Mak Kimchi, or Easy Cabbage Kimchi

kimchipSome of you probably remember Cubed Radish Kimchi (Kkakdugi 깍두기) I have written about a couple of weeks ago. This famous dish was easy, absolutely delicious and made me seriously hooked on the magic world of Korean fermentation. The Mak Kimchi you see above is another flavoursome experiment and certainly not the last one in my kimchi adventures.

For those who have never heard of kimchi, a quick reminder of what I have written in December. Kimchi (김치) is a preparation of fermented vegetables with dried chili peppers and other seasonings and has a very long history. According to Wikipedia the oldest references to kimchi 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, originating 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.

Kimchi has a very powerful smell, but once you taste it and love it, the smell will never be associated with anything unpleasant. 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.

Chinese (Napa) Cabbage is the most popular kimchi vegetable and the most versatile, since it is  often added to hot dishes (fried rice, soups, noodles). I have once tried making it, but it was very disappointing and the procedure was more complicated than in the case of Radish Kimchi. I thought I would never make cabbage kimchi again, but thanks to Shu Han (from Mummy, I can cook!) I have discovered the existence of  “mak kimchi”, meaning “easy kimchi” in Korean. While the classical cabbage kimchi (poggi kimchi) consists in seasoning and fermenting halved cabbages, mak kimchi (which I like to call “lazy kimchi”) is cut into small pieces before the fermentation process. This small step makes the seasonings’ distribution easier and accelerates the preparation process.

I have slightly modified Shu Han’s recipe, mainly changing the ingredients’ amounts and omitting the carrot I simply didn’t have.  Nevertheless my three days old mak kimchi is already incredibly good, but since I prefer it more “mature” and stronger, it will be more to my taste in a a week’s time or so. Thank you, Shu Han for giving me this wonderful idea and for the easy, foolproof recipe! (Click here to see Shu Han’s original recipe with making-of photos.)

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

Preparation: 1 hour + minimum 2 days


1 small Chinese (Napa) cabbage (500 g)

about 4 tablespoons coarse salt

2 heaped tablespoons Korean chili powder

1 tablespoon sugar (or 1/3 grated pear)

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 scallions stalks, cut into 2 cm pieces

1 garlic clove, grated

2  tablespoons fish sauce

2 flat tablespoons sweet (glutinous) rice flour

50 ml water

(1 small carrot, grated or julienned)

Prepare the rice paste combining the rice flour with about 50 ml water. Let the mixture simmer until it thickens.

Put aside.

Cut up the cabbage into 3 cm more or less square pieces.

Sprinkle it with salt and leave for at least two hours. The cabbage will soften and let release some water.

Drain the cabbage and wash it.

Put it into a big container and combine well with the remaining ingredients and the rice paste.

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

Transfer it into a container with a lid (the best would be if the size is as close to the volume of kimchi as possible).

Add a couple of tablespoons water to the big – now empty – bowl and “rinse off” the remains of chilli with it. Pour the water onto the kimchi.

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

Put into the fridge after two days. 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.

You can keep mak kimchi in the fridge for several weeks. It is excellent added to rice dishes and soups.




45 Replies to “Mak Kimchi, or Easy Cabbage Kimchi”

  1. Oooh, … you’ve just reminded me to make more of this. Don’t we just love kimchi? 😀 Kimchi with savory pastries, kimchi with grissini, and with a glass of red wine. 😉
    I think I’ll tweak my also very easy recipe to using your version using rice flour (or maybe even glutinous rice flour as some recipe suggested). I’m wondering if this quickens the fermentation process rather than using cooked rice in my recipe. Will definitely be making this again soon.

    1. Thank you so much, Ping. I adore kimchi too! Now I have lots of it in the fridge and take some with every meal (or even as a snack), hoping I will have a perfect skin (a Japanese friend tells me Korean women have perfect skin thanks to kimchi and even if it’s just a legend, I’m sure kimchi is good for me).
      I thought sweet rice was the same as glutionous rice… I must check it. Thanks for this remark.
      I’m looking forward to see your cooked rice version!

    2. I have just checked (you have scared me!) and according to Wikipedia sweet, sticky and glutinous rice are the same thing.

        1. No! Don’t be sorry. I am happy you have remarked it because I was not 100% sure it was the same… Now I checked and we both know 🙂
          Thank you for the link! I think I wasn’t your admirer at the time yet, so I somehow missed it.

