Kkakdugi (깍두기), or Cubed Radish (Daikon) Kimchi

daikon_kimchipSeeing radish kimchi at Hyosun Ro’s Eating and Living and then at Hiroyuki’s Blog on Japanese Cooking I felt it was high time I embarked on a fermenting adventure. Kimchi (김치) is the real monument of the Korean cuisine. It is a preparation of fermented vegetables – most often Napa/Chinese cabbage or white radish – with dried chili peppers and other seasonings. Kimchi is certainly one of the oldest dishes in the world, since (according to Wikipedia) the oldest references to it go back as far as 3000 years ago. Koreans didn’t know chili peppers until the XVIth century, so the beautiful red colour and fiery taste are quite recent. (In fact, there exists also a “white” kimchi version, without chili, originary from the Northern Korea. ) Apart from the chili, garlic, ginger and scallions are the most frequent ingredients of the most popular, fiery kimchi. It also always contains a fermentation “enhancer” such as fish sauce, raw shrimp, raw oysters or fermented fish.

To those who haven’t tasted it, kimchi might not sound particularly appealing, especially given its powerful smell. For me well-made kimchi is a pure delight. It is spicy, hot, sour and, like most fermented vegetables, very healthy. High in fiber, low in calories and fat, it is packed with vitamin C (thanks to the fermentation) and carotene. It also contains several other vitamins, helps digestion, is said to prevent certain cancers… In short: it’s a wonder food. Its importance in the Korean cuisine cannot be compared to anything in any European food culture I know. Apart from being served as a side dish, kimchi is used in fried rice, stew and soups. The only Korean cookery book I have contains a whole chapter dedicated to kimchi and many Korean families have special kimchi refrigerators.

I first tasted kimchi a couple of years ago in a Korean restaurant, then at my Korean neighbours’ house (the latter was of course beyond compare) and then tried making my own. The preparation was easy, but I was disappointed with the result. This experience has put me off making kimchi for two years. Last week, however, I decided I had to make at least one more attempt. I happened to have almost all the required ingredients from Hyosun Ro’s recipe, so I have followed closely her instructions and I can proudly say my kimchi is quite palatable. I panicked a little when after two days’ fermentation my kimchi was very bitter, but, strangely, leaving it to ferment for one more day resolved the problem! Thank you, Hyosun Ro, for this easy and efficient recipe! I feel now ready to carry on further kimchi experiments.

UPDATE: In the meantime I have experimented with different vegetables and thought you might also like these kimchi versions:

Mak Kimchi (Easy Cabbage Kimchi)
Mak Kimchi (Easy Cabbage Kimchi)
Easy Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Kimchi)
Celery Kimchi
Celery Kimchi

TIPS: Hyosun Ro’s recipe calls for raw shrimp as the fermentation enhancer, but since I can only get frozen shrimp, I thought it would be safer to replace it with additional fish sauce. The below recipe is adapted to my small batch (I was worried to make a bigger one for the first time), so if you want to see the original go to Eating and Living blog.

Wear gloves if you manipulate kimchi with your hands (apart from the smelly side there is lots of chili in it)

If you taste your kimchi and it seems very bitter, leave it to ferment for additional 24 hours. I did it and miraculously the bitterness disappeared!

Preparation: 1 hour + min. 2 days, but 2 weeks are optimal; the kimchi you see above was one week old and improved every day

Ingredients (I adapted the ingredients to my very small “test” batch):

500 g white radish (daikon) cut into cubes

3 heaped tablespoons Korean dried chili (my kimchi wasn’t very hot, just hot)

1 flat teaspoon grated or crushed garlic

1/2 flat teaspoon grated fresh ginger

chopped scallions (I used European chives instead)

salt (I used about 3 tablespoons)

1/2 teaspoon glutinous rice flour

4 tablespoons fish sauce or (as advised by Hyosun Ro):

2 tablespoons finely minced saeujeot (salted shrimp)

1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 raw shrimp (ground)

Prepare the rice paste combining the rice flour with about 20 ml water. Let the mixture simmer until it thickens.

Sprinkle the radish cubes with salt and leave them for 30-40 minutes. They will soften and let release some water.

Drain them, but do not wash.

Put the radishes into a big container (with a lid) and combine well with the remaining ingredients.

