Why It Works
- Massaging the radish with the gochugaru at the beginning of the process brightens the flavor of the chile powder, intensifying its flavor, while also staining the radish a beautiful red.
- Refrigerating the ferment after three days at room temperature slows down the fermentation process, imparting a more mellow flavor to the kimchi while preserving the crisp texture of the radish.
Kkakdugi, an aged radish kimchi, is one of the funkier kimchis out there. You need to have a strong affinity for the sulfury aromas inherent in radishes and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage to really enjoy it. Lactic acid fermentation both mellows out the raw spiciness of radishes and brings out their sweetness, and the additions of fruity gochugaru, fish sauce, and saejeot (preserved shrimp) add heat and layers of pungent savoriness.
Unlike baechu kimchi, you don't need a rice slurry or that much extra sugar to make kkakdugi, since daikon and Korean moo radish (a sweeter, denser cousin to daikon) are both sufficiently sweet and watery that all you need to do is add some salt and they'll happily begin fermenting in their own brine. However, it’s important to note that you must massage the salt and chile flakes into the radish chunks at the start. This serves two purposes: it expresses water from the radish quickly, which helps to create the brine, and the gochugaru mixes with the water and “blooms,” or disperses some of the water soluble flavor compounds it contains, ensuring that the radish chunks are both flavored by the dried red pepper and take on an appealing red hue.
Speaking of, once you’re done fermenting, don’t discard that brine! I love to add a couple tablespoons to broths and stews, or use some to deglazing stir-fries, or as a quick marinade for raw cucumbers to create a simple banchan to accompany a weeknight dinner.
Kkakdugi is at its best when allowed to ferment slowly for two weeks under refrigeration, following an initial three-day room temperature fermentation. This preserves the crisp texture of the radish and keeps the flavor from becoming aggressively pungent. Once it’s ready, kkakdugi is the perfect spicy and acidic accoutrement for creamy beef seolleongtang, crispy fried chicken, or a hot bowl of juk.
- 3 pounds (1.4kg) daikon or Korean moo radish, peeled and cut into a 1-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (15g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons (10g) sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (40g) coarse ground gochugaru (Korean chile powder)
- 12 garlic cloves (60g), finely chopped
- One 3-inch piece fresh ginger (about 1.75 ounces; 50g), peeled and finely chopped
- 5 scallions (about 60g), cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons (40g) saeujeot (Korean salted shrimp)
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) fish sauce
Place radish in a large bowl, and sprinkle evenly with salt, sugar, and gochugaru. Using clean hands, mix, agitate, and massage radish to coat evenly with seasoning, until radish pieces begin to release moisture and are stained red from gochugaru, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add garlic, ginger, scallions, saeujeot, and fish sauce, and continue to mix by hand until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a non-reactive 1/2-gallon container, such as a fermentation crock or glass canning jar. Press down on mixture to eliminate air pockets, cover surface with plastic wrap, pressing gently to ensure full contact, and weigh down with fermentation weight. Seal container with airlock lid following manufacturer's instructions.
Store kimchi in dark area away from sun and let ferment, maintaining an ambient temperature between 55°F (13°C) and 75°F (24°C) for 3 days; check mixture daily for signs of gas formation (this is a good sign). After first 24 hours, vegetables should have released a good deal of moisture; using a clean spoon, press down on radish mixture to submerge in liquid.
After 3 days, transfer container to refrigerator and continue to ferment for at least 2 more days before eating. After 5 total days of fermentation, begin tasting kimchi daily until it has reached desired flavor. Check progress of fermentation every 3 to 5 days, stirring kimchi with a clean spoon and making sure to keep vegetables submerged in liquid. Properly stored, kkakdugi kimchi can be refrigerated for up to 3 months (its flavor will change over time, becoming more "ripe" and intense as it ages; peak flavor falls around the 14-day mark).
To serve as a banchan, divide kimchi between small individual serving dishes, and spoon liquid from fermentation container over top. Serve.