Crunchy, fermented hedonism at its best. Nothing like a bite of pungent, juicy, spicy Kkakdugi to make every meal taste better!
If you’ve ever made kimchi at home, it’s quite the production. Salt the cabbage. Drain the cabbage. Smear spicy paste onto each and every leaf. Pack into glass jars. Then, wait for fermentation do its magic!
All these steps, plus unfamiliar ingredients, can feel daunting and overwhelming. And beyond the abilities of the average cook.
But I’m here to tell you — it’s not! You CAN make kimchi at home!
Kkakdugi is an “easy” first kimchi to learn. Shorter salting time. Fewer steps. Mixed in one bowl. Make a batch and learn the kimchi basics. As a bonus, you’ll get to fiddle with the fermentation process.
Yes, Kkakdugi is the kimchi everyone can make at home!
What is Kkakdugi?
Kkakdugi is cubed radish kimchi. Kkakdugi is served as one of many banchan (side dishes) at the Korean table. Traditionally, it’s eaten with long-simmered Korean bone soups — Seollangtang, Khori Gomtang, or Dak Gomtang. Something about that fermented bite of spicy goodness pairs so well with these soups! But honestly? It tastes good with any and all Korean dishes. And non-Korean ones as well. (Hint: noodles, dumplings, rice.)
What does Kkakdugi taste like? Well, the taste is not too far off from Baechu (Napa Cabbage) Kimchi. All that addictive, acidic sharpness. All that heady pungency that kimchi lovers know and crave.
The main difference is the texture. Think: crunchy, firm, substantial chunks of radish. Each bite feels solid and sturdy. A satisfying moment of fermented pleasure, if you can imagine.
Basically, you can make kimchi out of any vegetable! It’s more a process than an end product.
But in my humble opinion, Kkakdugi is the most simple and straight-forward kimchi to make. Only 15 minutes of prep! And 30 minutes of salting! Kkakdugi is the kimchi you’ll be making again and again. You can do this!!
Korean Radish. Also known as Moo/Mu, Korean Radish is round with a stout, fat body. The coloring should be mostly white with some green at the top. Green = sweet, so the greener the better. Look for heavy, firm, plump-looking radishes with no cracks.
I do not recommend making Kkakdugi with Chinese or Japanese daikon. They are not the same! FYI – Korean radish is in season during the months of November and December.
Shrimp Paste + Fish Sauce. I like adding both shrimp paste and fish sauce to my Kkakdugi. The combination adds another layer of flavor and complexity. But, if you don’t have shrimp paste, fish sauce alone works, too.
Garlic + Ginger + Green Onion. The aromatics that are the base of so many Asian dishes. Kimchi is simply not the same without them. While the green onions can be replaced with onion, don’t skimp on the garlic and ginger!
Gochukaru. There is no substitute for Korean dried chili flakes. Spicy, fruity, and slightly smoky — good Gochukaru is ESSENTIAL. Look for coarsely ground Gochukaru that’s made in Korea for the best flavor. If you can afford it, buy the best quality you can. Store leftovers in the freezer for long-term storage.
Salt. Kimchi is typically cured with coarse, mineral salt. In fact, some Koreans swear by it. But I’ve made kimchi using regular salt with great results. That being said, I’ve noted both options in the recipe card.
Rice Flour. My Halmoni’s secret ingredient to making good kimchi is cooked, white rice pureed to a pulp. It may seem like a strange ingredient. But that little bit of starchy sweetness adds so much flavor. And an overall smoother, more pleasing texture.
So when George from My Eclectic Bites (check out her Vegan Kimchi!) told me that using rice is old school, I had to laugh. Halmoni IS old school! She’s 91! Apparently, modern Koreans use rice flour instead. Genius! What an easier option! So, that’s what I do now. (If you don’t have rice flour, regular flour also works.)
How will I know when my Kkakdugi is ripe and ready to eat?
Fermentation is part science and part magic, I like to say. There’s no hard and fast rule to determine how long it will take for kimchi to ripen.
The rate of fermentation is affected by a variety of factors. Every kitchen is different. Some are warm. Others are cold. Some have higher humidity levels. Others are quite dry. Also, the time of year matters. And the amount of sugar that’s added. Even the sweetness of the radish. There are so many factors to consider!
