Asia Society Korea’s Top 50 Kimchi Recipes of 2020
Our recent special webcast featuring U.S. Ambassador H.E. Harry Harris and South Korea’s famous food specialist Hye Jung Lee (aka “Big Mama”) showcased how to prepare the most authentic Korean kimchi in the face of the COVID-19 lockdown blues. This time around, we plan to go a little further down the kimchi rabbit hole.
Like Chef Lee said in the webcast, the first kimchi was neither red nor spicy. The genesis of this national food dates back 3,000 years, but it wasn't until much later that kimchi gained its signature red color. With over 200 documented types of kimchi out there, the average South Korean consumes a total of about 26 kilograms of various types of kimchi every year. There are even special fridges made just for kimchi.
Prized for its health properties, kimchi has become an iconic dish of Korean cuisine which takes up a huge portion of the standard Korean diet. Our favorite spicy fermented condiment is good for so much more than just eating straight out of the jar — though you can certainly find Koreans doing that regularly. But you’ll never fully understand kimchi by eating it as a standalone side dish. When used properly, this uniquely spiced food can be hugely versatile, livening up savory and sweet dishes alike.
So, members of Asia Society Korea handpicked Top 50 Kimchi Recipes for you today. From festive kimchi-making to deliciously spiced army stew and the guilty pleasure of veggie-packed Korean kimchi pancakes, here are 50 kimchi-filled recipes and dishes that will blow your mind away. K-wave? Let’s talk about a Kimchi Wave!
- Baechu (cabbage) kimchi – Most people who are new to Korean cuisine imagine kimchi to be this hot, red, garlic-laden fermented cabbage in a side dish that is most often served as a side dish. Well, this is the type of kimchi that falls right into the lap of that preconception. When you ask for “kimchi” at a Korean restaurant, this is most likely what you are going to get.
- Baek (white) kimchi – If baechu kimchi was the spicy devil on one of your shoulders, the white version is the angel sitting on the other side. The process of making this white kimchi is almost identical to that of its red sibling—but with milder ingredients and no hot pepper flakes.
- Kkakdugi (cubed radish kimchi) – We’re back to the taste of fire and fury. This cube kimchi is made of, well, white Korean radishes also known as mu cut into tiny cubes. You will oftentimes come across online recipes that tell you the white Korean radish can be replaced with Japanese daikon. Don’t fall for it. Kkakdugi is prepared with nearly the same combination of ingredients as baechu kimchi but the cubed radish makes the end product much juicier and gives it a crunchier texture than its cabbage variation.
- Chonggak (bachelor/ponytail radish) kimchi – It’s made from chonggak radish, which is a smaller-than-usual white radish that comes with a long, green ponytail. The greens are usually left on and eaten together with the white roots. This particular kimchi goes by the cutely coined name of “bachelor radish” because it reminded Korean people of the traditional hairstyle that young unmarried men in ancient Korea used to wear.
- Dongchimi (radish water kimchi) – There’s a certain amount of freshness that comes with using the radish in whole. Dongchimi is a high-water mark of that freshness, as it is fermented just like the other varieties of kimchi but with a much shorter maturing period. Also known as radish water kimchi, the clean and clear taste of the watery soup helps balance out the spicy flavors found in Korean cuisine.
- Nabak (red water) kimchi – This may look like a vegetable punch at first sight. It is one of the freshest and prettiest types of kimchi you will see at a Korean restaurant. Think of it as a hotter version of dongchimi with a bit of red pepper added for color. It goes tremendously well with grilled and greasy food.
- Oi Sobagi (cucumber kimchi) – This is a refreshing, crisp and spicy variation of kimchi. If you are a fan of pickled cucumbers, this might be the closest thing there is to a Korean pickled cucumber. While people enjoy them most in the summer this kimchi isn’t meant to be stored away for long — only a few days maximum.
- Gat (mustard leaf) kimchi – Disclaimer: Here comes a kimchi that is conspicuously different from the usual variations you’re used to seeing. It’s made from dark green Korean mustard leaves and stems. Gat is a nutritious plant that is very popular in Korea. The leaves in their raw form may taste quite pungent and even sharp. Gat kimchi accentuates that distinctive flavor by mixing it with anchovy sauce and other common ingredients that go into the making of kimchi.
- Bossam (wrapped) kimchi – The word bossam in Korean literally translates to “wrapped.” Coincidentally, it also happens to be in the name of a popular Korean dish: boiled pork belly wrapped in lettuce leaves. Bossam, which often gets abbreviated to ssam, is a variation of the kimchi repertoire that originates from Kaesong, North Korea. This is perhaps one of the greatest accompaniments to Korean meat dishes.
- Pa (green onion, aka scallion) kimchi – This is a kimchi delicacy that should be enjoyed in the winter. One popular belief is that the most common baechu kimchi is not as tasty as it should be in warmer seasons, mainly because cabbage tastes better in cold weather. Koreans look for different vegetables to make kimchi with during the spring and summer and green onion is one of the best choices among them.
- Kongnamul (bean sprout) kimchi – This is a common dish in southwest region of South Korea known as Jeolla Province as well as in certain parts of North Korea. While South Koreans mainly use fish sauce, North Koreans tend to add mustard and vinegar to the bean sprouts to make the kimchi tangier.
- Kkatnip (perilla leaf) kimchi – This is commonly eaten in the summer. If you like some of the more common forms of Korean kimchi and would like to expand your taste buds, try this one.
- Seasoned dried radish strips with kimchi – This a popular Korean side dish that often appears in a Korean lunch box. The main ingredient is white Korean radishes cut into small pieces and dried in the sun. You can buy the packaged version in Korean grocery stores.
