Kimchi Soup (Kimchiguk) with Chicken and Potatoes


Kimchi (Korean fermented spicy vegetables) is known by us, foreigners, almost exclusively in its raw form, served as a cold side dish. Its use in warm dishes is less popular abroad and is not very tempting for some people. The first time I prepared Kimchi Fried Rice I realised that this kimchi has much more to offer than I had thought and its addition to leftover rice has become my regular trick to make this humble dish delicious and complex in just one gesture. With this soup I feel I have discovered a big new chapter of the kimchi possibilities. Just like in the case of fried rice, kimchi has released here complex flavours and aromas, giving a certain illusion of robustness to this evidently light and healthy dish. Unlike in fried rice, here kimchi mellows and loses some of its power, just enough to enchant even those who find raw kimchi too violent. It may sound strange, but there is something evidently comforting and homely about this soup, so exotic in appearance.

The original recipe comes from Growing Up In a Korean Kitchen by Hi Soo ShinHepinstall, a fascinating book full of food-related childhood memories and homely Korean recipes, some of which are all but “tourist pleasers”. Apart from the famous dishes, I was glad to discover some interesting recipes most Korean cooking sources don’t mention. My first choice went to kimchi soup mainly because I had all the ingredients and because I have been tempted by the concept of a kimchi soup for quite a long time.

I have slightly modified the recipe. First of all, I jumped on the author’s suggestion and used chicken instead of pork. Apart from minor changes in ingredients’ amounts and procedures, my boldest step was to transform this soup into a one-pot meal, substituting tofu with potatoes. I can only hope my Korean visitors will forgive me and still allow me to call it “kimchi soup”. For the real kimchi soup recipe, I encourage you to buy the very special Growing Up In a Korean Kitchen.

If you wish to try kimchi in fried rice, here is a very simple adjustable recipe:


Kimchi Fried Rice

If you feel like making kimchi yourself, here are some options, all very easy to prepare:

Easy Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Kimchi)

White Radish Kimchi (Kkakdugi)

Kkakdugi (White Radish Kimchi)


Mak Kimchi (Easy Chinese Cabbage Kimchi)


Celery Kimchi (this is a short-term kimchi)

TIPS: The best kimchi to use here (or in kimchi fried rice) is well matured, strong kimchi, so it’s also a good way to use up kimchi leftovers.

I strongly advise here home-made chicken stock or at least good quality, natural stock (no taste enhancers, etc.).

If you wish a stronger, hotter soup, add 5-6 tablespoons of kimchi liquid.

Freshly squeezed ginger juice can be obtained by grating ginger and then squeezing the grated pulp (the below 1/2 teaspoon required about 1 cm fresh ginger).

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2-3 as a main dish):

1 chicken breast

2 big potatoes peeled and cut into 2 cm/0,8 in cubes

7 heaped tablespoons Napa cabbage kimchi (cut into 1cm/about 1/2 inch pieces)

(5-6 tablespoons kimchi juice, if you want to obtain a stronger soup)

1 litre chicken stock

5 big shiitake mushrooms (fresh), sliced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

white part of 1 green onion, chopped

3 oz/ 85 g soybean sprouts (I have skipped them in the batch you see above, but they were marked as  optional in the book)

Chicken marinade:

1/2 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 tablespoon rice wine (I used sake)

1 small clove garlic, crushed

a white part of green onion, very finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger juice (see above)

1/2 teaspoon sugar or syrup

1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

salt, freshly ground pepper

Cut the chicken breast into thin, short ribbons.

Combine the marinade ingredients and mix them with chicken pieces.

Put aside.
In the meantime heat one tablespoon oil in a big pan.

Fry the garlic cloves and mushrooms for a couple of minutes.

Add the stock, the chicken, the potatoes, the kimchi (and kimchi juice if you opt for a stronger soup) and cook at medium heat until the potatoes are soft.

Add the chopped white onion, salt, pepper and cook for 5 more minutes.

Serve with fresh green onion or chives, or just the way it is.

55 Replies to “Kimchi Soup (Kimchiguk) with Chicken and Potatoes”

  1. We tried a Vietnamese dish when we were out for lunch with Charles in September that I’m guessing had Kimchi and sadly this is not a flavour I enjoyed as it reminded me of something very unpleasant and certainly not table talk. But I could certainly go for this dish without the Kimchi because all of the other flavours are those I thoroughly enjoy.

    1. Thank you, Eva. It would be a pity because kimchi is what makes this soup so special… I wonder what you disliked about kimchi. The garlic? The chili? Or the fermented strong fishy smell? I have fallen in love with kimchi at first bite, but I know many people who cannot stand the fermented side.

    2. Hi Eva – it was a Korean restaurant actually – not Vietnamese, hence the abundance of kimchi ;-). It’s not to everyone’s tastes! I think you weren’t a fan of the fermented soybean ragout either, right? I couldn’t stand kimchi the first time I tried it but it really grows on you over time!