Taste and if you think it’s not salty enough, add some fish sauce (Hyosun Ro says it should be just a bit too salty).

Cover with the lid, press with your hands (wear gloves!) to remove the air from between the radish cubes and leave for 2 days to ferment in room temperature.

Put into the fridge after two days or more. Mine tasted better (and lost its bitterness) after the third day of fermentation at room temperature. In general it gets stronger and more acid every day.

You can refrigerate it only to make it cold and eat it straight away or you can wait several days or weeks to see how the flavours change and at which stage you prefer it (Hyosun Ro says it requires two weeks to develop the best flavours).

You can keep kimchi in the fridge for several weeks.


61 Replies to “Kkakdugi (깍두기), or Cubed Radish (Daikon) Kimchi”

  1. Mmmm … kimchiiiiiii …. I don’t know about you but I’m totally addicted to kimchi in any form, altho I must admit I prefer the winter ones to the summer ones. I’m so glad I’ve learnt to make it at home. This radish kimchi looks so tempting!

    1. Thank you, Ping. I can very well imagine someone getting addicted to it. Whenver I open the fridge I have a bit of it and it seems to go perfectly well with most dishes, even European. I never buy it in Japanese shops though (we don’t have Korean shops here), because it’s outrageously expensive and someone told me they make it not hot at all to please Japanese and Swiss clients. Next step will be cabbage kimchi because I’m also impatient to cook kimchi with soups and rice and it’s the cabbage kimchi I see in such dishes I think.

  2. Omg, I love radish kimchi, but I didn’t eat it since having a bad experience with it at a restaurant in Paris – it had obviously fermented a bit “too” much and gone off (read: mouldy). Tasted absolutely horrible, but oooh, I love it so much! I need to make this – I even have a piece of radish in my fridge right now! Did you ever try making cucumber kimchi too? You should try this one next!

    Great post Sissi – I can’t wait to try this myself. If I have all the ingredients I’ll even try to do it tonight I think 🙂 I’ll let you know how it goes!

    1. Thank you so much, Charles. Your “adventure” with kimchi sounds awful! I must say the only excellent kimchi I had (apart from my neighbours’ house) was in Paris, in a tiny cheap Korean restaurant where I went for lunch (rue St Anne, on the side of the Korean shop, just before the Korean shop, I think, in case you are interested 😉 ). They had excellent fried chicken and many delicious soups.
      I would advise you to have good kimchi as soon as possible! I remember once finding a huge worm in a fish I have bought. It was just a parasite which would die during the cooking process, but I couldn’t touch the fish. I ran quickly to buy some different fish because I knew that if I didn’t this incident would put me off the fish in general for a long time. Now I find small parasites inside of almost every mackerel I buy and after a long discussion with the fishmonger I am no longer scared; she said at some periods of the year 100% of mackerel have worms!).
      I have never had cucumber kimchi, but since I like cucumbers a lot, I will make it just after the cabbage kimchi. Thanks for the suggestion. Good luck with your radish kimchi!

      1. Ah, well, I’ve had some good kimchi since then… but regular cabbage stuff mostly. I’m always sure to order “tsukemono” (or sometimes it’s called “Oshinko” when I go to Japanese restaurants… so yummy, but if you ever come to Paris we’ll go to a Korean BBQ place I know. It’s so delicious, and the kimchi there is really good too.

        I’ve had experience with parasites in fish too – it is absolutely harmless, indeed, but it looks disgusting, and as you say, it’s SO common in certain fish! Eeek 🙁

        1. Charles, now I want to go to Paris to have a Korean BBQ 😉 I often buy whole, not gutted fish (the shop for restaurants only prepares the big fish on demand or sells fillets), so I know horse mackerels never have worms, but Atlantic mackerels (maquereaux) practically always. I got used to the small parasites, but I think I would be scared of eating mackerel sushi because they lay eggs, which are almost invisible. I have heard that in Japan some people have serious health problems (liver I think) because of regular intake of such parasites.

  3. You are amazing Sissi! Great job making kimchi! I can eat only a little bit of spicy food but I love white kimchi my Korean friend bought for me. Basically it’s non spicy kimchi so it’s perfect for me! I love your surprises in your post. When I see your email, your photo starts to load slowly and makes me smile often. Like today, I was smiling at your great experiment with your kimchi. Hyosun must be so proud of you!

