Kkakdugi, a well-aged radish kimchi, stands out as one of the more pungent varieties of kimchi. To truly appreciate it, one must have a deep appreciation for the sulfurous aroma that naturally occurs in radishes and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage. Through lactic acid fermentation, the sharp spiciness of the radishes is tamed, giving way to their inherent sweetness. The inclusion of fruity gochugaru, fish sauce, and saejeot (preserved shrimp) adds layers of heat and robust umami flavors.
Unlike baechu kimchi, making kkakdugi doesn’t require a rice slurry or excessive sugar. Daikon and Korean moo radish (a sweeter, denser cousin of daikon) are naturally sweet and watery enough that simply adding salt allows them to ferment in their own brine. However, it’s important to note that massaging the salt and chile flakes into the radish chunks is crucial at the beginning. This serves two purposes: it helps to extract water from the radishes, facilitating the creation of brine, and it allows the gochugaru to mix with the water and “bloom,” releasing some of its water-soluble flavor compounds. This ensures that the radish chunks are not only infused with the flavors of the dried red pepper but also display an appealing red hue.
By the way, when the fermentation process is complete, don’t throw away that brine! I love using a couple of tablespoons in broths and stews, or as a deglazing agent for stir-fries. It also works great as a quick marinade for raw cucumbers, creating a simple banchan to complement a casual weeknight dinner.
For the best results, let kkakdugi ferment slowly in the refrigerator for two weeks, following an initial three-day fermentation at room temperature. This ensures that the radish maintains its crisp texture and prevents the flavor from becoming overly pungent. Once it’s ready, kkakdugi becomes the perfect spicy and tangy accompaniment to creamy beef seolleongtang, crispy fried chicken, or a comforting bowl of juk.
- 3 pounds (1.4kg) of daikon or Korean moo radish, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (15g) of Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons (10g) of sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (40g) of coarse ground gochugaru (Korean chili powder)
- 12 garlic cloves (60g), finely chopped
- 1 piece of fresh ginger, about 3 inches long (approximately 1.75 ounces or 50g), peeled and finely chopped
- 5 scallions (about 60g), cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons (40g) of saeujeot (Korean salted shrimp)
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) of fish sauce
- In a large bowl, place the radish and evenly sprinkle salt, sugar, and gochugaru over it. Using clean hands, mix, agitate, and massage the radish to ensure it is coated evenly with the seasoning. Continue massaging until the radish pieces start releasing moisture and become stained red from the gochugaru, which usually takes about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the chopped garlic, ginger, scallions, saeujeot, and fish sauce to the bowl. Continue mixing by hand until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined, which should take about 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a non-reactive 1/2-gallon container, such as a fermentation crock or glass canning jar. Press down on the mixture to eliminate any air pockets. Cover the surface with plastic wrap, pressing gently to ensure full contact with the mixture. Place a fermentation weight on top to weigh it down. Finally, seal the container with an airlock lid according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
- Store the kimchi in a dark area, away from direct sunlight, and allow it to ferment. Maintain an ambient temperature between 55°F (13°C) and 75°F (24°C) for a period of 3 days. It’s important to check the mixture daily for signs of gas formation, as this indicates that the fermentation process is occurring. After the first 24 hours, you should notice that the vegetables have released a significant amount of moisture. To ensure proper fermentation, use a clean spoon to press down on the radish mixture, submerging it in the liquid.
- After 3 days, move the container to the refrigerator and allow the kimchi to continue fermenting for at least 2 more days before consuming. Once 5 days of total fermentation have passed, start tasting the kimchi daily until it reaches your desired flavor. Monitor the fermentation progress every 3 to 5 days by stirring the kimchi with a clean spoon and ensuring that the vegetables remain submerged in the liquid. When stored properly, kkakdugi kimchi can be refrigerated for up to 3 months. Keep in mind that its flavor will evolve over time, becoming more mature and intense as it ages. The peak flavor is usually reached around the 14-day mark.
5. For serving as a banchan, portion the kimchi into individual serving dishes and pour the liquid from the fermentation container over the top. Serve and enjoy!
Watch the video tutorial on how to make radish kimchi here.