Recipe: Kkakdugi 깍두기 (Cubed Radish Kimchi)

Anyone familiar with the kimchi making process knows it's not an easy task. It not only requires a lot of time and effort but a lot of preparation with a lot of room for error.

Kkakdugi, which is a cubed radish kimchi, is one of the more easier kimchi variations to make and it can help give you an easy first foray into kimchi making.

Having run out of kimchi a week or so ago, I decided to make my first attempt at making kkakdugi and was pleased by both how easy it was and how it turned out.

If you ain't got a Korean umma around and want to make your very own kimchi (or at least one of its many variations) for the first time, why not give this a go? Cold, fermented kkakdugi is a perfect addition to your table during summer time.

Kkakdugi 깍두기 (Cubed Radish Kimchi)
Makes about 4-5 servings

You'll need:
- 1 large Korean radish (also called Daikon or "moo" 무 in Korean)
- 2 tbsp of coarse salt
- 2 to 3 tbsp of sugar (if you like your kkadugi on the sweeter side go for 3 tbsp)
- 2/3 cup to 1 cup of red pepper powder (depending on how spicy you like it) 
- 2 tbsp of minced garlic
- 1 tsp of minced ginger
- 3 tbsp of soy sauce (or fish sauce) 
- 2 medium sized green onions (chopped)

1. Wash and peel your daikon and cut it into cubes. To do this, simply lay your daikon out flat, and cut into 1 inch thick slices.

First cut your washed and peeled radish into slices

Then dice each slice into 3/4 of an inch to 1 inch sized cubes (depending on your preference). 

2. Add your cubed radishes to a large bowl and add the sugar and salt. Mix well and let sit for 30 minutes. Mix around the radishes every 10 minutes or so. This will help kick off the fermenting or "pickling" part.

Then cube them and add salt and sugar to them

3. After 30 minutes, your bowl of cubed radishes should have a nice pool of sweet and salty juice leftover. Drain and reserve this juice in a separate bowl. 

To the cubed radishes, add the garlic, ginger, soy sauce (or fish sauce), chopped green onions and red pepper powder. Also add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the juice leftover from when you salted your cubed radishes earlier. The kkakdugi will released plenty of juice during the fermentation process so don't worry if it looks a little dry. 

Ready for mixing...

4. Mix this all by hand so all the cubed radishes are coated nicely. 

Mixed and ready to ferment!

5. Now comes the difficult part of waiting. Place the kkakdugi in an airtight container. The airtight part is important not only for the fermentation process but because otherwise it will make your fridge or room smell quite... kimchi-ish. (Kimchi potpourri anyone?) 

You can eat it right away but this will just taste like radishes with a bit of spice on them. If you have the patience, let them ferment slowly in your fridge for about one week. If you're in a hurry, leave it out in room temperature for two or three days (depending on the temperature and altitude of your location). 

Kkakdugi after about 3 days. See how it's released a lot of juices on its own?

Basically, when it's nice and fermented there should be a few bubbles in the kkakdugi juice and the kkakdugi should give off a nice pungent, slightly sour smell. The longer time passes, the more fermented it gets. 

Kkakdugi after about five days... Notice how the insides of the radishes are getting pickled too

Everyone's ideal fermented level is a bit different so if this is your first time, taste it every few days to see what your preference is. Careful however, for if you wait too long it'll get a bit too fermented in which case it'll be better for making stews or fried rice. 

Kkakdugi after one week of fermenting

Crunchy, salty, sour and sweet... these cubed radishes make a nice contrast to savory soups and meat dishes. How easy was that?