Basically, warm temperatures = faster fermentation. If you want to speed up fermentation, keep kimchi at room temperature for a day or two. If you want to slow things down (kimchi can get overly fermented and too acidic), store in the back of the fridge where it’s coldest.
My recipe calls for leaving Kkakdugi at room temperature for the first 24 hours. That gets things started. After that, I recommend transferring to the fridge for another week or two. But even then, you may have to wait longer. It really depends!
Also, I live in cold, snowy Toronto. My kimchi will take longer to ferment compared to someone living in warm and sunny California. Keep that in mind as you check for ripeness.
To check that your kimchi is properly fermenting, look for gas and bubbles. They should come up from the bottom of the jar to the top. Sometimes you’ll see fizzing and little bubbles. Open the jar from time to time to release the gas. If there’s a lot of pressure, you’ll hear a loud POP! when the gas is expelled. To that end, don’t overpack the jars. It could lead to a kimchi explosion, much like opening a shaken pop bottle.
When the kimchi is ready, it will taste, look, and smell ready. Acidic. Pungent. Juicy. DELICIOUS!
Fermentation is a process! Be patient! And trust that it will work!
How to Make Kkakdugi:
Peel and cube radish into 1-inch chunks. If they look big, that’s ok. They will shrink.
Sprinkle cubed radish with salt and sugar. Mix with your hands and set aside for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, transfer radish to a colander. Drain liquid. Transfer radish back into the bowl.
Add remaining ingredients, directly on top of the radish. Using your hands, mix well. At first, it will look dry. Keep mixing until a thick, juicy paste forms.
Pack into jars. Let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Then transfer to the fridge. After a week or two of fermenting, it should taste pleasantly sour and ripe. Time to eat!
Note: The hardest part of the process will be waiting for fermentation to do its magic. I suggest tasting the Kkakdugi on the day it’s packed, for reference. After a week or two, it should be fully ripe with an acidic tang and sharpness. Also, it will be sweeter and quite juicy. The taste will be completely different from the day you packed it!
Kkakdugi AKA Korean Radish Kimchi
- Large Bowl
- 2 2LJars to store kimchi OR 1 5L Jar
- Rubber dish washing gloves OR disposable food service gloves (optional)
To Salt the Radish:
- 5 lbs Korean Radish (moo) (2-3 medium to large ones)
- 3 Tbsp coarse mineral salt (regular salt also works)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup Gochukaru (Korean chili flakes)
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1/4 cup fish sauce (I use 3 Crabs brand)
- 1 Tbsp saewoojut (Korean salted fish) (you can sub with fish sauce if you don't have it)
- 6 green onions, chopped (can be subbed with 1 small onion grated to a juicy pulp)
- 10 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 inch ginger, peeled + minced
- 1 Tbsp rice flour (regular flour also works, if you don't have it)
- Rinse dirt off radishes. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin. Also, trim the ends with a knife.
- Cube into 1-inch chunks and transfer to a large bowl. Try to cut into similar-sized chunks. It's ok if they look big. They will shrink.
- Add salt and sugar. Mix thoroughly, using your hands, to ensure that every cube is evenly coated. The cubes should look "frosted." Set aside at room temperature, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, transfer radish to a colander. There will be a lot of liquid remaining in the bowl. Discard the liquid and rinse out the bowl with water. DO NOT RINSE THE RADISHES! Transfer the drained radishes back into the bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients (labeled "seasoning" on the recipe card), directly on top of the cubed radish. Mix thoroughly, using your hands, to ensure that every cube is evenly coated. (Rubber dishwashing gloves or disposable gloves come in handy here). At first, the seasoning will look dry. But after several minutes, the seasoning will form a thick, juicy paste.
- Transfer to glass containers, making sure to seal the lid. I use 2 2L canning jars for this amount. DO NOT OVERPACK THE JARS! Let sit at room temperature for 24 hrs then transfer to the fridge. After a week or two in the fridge, check the Kkakdugi. When the Kkakdugi is ripe, it will taste pleasantly sour and acidic. The Kkakdugi should last a long time but is best eaten within 3-4 months.