As part of my top 5 Korean Summer Dishes Series, I am including a kimchi recipe! Dongchimi is normally a winter kimchi that takes several days to ferment, but today I’m making a quick version for the summer because I need the brine to make my next Korean summer dish, naengmyeon!
Dongchimi is a non-spicy water kimchi that is tangy, slightly sweet, and super refreshing. When I was a kid, this was my favorite kimchi! my favorite part is the mu-chung, which is the green radish tops. People tend to prefer the mu (radish), but I do like both!
A super important element to this dish is the brine. It’s SO delicious to drink, especially when it is icy cold. When I’m out drinking with friends at a Korean bar, it is very common to see this as anju (bar food), and I like to sip a spoonful of the brine as a chaser when I’m taking soju shots.
You can make several dishes out of this water kimchi! Dongchimi guksu is another popular cold noodle dish for the summer, and the traditional way to make naengmyeon is by using this brine for the beef broth!
Korean radish- young radish is traditionally used for the winter version, but since it’s summer I am using regular radish.
Green radish tops- radish tops are not required for this recipe, but I highly recommend adding them. They taste SO good and are incredibly healthy for you. These are my favorite pieces in Dongchimi!
Korean sea salt- I highly recommend using Korean sea salt for fermenting. You can use coarse salt if there isn’t a Korean market near you, but you can also order the Korean sea salt here.
Fruit- traditionally, only Asian pears are used in Dongchimi. It adds a subtle sweetness and flavor. The best Dongchimi I’ve ever had was in Busan and it had Korean melon in it! It’s called chamoe and it is in season during the summer, so they are extra sweet and delicious. I love adding them to my Dongchimi now- they taste SO good and add some layers of flavor to the brine as well.
Peppers– these are optional, if you don’t like spicy at all I would just add the green Korean peppers because those are pretty mild. Red peppers will add a tiny bit of spice but I would still call this recipe mild.
Aromatics- smashed garlic, onion, ginger, & green onions.
Brine- for the liquid portion of this recipe, you will need one sheet of dried kelp soaked in lots of water, then add plum syrup and Korean sea salt. If you don’t have access to plum syrup, you can order it here, or you can substitute this with sugar instead.
Leave the jar sitting on our kitchen counter for 1-2 days, or even longer if you like it really sour. After one day you will start to see bubbles floating to the surface, and on day 2 you’ll see a lot more bubbles. This means it is fermenting, and it will start to smell sour.
I typically like to keep mine fermenting at room temperature for a couple of days at minimum. Keep in mind that the Dongchimi will continue to ferment in the refrigerator over time, just at a much slower pace.
You can store this in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. It will continue to ferment at a slower pace.
If you feel like the brine is too salty for you, don’t worry because it is a quick fix! Just add some cold water until it tastes to your liking.
To serve, slice the chili peppers and add a few ice cubes to the brine to keep it extra cold. Try the melon! It is not a common ingredient in Dongchimi but it is really really delicious.
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Dongchimi (Radish Water Kimchi)
- 2 lbs Korean radish
- 1/2 lb Korean radish tops (greens)
- 2 tbsp Korean sea salt
- 1/4 Asian pear
- 1/2 Korean melon (chamoe)
- 1 sheet dried kelp
- 10 cups water
- 1/3 cup Plum syrup (maesil)
- 3 tbsp Korean sea salt
- 6 garlic cloves smashed
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger roughly chopped
- 1/4 onion
- 4 green onions
- 2 red chili pepper
- 2 Korean green chili pepper
- Wash the radish & greens thoroughly and cut the radish into bite sized, uniform pieces.
- In a large glass jar, put the greens on the bottom then add the radishes on top. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp Korean sea salt and shake until everything is evenly coated with salt. Let it sit on the counter for 1 hour.
- Cut a Korean melon in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut into thin pieces and remove the skin if you prefer (I leave it on). Cut 1/4 of an Asian pear and cut into thin pieces as well. Poke holes into the chili peppers with a fork. Put the garlic, ginger, and onion in to a cheesecloth or tea bag. Cut the green onions in to 3 inch long pieces.
- Soak the dried kelp in 10 cups of cold water for 30 minutes.
- Set the kelp aside (you can use this to make something else), then add plum syrup and 3 tbsp Korean sea salt and mix until dissolved.
- After 1 hour, the radish and greens should be softened and there will be a pool of water at the bottom. Leave it- that's where a lot of the flavor is coming from.
- Add the chili pepper, melon, pear, ginger, garlic, onions, green onions, and water mixture.
- Secure the lid and let this ferment on the kitchen counter for 1-2 days, depending on how sour you like it.
- After 1 day the water will turn a little darker, less translucent, and there will be bubbles floating to the top. This means it is fermenting! taste to see if it is to your liking- when it's good for you, store in the fridge for up to 2 months.
- Slice the chili peppers to serve and add a few ice cubes to keep it extra cold. Try the melon! It is not a common ingredient in Dongchimi but I had some like this in Busan where my family is from, and it is really delicious.