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. You are so sweet 🙂 I have never had white kimchi (I think it’s less popular), but since I love the hot version, I’ll probably continue experiments with the red kimchi (at least for now). I hope Hyosun approves of my kimchi.

    1. Thank you so much, Hiroyuki. The only fermented food I know in Switzerland is fermented white cabbage, i.e. sauerkraut (choucroute in French). It’s fermented only with salt and some other spices, but there is no fermentation “enhancer” such as in kimchi (no fish sauce, etc.). Sauerkraut exists in many European countries and is made most of the time with very finely shredded cabbage in big containers (the best are earthenware). It’s not as easy to make as kimchi and I always buy it ready-made. People eat it most of the time cooked, but it’s also delicious in a salads. You must have probably read about it at Kiki’s blog. Germans also make it.

  4. Dear Sissi,

    I love all kinds of kimchi, especially the crunchy radish kimchi whenever I visit Korean restaurants. What is also great is that banchan is always eat as much as you can at these restaurants and they are always so delicious and healthy too!

    1. Thank you so much. What you write confirms what I think: you live in a paradise for restaurant goers. Here, if they serve pickles in a Korean restaurant, the portions are tiny and either you have to pay a fortune for seconds or they make you pay for every single tiny bowl from the beginning. If I remember well a tiny portion of kimchi pays you a glass of wine. This is one of the reasons I went maybe three times to a Korean restaurant here. I hate being treated in this way.

      1. I believe it’s also because there are so many different cultures living in such a cosmopolitan city and it becomes very competitive no matter what cuisine with so many good restaurants. If one Korean restaurant don’t offer free kimchi or their banchan range, it will lose all its customers to neighbouring restaurants.

        Perhaps you should consider a trip to Sydney. It would be a great eating adventure 🙂

  5. Its amazing that you attempted this, very impressive. Reading that you used 3 tablespoons of chilli is making me react.

    Kimchi is also outrageously expensive here, I guess the shops probably don’t have too many clients.

    For cooked meals one of my favourites is kimchi chige (stew). Have you tried?

    1. Thank you, Mr. Three-Cookies. I am flattered 🙂 Either my chili is old and has lost its strength or Korean chili is not as hot as for example Indian chili. I have never tried kimchi stew, but as soon as I make the Napa cabbage kimchi, I will cook it. It sounds delicious.

  6. Oh Kimchi how do I adore you! Sissi you are so brave as to take on this adventure, I remember my Mom making some fermented cabbage (Chinese style) when we lived back at Taiwan, it seemed like a long process, and making such a big batch at a time always was nerve wrecking! I am so glad to hear your second attempt at kimchi making turned out wonderfully, I bet they are crunchy and full of flavor!

    1. Jeno, you are so kind 🙂 Thank you for all the compliments. Frankly, kimchi is really easy. It’s just a bit capricious and making a perfect one requires some experience, I suppose. I am happy I have tried fermenting it one more day when it was bitter and accidentally it helped. I suppose an experienced kimchi maker knows it very well.

    1. Thank you so much, Jed. It is very easy, unless it gets moody. Fermented food has a life on its own…

    1. Thank you, Claire. You are so lucky! I have only a small balcony, but I have had some daikon greens this Summer. The roots were very small and strong. I suppose they didn’t have enough space.

  7. Oh, Kimchi is my favorite as a side dish for any meat main dish. Daikon is one of my preference besides cucumbers. My mouth is watering on your photo, Sissi.

    ~ ray ~

    1. Thank you so much, Ray. The photo would look better if I took it just before the fermentation started. It was much more beautiful 🙂

  8. Kimchi…yummie! Looks delicious especially that there are lots of radish in the groceries…I never attempted to make it…maybe on of this days.
    Hope you have a wonderful week ahead Sissi 🙂

  9. I have not experimented very much with Korean cuisine though there is a restaurant a short drive from us, coincidentally called “Le Kim Chi”, that I’ve been eyeing and meaning to check out – such a diversity of flavour in their menu. I love all of the ingredients in this dish Sissi; it sounds rich and light at the same time. Thank you for the background information as well.

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. This is a very light side dish indeed. Let me know if you ever try this restaurant. I’m sure you would love Korean cuisine. I hope they make excellent kimchi there, given their name.

