Kimchi has always been an acquired taste. It’s one I, personally, acquired once I hit my teenage years when I would crunch on bites of spicy fermented cabbage leaves in between bits of savory bulgogi when I would get the pleasure of dining at a Korean restaurant with my family. As I grew older, my love of food and culture lead me to try my hand at making my own kimchi at home.
For those who are new to the Korean staple, kimchi is usually made with cabbage, spicy pepper paste, Korean radishes, and other vegetables. It’s then fermented with a salty brine. This was originally a way to preserve summers harvest in clay pots to consume all winter long. There are however many ways to make kimchi.
Daikon radish and it’s greens are the main ingredients for this kimchi and unlike most kimchi recipes, it doesn’t include cabbage. It is also prepared in a small batch, making it ideal for a dinner party alongside bibimbap, or a good pork cutlet
It’s also good to note that all of the ingredients used with the exception of the rice flour and chili paste can be easily grown in a small backyard garden at home!
Daikon Radish Greens Kimchi
- 1 ½ pound daikon radish with greens attached
- ¼ cup coarse salt
- 1 large cucumber
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 inch piece of ginger root
- 1 red onion
- 2 ripe pears
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 tablespoon rice flour
- 2 tablespoons Korean chili paste
Wash the daikon radishes and their tops thoroughly under cool water. Lay them on a cutting board and cut the tops off the radishes before cutting the green into 2-3 inch long pieces. Put the greens into a large strainer and wash them again to get rid of any left over debris. Remove any yellow or wilted leaves and discard them. Put the strainer with the greens into a large bowl.
Add the coarse salt to the greens and fill it with enough water to just cover the greens. Stir the greens in the water to evenly distribute the salt. Let them sit for approximately 1 ½ hours.
Lay the daikon radishes on a cutting board and trim the ends before cutting them into 2 ½ inch long matchstick pieces. Trim the end of the cucumber and cut it into 1/8ths about 2 ½ inches long. Peel the garlic and ginger and mince them. Peel the red onion and cut it into thin wedges.
Peel the pears and remove the stems and core. Put them in a small saucepan with the water.
Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat and allow it to simmer until the pears have become soft enough to mash with a fork. Turn off the heat and mash the pears. Sprinkle the rice flour over the pear mixture and stir well with a whisk.
When the greens have sat in the salt water for 1 ½ hours, strain out the water and rinse the greens thoroughly. Transfer them to a large bowl.
Add the daikon, cucumber, onion, ginger, garlic, and red pepper paste to the bowl and mix them well with your fingers. Make sure everything is coated well. Transfer the mixture to an airtight jar.
Pour the mashed pear mix into the jar with the vegetables, close the lid tightly, and shake it well to evenly distribute and coat all of the kimchi.
Place the jar in a dark place for 3-6 hours to allow it to ferment, making sure to open it once a day to let the gas escape before resealing. Transfer the jar to the refrigerator.
This can be made with any radish or turnip greens, though daikon radish is highly suggested for the radish portion of the recipe. If Korean red pepper paste is unavailable try another spicy red pepper paste made with your favorite chili peppers!
STEP ONE – PREPARE THE DAIKON RADISH GREENS
Place the daikon radishes in a sink and clean them really well under cool running water, scrubbing them free of dirt and debris. Rinse the leaves well.
Transfer the radishes to a cutting board and cut the green tops off of the radishes. Put the radishes to the side.
Cut the greens into pieces, put them in a large colander and wash them again well, removing any yellowing leaves or bad ones from the bunch. Put the greens, still in the colander, into a large bowl so that they are easy to remove from the brine water.
STEP TWO – SALT THE GREENS AND LET THEM SOAK
Sprinkle the coarse salt over the radish greens.
Pour just enough water to cover the greens completely and mix the salty water into the greens with your fingers. Let them soak in the brine for about 1½ hours.
STEP THREE – CUT THE VEGETABLES
Trim the ends of the daikon before cutting them in half lengthwise. Lay them flat on the cutting board and cut each half in half again. Continue to cut them like this until thin matchstick pieces have been made. Cut them once more to make each matchstick about 2½ inches long.
Trim the ends of the cucumber and cut it into quarters and then each quarter in half. Cut the long pieces into 2 – 2½ inch length pieces.
Set all the vegetables to the side while the greens continue to soak in the brine.
STEP FOUR – PEEL AND CUT THE PEARS
With a paring knife, peel the pears and cut them into chunks and put them in a small saucepan with the water.
Toss out the cores.
STEP FIVE – MAKE PEAR AND FLOUR PASTE
Put the saucepan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Allow it to come to a simmer and let the pears cook down until soft. Turn off the heat and mash the pears with a fork or blend it with an immersion blender. Add the rice flour in a layer over the mixture and whisk well to combine.
Allow it to cool completely.
STEP SIX – RINSE THE GREENS
When the greens are done sitting in the brine, remove them from the water by lifting the strainer out of the bowl. Toss out the water and rinse the greens thoroughly with fresh, cool water for a few minutes.
Put the clean greens in a large mixing bowl.
STEP SEVEN – SEASON THE KIMCHI
Transfer the prepared reserved vegetables to the bowl with the radish greens.
Add the red pepper paste to the bowl and, using your fingers, mix the paste into every bit of the kimchi.
Put the mixture into an airtight jar.
STEP EIGHT – ADD THE PEAR MIXTURE TO THE KIMCHI
Pour the cooled pear and flour mixture into the jar and seal the jar.
Pick up the jar and shake it well for a few minutes. This will help the pear mixture to coat all of the vegetables and season everything evenly.
STEP NINE – ALLOW THE KIMCHI TO FERMENT AND STORE
Put the kimchi in a dark place at room temperature to allow it to ferment and the seasoning to marry with the vegetables for a few hours before transferring it to the refrigerator. Serve same day or allow the kimchi flavors to develop more for a couple of days before serving.
Kimchi truly is one of those dishes that seems more complex than it is to make. It’s essentially just pickled vegetables with a unique flavor that can be enhanced or tamed by what it is paired with.
What type of kimchi is your favorite?
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