers. Slice the center of the cabbage's stem 2 inches deep. Using your thumbs and hands, pull the cabbage into two sections through the slit. Repeat for the remaining cabbage.

2. Soak the cabbage sections in salted water (8 cups water to 1 cup sea salt) for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the cabbage from the salt water and sprinkle the remaining salt between each of the leaves. Return cabbage to the salted water with the cut side facing up. Rotate the cabbage every two hours, bringing the cabbage on the bottom of the container to the top and vice versa. After 5-6 hours, the texture of the cabbage will be properly rubbery. Wash the cabbage thoroughly and gently. Drain the cabbage in a colander, squeezing as much water from the leaves as possible. Set aside.

Prepare kimchi marinade

1. Combine the water with the sweet rice powder and whisk until smooth. Heat the water and rice powder mixture on the stove on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When bubbles start to form, reduce the heat and continue to stir. Once the mixture thickens and becomes translucent, take off the heat, approximately 10 minutes. Cool the mixture completely.

2. Place the onions, pear, garlic, ginger, and Fresno chilies in a food processor and pulse until finely minced. Set aside.

3. Once the rice powder mixture has cooled completely transfer to a large bowl. Add the red chili pepper powder to the rice powder mixture and combine well. Then, add in the pureed chili mixture along with the radish, minari, red mustard greens, chives, and green onions. Combine the mixture thoroughly, making sure that the greens are incorporated into the mixture completely. Lastly, add in the anchovy fish sauce, salted shrimp sauce, and fresh and salted shrimp. Once again, combine the mixture very well. (If mixing with your hands, be sure to wear rubber gloves to avoid chili burn.)

Prepare the kimchi

1. Take cabbage and stuff marinade mixture between leaves, working from outside in, starting with largest leaf to smallest. Do not overstuff, but make sure the marinade mixture adequately fills leaves. When entire cabbage is stuffed, take one of the larger leaves and wrap tightly around the rest of the cabbage. Divide cabbage among jars, pressing down firmly to remove any air bubbles. Only fill the jar 80% full because the kimchi will expand as it ferments. 

2. Keep the jar tightly sealed and refrigerated for at least 20 days.

Recipe by Chef EJ Jeong of Cham Korean Bistro in Pasadena.