Labor-Intensive Tongbaechu-Kimchi Recipe

This article provides a labor-intensive recipe for making tongbaechu-kimchi, a traditional napa cabbage kimchi. While the author has previously shared recipes for different types of kimchi, this is the first time they are offering a step-by-step guide for tongbaechu-kimchi. Known for its intricate preparation process, this recipe involves spreading the spicy paste leaf by leaf on the whole cabbage, making it a time-consuming endeavor. The process begins with soaking the cabbage in a salty brine, which stimulates the growth of lactobacillus bacteria, responsible for converting sugar into lactic acid for fermentation. The author reminisces about their mother’s tradition of making kimchi using 200 heads of cabbage, a kimjang kimchi meant to last the entire winter. The recipe explains how to make the porridge, prepare the vegetables and seasonings, allowing readers to create this delicious dish either immediately or opting for a few days of fermentation for a tangy flavor. The kimchi will ferment at room temperature and can be stored in the refrigerator once fermentation begins.

Labor-Intensive Tongbaechu-Kimchi Recipe


To make labor-intensive tongbaechu-kimchi, the following ingredients are needed:

  • Napa cabbage
  • Salt
  • Sweet rice flour
  • Water
  • Korean radish
  • Carrots
  • Green onions
  • Fish sauce
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Red pepper flakes


Before diving into the detailed steps, it’s crucial to prepare all the necessary components of the recipe. The preparation involves the following tasks:

  • Soaking the cabbage in brine
  • Preparing the rice porridge
  • Chopping the vegetables
  • Making the kimchi paste

Now, let’s break down each step and discuss them further.

Labor-Intensive Tongbaechu-Kimchi Recipe

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Step 1: Brining the Cabbage

The first step in making labor-intensive tongbaechu-kimchi is to brine the cabbage. This process helps to achieve the desired texture and flavor. Here’s a breakdown of the steps involved:

Cleaning the Cabbage

Start by thoroughly rinsing the napa cabbage to remove any dirt or impurities. Gently remove the outer leaves and set them aside.

Salting the Cabbage Leaves

After cleaning the cabbage, generously sprinkle salt between the leaves, focusing on the thicker parts. This will help draw out excess moisture from the cabbage, which is essential for the fermentation process.

Soaking the Cabbage in Brine

Once salted, place the cabbage in a large container filled with brine made by dissolving salt in water. Make sure the brine covers the cabbage completely. Allow the cabbage to soak for several hours, preferably overnight, to ensure it becomes adequately seasoned.

Step 2: Making the Rice Porridge

Rice porridge, also known as “juk” in Korean, is a crucial ingredient in the kimchi paste. It acts as a binder and enhances the flavor and texture of the kimchi. Here’s a breakdown of this step:

Cooking the Sweet Rice Flour

In a saucepan, combine sweet rice flour with water and cook over medium heat. Stir continuously until the mixture thickens. This process ensures that the rice flour is cooked thoroughly, resulting in a smooth and creamy porridge.

Making the Rice Porridge

Once the sweet rice flour has thickened, remove it from the heat and let it cool. The porridge should reach a consistency similar to a thick paste. Set it aside to be incorporated into the kimchi paste later.

Labor-Intensive Tongbaechu-Kimchi Recipe

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Step 3: Preparing the Kimchi Paste

The kimchi paste is the heart of any kimchi recipe, and labor-intensive tongbaechu-kimchi is no exception. This step involves preparing the vegetables and blending them with seasonings. Let’s dive into the details:

Preparing the Vegetables

Start by peeling and julienning the Korean radish and carrots. Chop the green onions into small pieces. Finely mince the garlic and ginger. These vegetables will contribute to the complex flavor profile of the kimchi.

Blending the Vegetables with Seasonings

Combine the prepared vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Add fish sauce, red pepper flakes, and cooked rice porridge to the bowl. Mix well until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. The resulting mixture should be a vibrant and aromatic paste.

Step 4: Spreading the Paste on the Cabbage Leaves

Now comes the labor-intensive part of this recipe – spreading the kimchi paste on each cabbage leaf. This method ensures that each bite of kimchi is bursting with flavor. Here’s what you need to do:

Applying the Kimchi Paste to Each Cabbage Leaf

Take each cabbage leaf, one at a time, and spread a thin layer of the kimchi paste across its surface. Make sure to evenly distribute the paste, ensuring that every part of the leaf is coated. Continue this process until all the cabbage leaves are fully coated with the paste.

Labor-Intensive Tongbaechu-Kimchi Recipe

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Step 5: Assembling and Fermenting the Kimchi

After spreading the paste, it’s time to assemble the kimchi and allow it to undergo fermentation. This step plays a vital role in developing the distinct tangy and spicy flavors of tongbaechu-kimchi. Follow these instructions:

Layering and Packing the Cabbage Leaves

Take the cabbage leaves coated with kimchi paste and layer them in a large container. Press down firmly to remove any air bubbles and ensure a tight and compact assembly. Repeat this process until all the cabbage leaves are neatly arranged.

Fermenting the Kimchi at Room Temperature

Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap and let it ferment at room temperature. The fermentation process typically takes a few days, depending on the desired level of sourness. During fermentation, the cabbage leaves will soften, and the flavors will develop and intensify.

Step 6: Storing and Serving the Kimchi

Once the kimchi has achieved the desired level of fermentation, it’s time to store and serve this labor-intensive tongbaechu-kimchi. Here’s what you need to know:

Storing the Kimchi

Transfer the fermented kimchi to airtight containers or glass jars. Store it in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process. The cold temperature will help maintain the flavors and texture of the kimchi.

Serving and Enjoying the Kimchi

Labor-intensive tongbaechu-kimchi can be enjoyed immediately after fermentation or allowed to age for a few more days in the refrigerator. The longer it ages, the more pronounced and complex the flavors become. Serve it as a side dish alongside rice, or incorporate it into various Korean-inspired dishes.

Labor-Intensive Tongbaechu-Kimchi Recipe

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Tips and Variations

  • To add an extra kick of spiciness, increase the amount of red pepper flakes in the kimchi paste.
  • For a vegetarian option, substitute fish sauce with soy sauce or tamari.
  • Experiment with different vegetables, such as daikon radish or cucumber, to create unique variations of tongbaechu-kimchi.
  • Adjust the fermentation time according to personal preferences. Longer fermentation will result in a tangier flavor profile.


Traditional tongbaechu-kimchi is a labor-intensive yet rewarding recipe. By following the steps outlined in this article, one can create a flavorful and authentic version of this Korean delicacy. From the initial brining of the cabbage to the assembly and fermentation process, every step is essential in capturing the true essence of tongbaechu-kimchi. So roll up your sleeves and embark on this culinary adventure to experience the satisfaction of creating homemade labor-intensive tongbaechu-kimchi.

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