  10. Oh ya, kimchi, I remembered liking it when I was dining Korean in my own country but when I was in Korea, it totally lost its appeal on me when I started seeing them almost everywhere I went!:p
    Anyway, it is still an amazing dish, and somehow still works it magic to whet one’s appetite before the meal 😉

    1. Hi Christy, I totally agree it is an amazing dish. If I go one day to Korea I will try to taste kimchi from a different cook with every meal of the day.

  11. Thank you for such an interesting post! I do love kimchi but have only had it made with cabbage. This radish kimchi sounds very interesting and since my local coop had a ton of organic daikon today, it’s perfect timing! Great recipe!

    1. Thank you so much, Mjskit. I will be making the cabbage kimchi soon, but it sounds to me a bit more fussy, if not complicated, so the radish one will be a piece of cake for you. Thank you for the visit!

  12. the one i follow is from this lady called maangchi! she’s quite popular on youtube, and i just love her personality! i think the rice paste thing is quite important. I used to skip that out, but now i stick to it! much better results! speaking of which, maybe i should go update that dreadful old kimchi recipe on my blog.. i think the cabbage one is not any more fussy than the kimchi one! i slice up the cabbage first, that’s called mak kimchi! maangchi uses raw oysters, but i’m still a bit iffy about using raw shrimps/oysters in my kimchi…and anyway they do jack up the price of kimchi-making so I leave them out ):

    1. Hi Shuhan, I know Maangchi. I have made once a dish from her blog and it was great (I must post it!). The only way I saw cabbage kimchi made was with whole cabbage that is why I was saying it seems complicated. Mak kimchi sounds like a prefect shortcut! I would rather eat the oysters straight away 😉 Just joking, but I would also be a bit worried about it. I suppose fish sauce is enough to please foreigners at least.
      I haven’t noticed your kimchi post! I must take a look.

  13. I have never even tasted kimchi, but I think I’d like it! Especially when it’s made well…like yours 🙂 I enjoyed reading about the preparation.

  14. As Nami said, yes, I am so proud of you! Not only this kimchi looks awesome, but your knowledge and appetite for kimchi is very impressive. Kkakdugi does taste better fully fermented. Great job!! I am sure you’re inspiring a lot of people to make kimchi at home.

    1. I am so flattered! Thank you so much for all the compliments. You were totally right about the fully fermented kimchi. I really prefer it now, after two weeks. It’s amazing. Next time I’ll play with another vegetable 🙂 Thank you once more for the inspiration and a wonderful recipe!

  15. This looks really hot – I would like to taste it! The smell of cabbage kimchi is somewhat nasty. Radish kimchi is even more smelly. But both taste so good. I should make some too.

    1. Thank you so much, Kiki. I think the smell is nasty, but before I taste it. Then, somehow, one forgets about the smell 😉

  16. I am so curious how kimchi with radish would taste…!! I’d really like to try it, but I can only find those usual long, white radishes and I am not sure if I can use them for kimchi.

    I actually just made kimchi again today, but the usual one with Chinese cabbage. I used minced pear instead of the porridge’ made from glutinous flour because I find it less time-consuming and tastes somewhat better, the pear acts like a natural sweetener for the kimchi.

    1. It’s funny because without reading your comment I have just made some Chinese cabbage kimchi! I will follow your pear advise. The nice thing with kimchi is that we can play with ingredients, amounts etc. and adapt them to our taste. Thank you for the idea!
      I have never bought kimchi here (apart from the ones tasted in restaurants) because it’s horribly expensive and not hot as I like.
      I have used the long white radishes and have never seen the “chubby” Korean ones Hyosun advises on her blog. My kimchi was very good even with these (certainly not as good as it would be with different radishes…). You can use them I’m sure because the kimchi they sell here is made with the only radishes available in Switzerland and even in Japanese shops (there are no Korean shops) they sell the long ones.

      1. Hehe, what a coincidence :)! After I tried making kimchi myself at home, I’ve never bought store bought kimchi anymore because I think my homemade one tastes better and I’m sure cleaner ;). I’ll try your suggestion to make kimchi with those long white radishes, thanks for your feedback :)!

    1. Thanks, Greg. I’m becoming hooked on kimchi. Now I’m making the cabbage kimchi and something tells me it’ll be delicious.

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