What follows is the way I make it, I don't know any Koreans who make it like this, but those who have tasted mine agree it is indeed "Korean".
Do not use any metal bowls or utensils when making this. It is best to mix all the ingredients in a plastic bucket or a large crock. It will shrink down tremendously. So a five gallon bucket full of fresh veg will fit into (2) 1 gallon jars. We'll get to that later.
Kim Chee is actually quite simple to make. There are a few basic ingredients that are the basis for your Kim Chee. Napa Cabbage, Green Onions, Garlic, Ginger, and hot Peppers.
The main ingredient of course is cabbage. Kim Chee is traditionally made with Napa(chinese) cabbage. I like to use 1 head of Napa, 1 head of Bok Choy, and 1 head of Savoy Cabbage. This is entirely up to you. Split these in half lengthwise and cut into 2" pieces. Be sure you use all the thicker stuff from the bottom of the napa and bok choy. It is perfect in this and adds to the crunch.
Onions. Green onions are essential. I have added thin sliced yellow or white onions for texture. But, green onions HAVE to be in there. For the above cabbages, use at least 3 bunches. Cut these into 2" long pieces and split them lengthwise. This is tedious I know. And, I am not sure why, but you really want to split them. For three heads of cabbage you will want at least 6 cups of green onions.
Toss all the cabbage and the green onions together in your bucket.
In a food processor or blender, put in 1 cup of soy sauce. Avoid low sodium type. You need the salt to ferment the acid in the cabbage. The Koreans salt each leaf, rinse it then cut it. But, I am Polish, so we are going to do this my way! Peel an entire bulb of garlic, two is better and add it to the soy sauce. Peel enough fresh ginger so you have about 3 tablespoons worth. (powdered works, but don't use it) Smash and chop the ginger a bit and add it to the soy sauce and garlic. I have used fresh hot peppers, but they just don't seem to work all that well. Add about 5 tablespoons of red pepper flakes to the soy sauce. More or less to taste. Powdered cayenne will work too, but it will be a whole lot hotter than the same amount of flakes. We want it hot, but thats up to you.
Run the processor till this mixture is pureed nicely. Than add 1 more cup of soy sauce and about 1/2 cup water. Pulse quickly to mix. You may need a little more liguid. If so add the same proportion of soy sauce and water. It isn't necessary to cover the veggies. The moisture in them will give you plenty of liquid. At this point you just want to get some of this liquid puree tossed throughout the cut veggies.Pour this over your cabbage mix and toss very well.
Allow this to sit at room temperature, loosely covered, for about 5 days. Toss around at least once a day, and be sure to press the veg back under the liquid each time you do. If you decide to ferment this in glass jars, just tighten up the lid, turn it upside down and shake it a few times, press the veg under the liquid and leave THE CAP LOOSE!! Do not ferment this stuff with a tight fitting lid! TRUST ME on this.
That is the basic recipe for Kim Chee. Over the next few days it will ferment and sour. It will also stink a little. I'm lying on that. It will stink ALOT. Thats perfect! LOL
Because we used soy sauce, your Kim Chee will be a dark color. Not red like this photo. This is traditional Kim Chee, and we are not traditionalists.
Now that we have the basics down. Lets talk about other things to add to make it even better. I have tried everyone of these things at one time or another. Add what you want depending on what you have on hand. Toss any or all of the following along with your cabbage mix.
Radish- Daikon radish is really the best to add. I don't use it too much because it is pretty costly here. But if you use it, either shread it or slice thin. Red radishes will work also, they add a nice crunch but don't have the "bite".
Carrots-shreadded carrots work nicely in Kim Chee.
Turnips, parsnips and Rhuttabagahs also work well, cube, shread or sliced.
Peeled, seedless cucumbers work well. They of course won't stay crisp, but I like to add them sometimes.
Greens- almost any green works in this. Avoid the bitter ones, mustard, etc. Don't add to much. Your main veg is cabbage. We're not making fermented greens here.
Dried Shrimp or Fish-Alot of the Koreans add a couple handfuls of dried/salted baby shrimp or fish flakes. This is really nice.
Tomatoes-WILLNOT work. Don't even think about it!
Little baby corn that comes in a can also fits in this well.
Sometimes I like to add sliced water chestnuts and/or bamboo shoots.
Of course any type of oriental vegetables will be right at home in your Kim Chee.
DO NOT use teryaki sauce. It just doesn't work.
Use your imagination. This is YOUR Kim Chee! Do what ever you want. The amounts of course are up to you.
So anyway after it ferments for 5 days or so, tighten the lid and refrigerate. Make sure the lid is on tight or it will stink up the whole refrigerator. This will keep for quite some time, although I doubt it will last long enough for you to worry. I understand this can be frozen successfully, but I have never done it.
Finally. My biggest fan and critic is my neighbor Phil. He loves this stuff too. So each time I make it, I invite him over so we can both give it the nose test. We always agree it is stinky and hot enough.
I have made this and variations of it hundreds of time. It will work everytime.
(Authors Disclaimer: This is some powerful stuff. I believe it may have lead to divorce for non-Korean couples and has kept single people that way, single. Avoid breathing on, or talking directly to a non Kim Chee eating person. One more word of caution. What goes in, must come out. If you are not used to eating Kim Chee, or eat to much, you will no doubt be surprised when it is time for it to come out!!! LMAO)