      1. Thanks Charles, so sorry, of course I knew that it was Korean (had a bit of a brain fart). I’m not sure what I didn’t care for about it, because I do enjoy sour, maybe it was a combo of the flavours. It could have been the fishy taste, not sure. Perhaps I’ll try it again one day before I completely dismiss it. My tastes are very similar to Sissi’s so I may just need some time to process it.

  2. Sissi, we love kimchi in this house hold, though I just don’t use it in my cooking enough! Your photo is stunning, I found myself starring at the soup salivating! The recipe looks real good, and I have most of the ingredients, will make it soon when weather turns a bit colder… We are experiencing unusually warm weather, in the 70’s, mosquito have started to come out and I am so not thrilled!

    1. Thank you so much, Jeno. You cannot imagine how I appreciate your compliment because as you can see it was a night time photo… and I hate these… I don’t have any special lamps or a fancy camera, so I struggle a lot. I must say that this soup was particularly delicate (I mean not hot) and I decided to add some kimchi juice to a second batch to have a stronger kick. I’m sure you will love it.
      I envy you the weather… even the mosquitoes 😉

  3. Oh I remember kimchi soup from working with five Korean girls: they made it the best! I never thought of asking them for a recipe (I think I thought I will be working with them forever and just eat their soup!) 🙂 Glad you posted it, I will definitely make some. I was brave enough to make kimchi last year (“mak kimchi” from Maangchi’s blog) and it came out so good that my husband now asks me to make all kimchi at home! 🙂 My next try would be cucumber kimchi and this soup. Thanks for the recipe! 🙂

    1. Hi Marina, I’m glad we share a passion for kimchi! I prepare mak kimchi regularly and I must say the whole cabbage one has never been a success… I will succeed one day, but maybe just not now 😉
      Cucumber kimchi is my favourite of all the kimchi I have made (the version with the photo above is also the easier version, not the stuffed one), but cabbage kimchi is the best for soups and fried rice.

  4. You’ve really dived into Korean cuisine with both fine, Sissi. A very enjoyable overview of a culture’s foods I was not familiar with.

    1. Thank you so much, A_Boleyn. Now with this second cookery book and about 30 recipes bookmarked I will be cooking even more Korean dishes.

        1. Thank you. I think this is what I understood (as a non-native speaker I thought it was an expression I didn’t know).

          1. Sissi, your command of the English language is excellent, from what I’ve seen, even when challenged by a typo like that one. 🙂

            By the way, I wasn’t sure when/if you checked back on your comments on my LJ but I wanted to share this very humorous post on making and enjoying fish balls I ran across recently on a blog.


            I like them but I’d never go to THAT much trouble to make them myself. 🙂

            1. Thank you so much for kind words. I struggle with my English all the time.
              I remember Shuhan’s fish balls now! Thank you for reminding me. (I still haven’t checked my comments).

  5. I love kimchi jjigae, which is the stew version. Never heard of a soup version. The stew version is pretty fiery, I guess the soup is a lot mellower.
    And I think this is the first Korean dish I have come across that has potatoes:)

    1. Haha! I got very bold with potatoes also because the book contains many less known Korean dishes and among them three potato dishes! One of them is apparently a regional dish (a region which specialises in potatoes production). One lives and learns! I will cook much more from this book in the future. Some recipe are very surprising. I must prepare kimchi jigae too one day. This soup is quite mellow indeed.

  6. Look at that handsome pitch black pot! It’s so commanding and attractive Sissi. Contrasted against the vibrant colours in your kimchi soup, it looks beautiful. I’ve had kimchi rolls and kimchi salad variations but never kimchi soup – what a great idea… and you know, I can’t seem to get enough warming soups these days (makes so much more sense than… ice cream, wouldn’t you say? ;-)). I really like what you’ve done with your chicken marinade – i normally just pop cooked chicken breast right into the pot without dressing it up much (letting the flavors of the soup take over) but I’ll have to try this because it sounds like a great method for not only flavouring/softening the chicken but the whole soup as well. Great recipe Sissi.

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly, for all the compliments. I thought I did what I could with my awful artificial light… I think if I lived in Canada I would crave warming, hot soups all the time! It’s true that the marinade somehow changes the chicken’s taste but also the taste of the whole soup. If you like kimchi and soups, you should definitely try this one day. I’m sure you would love it.

  7. Adding kimchi to a soup is like adding a bunch of green chile to a soup – you want spicy? – Oh YES!!!! I bet this soup warms you up from the inside out. What wonderful flavors!!!! Love all of your kimchi recipes Sissi!

    1. MJ, you are totally right! Thank you so much for the compliments. I’m sure you would love this soup.

  8. I love these lineup of kimchi and kimchi is my favorite! My daughter and I always order kimchi soup every time we are in our favorite Korean restaurant. Yours look very hearty and flavorful. Thank you, Sissi! 🙂

  9. Hi Sissi, I’m a big fan of kimchi in general! I love kimchi soup… I think I told you before of a Korean restaurant in Versailles which serves some great kimchi soup-based dishes or kimchi stews and ragouts! So delicious… or at least they used to be. Sadly I think they went down in quality a bit recently.