  2. I’m all for “easy” 🙂 I love Kimchi with a passion and after seeing Shuhan’s recipe, and now yours too… I think I know what I’ll be making this weekend 🙂 I have almost a whole napa cabbage too, and the chilli flakes, so almost all the things I need! 🙂

    Then I just need some meat and I can make a delicious kimchi stew! Yummy 🙂 Thanks for sharing Sissi, and for reminding me to make it!

    1. This one is really easy, Charles, especially compared to the messy and tricky halved cabbage method. I see everyone catches the kimchi mania 🙂 I’m looking forward to seeing yours and the kimchi stew too!

  3. You know I’m all about easy, whole eating and if it involves cabbage I’m there 110%! I know exactly what you mean about strong smells not being an issue when you love the taste of the food in question… every time I fry scallops at home the whole family wonders about the fishy smell but then devours the plump beauties to squeals of delight 🙂 Keep these delicious, diverse and easy recipes coming Sissi – I love your site!

    1. Thank you, Kelly, for all the compliments. You make me feel so proud! I also love your site and your healthy, creative dishes!
      You know, when I eat kimchi I somehow feel I’m doing something good for my health. I suppose that when I get used to regular kimchi intake (it will arrive very soon, because I have had kimchi constantly in the fridge for a month now), my organism will crave it when I need some nutrients it contains. A bit maybe like my black pudding cravings (I feel they are more physical than psychological).
      I love scallops too, but for me the worst fishy smell is the salmon smell. I make it sometimes for my husband (I don’t like salmon, unless it’s wild).

  4. I have most ingredients at home, except Napa valley cabbage and Korean chili powder, the key ingredients. That means I cannot have fresh fermented kimchi in 2 days (can we say fresh?). The more I read the more I want to try this. I’ve made sauerkraut already but that takes longer, this is quicker.

    1. Mr. Three-Cookies, I’m sorry you don’t have the main ingredients. The Chinese cabbage is not a big problem (you can make kimchi with many vegetables), but chili powder is the most important. Wait! Maybe you should look for the “white kimchi” recipes! They are without chili!
      You are very brave to make sauerkraut.

        1. I totally agree, but I was trying to cheer you up 😉 I hope you find some Korean chili. Otherwise, let me know, I can send you some.

  5. Sissi, you are so adventurous! I remember my Mom made a type of kimchi when we were back at Taiwan, it’s more of a Chinese sauerkraut I guess, it was a long and complicated process, the end result was definitely worth waiting for, but I’ve never thought about making it myself. I bet your kimchi tastes delicious, the color is wonderful!

    1. Thank you so much, Jeno. I rather feel as if I were lazy 😉
      I see many countries ferment cabbage traditionally. This kimchi was really very easy and quick to prepare. Afterwards of course one has to wait until it matures, but in theory it can be eaten after two days.

    1. I remember you liked kimchi and I hope you won’t be bored with my further kimchi adventures (I have many other ideas in mind). I hope you try it one day. It’s very easy and so rewarding!

  6. I’m so glad you mentioned the strong smell!! I’ve never tasted it because of the smell!! No one ever told me, just taste and you’ll like it!! So, I’m pushing forward, on your recommendation…I will taste it next time or even try to make it myself!!

    1. Linda, it’s probably a bit like raw, maturing cheese. Once you taste it you think the smell is divine 🙂 You should taste it at least once.

  7. Kimchi is something I cannot have enough of. It goes well with fried fish and or pork. To me it is addicting when you start eating it and as a true-cook that we are… I don’t care for the smell. I will try and eat anything that looks good to me. Your kimchi looks good that it is pushing me to make one. Have a good day, Sissi! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Ray. I also don’t care for the smell of anything I eat. Good or bad smell is not something objective. It reflects what our eating habits and sometimes our open minds 🙂 I also cannot have enough of kimchi. I have it with my breakfast, lunch, dinner… It’s addictive, as you say and luckily very healthy, so this is a guiltless addiction.

  8. Dear Sissi,

    Your kimmchi looks delicious but I doubt I would make this recipe myself coz we are blessed with so many Korean grocery stores that stock all kinds of kimchi made on a daily basis for the vibrant Korean community. I have tried some of them and was resigned to the fact that I can hardly replicate how fresh they are let alone go through all the preparation work when it’s so cheap and delicious to buy from the shops.

    I guess it’s hard to find good kimchi where you are and coming up with your own is usually best in these situations.