- Mugeun-ji (aged kimchi) – Aged kimchi is just as popular as fresh, unfermented kimchi in Korea. The deep and thick seasoning is evenly mixed in the cabbage, so it’s good to just eat by itself. But if you put it in various dishes like stews, it will provide a deeper, richer flavor.
- Braised kimchi – It is oftentimes enjoyed with pork fillets, a combination that is quite flavorful and delicious. The pungent and sour taste of the kimchi is a good complement to the savory meat.
- Kimchi gimbap – This is a perfect combination of the two things Koreans can’t live without. That’s right. Kimchi and gimbap. For Koreans, gimbap is often associated with warm and fuzzy memories of picnics and school field trips where gimbap is nearly essential. The spicy and crunchy kimchi adds a little zing to pretty much any type of gimbap out there.
- Kimchi fried rice – What do you do when you don’t have much in the fridge or don’t feel like cooking a complex meal? Because most Koreans have sour kimchi in the house, kimchi fried rice is the obvious answer for many Koreans.
- Roasted with meat – Roast sour kimchi with heavy meats. This will help lighten up the flavor with a spicy punch.
- Kimchi jjigae (stew) – This stew is perfect for well-fermented kimchi. It’s one of the most beloved dishes in Korea.
- Tuna kimchi jjigae
- Pacific saury kimchi jjigae
- Pork kimchi jjigae
- Kimchi jeon (pancake) – This kimchi pancake provides a nice kick to the palate thanks to the pungent flavor of kimchi. No maple syrup is needed here.
- Kimchi noodle pancakes – Add noodles to the kimchi pancake, which will add another layer of flavor to the dish.
- Braised dishes – Add well-fermented kimchi to braised beef short ribs or fish. The savory tenderness of the braised meat and fish will complement the extra tanginess of the sour kimchi.
- Kimchi soondubu (soft tofu) stew – Add a tangy kick to soft tofu with spicy kimchi and make a stew out of them. Sour kimchi will add a delicious crunchy texture that will complement the soft tofu.
- Kimchi mandu (dumpling) – Sour kimchi is a perfect dumpling filler. You could steam, boil, fry and/or pan-fry them.
- Kimchi mandu in broth
- Albap (Hot-pot rice with fish roe) – Top off your albap with some sour kimchi. The mixed veggie and fish egg rice dish has a multitude of textures and flavors that could be a perfect match for the spicy condiment.
- Toppings – Kimchi makes a yummy topping for pretty much anything. Chop it finely and sauté it with butter. You might never ask for ketchup ever again.
- Spicy kimchi slaw – This is a Korean version of coleslaw. Instead of your typical cabbage coleslaw there is whipped, airy kimchi dressing in it.
- Kimchi udon – The powerful combination of gochujang and kimchi will produce a ballad of flavors quite mesmerizing in this udon recipe. Scallions go well with the dish.
- Samkim (Korean BBQ and kimchi) – Samgyeopsal (pork belly) is one of the must-eats in South Korea. If you want to take this culinary delight to the next level, wrap the pork belly with kimchi and eat it in one mouthful, letting the juices dribble down your throw.
- Samhap – Samhap translates to ‘three tastes’ which is typically consisted of hongeo (fermented skate), steamed pork belly, and over-ripe kimchi. The texture of the pork and smell of kimchi are supposed to hide the presence of the fermented fish — but certainly not to complete success. Disclaimer: This is not for the faint-hearted foodie.
- Kimchi miso soup – It might be more common to have the miso soup without the kimchi. But if you like your soup extra spicy, add a bit of gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) or even just a tiny bit of kimchi juice for that additional kick.
- Kimchi ramen – This is one of the speediest, least traditional—but still delicious—culinary delights. Because you can never go wrong when combining ramen and kimchi hand in hand.
- Tofu kimchi – It’s a popular Korean dish consisting of tofu and fried kimchi. It is most often served with fried pork.
- Kimchi jumeok-bap (rice balls) – This is one of the simplest yet popular kimchi dish out there. Just put together some kimchi, gochujang, the stuffing of your choice, and some cooked rice. Roll them up into a rice ball. There’s your perfect picnic food.
- Kimchi congee – Congee, a savory rice porridge, works for any meal. But so does kimchi, which makes them a perfect match for each other.
- Spicy cold kimchi noodles – There’s no better way to beat the hot summer weather than enjoying addictively spicy cold noodles. Buckwheat noodles loaded with kimchi will be covered with that sweet, spicy and tangy sauce.
- Bibim guksu – This is a traditional Korean noodle dish that will wake up your palate. This light soba noodle salad is loaded with leafy greens and a good amount of kimchi. The crushed ice cubes on top keep the food chilled no matter the heat index.
- Sautéed kimchi – Here’s a nice alternative to the raw version and it goes well with anything.
- Kimchi deopbap (rice bowl) – It’s a common way to transform your aged pungent kimchi into a side or main dish.
- Kimchi pizza – You might be surprised to find out how well kimchi goes with pizza. The key is in the balance.
- Kimchi burger - This is a hamburger which includes kimchi as its main ingredient. You will see popular burger joints in South Korea serving kimchi burger from time to time.
- Kimchi, chicken and cabbage stir-fry – You can never go wrong with kimchi, chicken and cabbage cooked together.
- Bibimbap (mixed rice with vegetables) with kimchi
- Instant kimchi – Made with greens and mung bean sprouts
- Kimchi as a condiment
- Budae jjigae (army stew) – Some Korean dishes have a sad history behind them. Army stew was first concocted using various scrounged or smuggled canned foods that came from the U.S. army bases shortly after the armistice the ended the Korean War. While the dish was born out of the post-war impoverishment, the food continues to be popular to this day.