    You’re so adventurous in your cooking! I always have lofty dreams of doing such things like this but to be honest my cooking is usually quite close to my comfort zone. I stick with flavours and styles which are familiar to me. You do it with such aplomb though – this really looks like a restaurant dish (a good restaurant too… not some budget back-alley diner :D). Love the idea of adding potatoes, and chicken would work great in this too instead of the pork – I’m back onto chicken now I think… I’ve sufficiently recovered from my chicken kiev experience last year, haha! 😀

    By the way – I was wondering… just a very minor point following on from what we were talking about the other day. I noticed you called kimchi “raw”, but I was wondering whether this is correct? It is fermented after all and fermenting is a type of … er… “cooking”. Like, I would never say I’m eating “raw fish”, but I’d say I’m eating “fermented herring” for example. I don’t actually know the answer – maybe you’re completely correct but I’m just curious about it!

    1. Hi Charles, it’s such a pleasure to see you here again! Thank you so much for the compliments. It’s not really difficult to be adventurous in the kitchen (compared to other parts of life…). Starting to cook a new ethnic cuisine is for me always a big step but Koreans use many products similar to the Japanese so I didn’t have to spend a fortune… What might seem adventurous to you is probably my quest for the hot dishes. I must say I have always been attracted to hot flavours: I was six or seven and I would already empty the bags of chili powder from my mum’s kitchen on many dishes and even sandwiches. My mum has transmitted me the curious attitude about foreign flavours versus suspicious that many people have. I am still surprised to see people who are 50 or even 60 and who are afraid to taste something a friend cooked (not to mention in a restaurant of course!)…
      I think what pushes me most of all to try new dishes or cuisines is that whatever I taste here is either very expensive or disappointing (or both!). I started to make kimchi regularly because restaurants here make you pay for every single tiny plate (there is not even a handful of the stuff which is so cheap to prepare at home!) and Japanese shops sell it also quite expensive and not hot (for the Japanese I suppose) and I also suspect them of making it with ready-to-use kimchi preparation (I hate such products). I cook Indian because Indian restaurants (quite good here) add tons of fat to their dishes… etc., etc..
      You are right about “raw” vs. “not raw”… I have written “raw” as an opposition to “cooked with heat”… It depends on the exact definition of “raw” and of “cooked”. I must check it.

      1. fermentation involves a chemical transformation – sugar (carbohydrate) to alcohol/acid – but I would not consider this cooking. Fermented foods are considered “live” foods because they are actually more bioavailable with increased vitamin and micronutrient levels as well as beneficial bacteria.

        1. Kelly, I’m in awe. Thank you so much for your professional answer! If I’m not wrong, fermented food is even more “alive” than raw before fermentation 😉 What you say makes me think also of maturing cheese… It has an expiry date, but for example my husband likes to eat many cheese varieties after this date because they are even more matured… It’s incredible for example when I buy in France on a market fresh, raw-milk goat cheese which was made one or two days before. After one week in the fridge it gets a bit denser and is covered with white, silky mould and of course the taste changes! It’s incredible to observe this natural living process of a cheese. I buy it often on purpose to taste it in different stages of maturity.

    1. Thanks a lot, Tessa. Cucumber kimchi is my favourite too! Although it cannot be used in soups and rice I suppose.

  10. I’m loving this photo so much, Sissi. What a beautiful bowl (is it a real lacquer?) and the soup and presentation looks gorgeous!!! This kimchi soup must warm you up in cold days. 🙂 I still need to try kimchi fried rice too.

    1. Thank you so much, Nami, for the compliment. I was worried to post this photo because as you see it was made at night, with artificial “standard” light… I must invest in good daylight lamps! I’m glad you like the bowl! The bowl is made of porcelain and I bought two such bowls once in a department store in the “end of series” corner. This soup was strangely not hot (before I added kimchi juice of course 😉 ) so I’m sure you would like it.

  11. Sissi this soup looks absolutely mouthwatering! I have never tried kimchi but this soup makes me regret it! I have a nasty cold that’s been torturing me a week now and I would love a big bowl of your hot soup!

    1. Thank you so much, Katerina. I hope you will feel better soon. A bowl of warming soup certainly makes one feel better.

  12. At the beginning of the list of ingredients you write:
    1/2 tablespoon sauce…
    What sauce? I am guessing soy, but wanted to make sure 🙂

    Dzięki ! Ania

  13. Excellent post. What I really like about it is the systematic – and illustrated – definition of different kimchis. That’s really helpful. Like your whole blog is for people who love food. Great photos! Always!

    1. Thank you so much, Ullrich, for so many compliments. You have just improved my mood for the rest of this cold dark day. I am simply experimenting with kimchi 😉 It becomes addictive. There are still so many vegetables to ferment Korean way!

  14. I need to delve into the world of kimchi! What I’ve seen of it, I have a feeling I’d be an instant fan. Your soupl looks fantastic, Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, Liz. If you like strong garlicky taste, chili and the acidity of… for example sauerkraut, you would probably love kimchi.

  15. O just got some kimchi and want to try to make stir fried rice…and now you got me to try to make this soup…what a perfect timing Sissi.
    Thanks and hope you are enjoying the rest of your week my dear.

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