    1. Thank you so much for the compliment. Once more, reading your comment I think you live in an eating out paradise. I have kimchi here too, in restaurants and Japanese grocery shops, but it’s never hot (they adapt it to the Swiss tastes…) and extremely expensive. I don’t know if you remember, but I once wrote on your blog that a portion of kimchi in a restaurant costs as much as a glass of wine and is not bigger in size 😉 You pay for every single tiny portion. The shops don’t sell it much cheaper, so as soon as I realised how easy and quick it is made at home, I turned my back on all these outragous practices.
      PS The typo has been corrected 😉

      1. Yes I do remember you telling me about kimchi costing as much as wine in restaurants. The irony is that we can also eat unlimited amounts of so many different types of kimchi for entree at all the Korean restaurants in Sydney. The meal at this restaurant cost us less than A$20 per person and we are allowed to bring our own wine! Korean food therefore is a cuisine we never need to try and replicate at home.

        1. Lucky you! Wine is another problem here… I don’t know a single restaurant allowing to bring my wine and the restaurants’ prices are a total rip off. You see a bottle in a shop at about 5 dollars and then they make you pay 30 for it in a simple pizzeria. I usually take a beer. I don’t even mention fancier places… There is only one restaurant I know, accidentally my favourite pizzeria, with a good wine list and not exagerrated prices.

          1. Australia and NZ are experiencing a wine glut so prices are very competitive.

            The BYO wine culture in Australia is very important in enticing diners to restaurants although some restaurants eg fine diners are fully licensed and BYO not allowed. Not many restaurants allow beer because we have a strong beer drinking culture too. So I believe dining out in Australia can be quite enticing because most capital cities are so cosmopolitan with so many different cultures, cafes and restaurants.

  9. I really love your International menus on your blog Sissi. My mom loves Korean food and she was saying she makes Kimchi too (she learned from her Korean friend). I like the part that you can only ferment it for 2 days. I want to make Kimchi fried rice that I saw it someone’s blog (I can’t recall who’s blog…). I need to bookmark this before I forget. Thanks Sissi! Hope you are having a good week. Shiori is sick this week so mine is kind of slow…

    1. Nami, thank you for these kind words. I think if someone prefers very delicate kimchi, it can be fermented even only for 24 hours (it’s the minimum I think). I usually ferment for 2 days (48 hours), then put into the fridge. Then I taste the following day and if I think it’s not strong/acid enough, I take it out and ferment it for 24 more hours.
      Mak kimchi is really easy and very quick to prepare. (Radish kimchi too!). You should try it one day maybe with sweet pepper instead of hot pepper since you don’t like hot food. (Maybe the blog was Hyosun Ro’s Eating and Living? I have also spotted there some dishes with kimchi I want to test!).
      I’m sorry for Shiori (she really has a beautiful name!) and hope she soon feels better.

  10. I didn’t know that rice flour is required in making kimchi so that’s a new one for me. I also didn’t know that there’s such a thing as white kimchi…hmmm kimchi without chilli somehow doesn’t sound very right! haha

    1. Hi Sylvia, rice flour doesn’t appear in all the kimchi recipes I know, but in most of them. I totally agree about white kimchi, but the funniest thing is that white kimchi should probably be considered as the olest kimchi version, since chili is only known in Korea from the XVIth century, while kimchi has a 3000 years old history…

  11. Hi Sissi – Your kimchi looks great! Such an informative post as well. I am very impressed with all your kimchi knowledge. Enjoy your kimchi as it develops more flavors over time! I can’t wait to see a dish you make with your kimchi when it’s fully fermented.

    1. Hi Hyosun, thank you for the compliment. I am very flattered especially since it comes from you. I like making some research about the dishes I write about. This way I learn a lot too 🙂

  12. wow sissi thanks a lot for the mention! your kimchi looks brilliant! I prefer this easy version too, so foolproof and equally yummy! that said, definitely want to go off to check out your cubed radish kimchi!

    1. Thank you so much, Shu Han. I’m very flattered by your approval. Thank you again for this amazing discovery (after the first attempt a long time ago the mere thought of putting the seasoning between the leaves of the cabbage made me quit the idea of cabbage kimchi) and of course for the recipe. Cubed radish kimchi was equally easy and I couldn’t decide which was is my favourite. This is why I have both now in my fridge 😉

    1. Martyna, I would never attempt making sauerkraut (at least the long traditional method) but I have made at least four batches of kimchi in the last 6 weeks, so I suppose it’s really easy.

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