The Korea Herald


[Home Cooking] Nabak kimchi (water kimchi)

By 이우영

Published : April 15, 2016 - 16:34

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Nabak kimchi is a type of water kimchi that’s made with thinly sliced radish squares and other vegetables. It’s easy to make, yet deliciously refreshing.

Nabak kimchi is commonly enjoyed in the springtime when the kimchi made in the fall gets old. It’s also a traditional holiday kimchi. Growing up, we always had nabak kimchi with tteokguk (rice cake soup). They are delicious together.
Nabak kimchi (water kimchi) (Korean Bapsang) Nabak kimchi (water kimchi) (Korean Bapsang)

It’s a mild, clean tasting kimchi, so nabak kimchi doesn’t call for fish sauce or salted shrimp. If you’ve been looking for a vegan kimchi, here’s one for you.

Radish and cabbage squares are lightly salted and then mixed with all other ingredients. The water is seasoned with salt, and colored lightly with gochugaru through a strainer or cheesecloth to keep the kimchi broth nice and clean. The garlic and ginger are thinly sliced, rather than minced, again to keep the broth clear. 

The addition of Korean pear is traditional, but an apple is also commonly used. The fruit gives the kimchi a slight fruity sweetness. Minari (water dropwort), which is a crisp herb with a distinct taste, is also traditional and adds a delicately pleasant flavor to the kimchi.


450 grams Korean radish

300 grams napa cabbage (inner yellowish leaves)

1 tablespoon gochugaru, Korean red chili pepper flakes

1 medium carrot

1/2 Korean pear (or an apple)

3 thin scallions

8 stalks of minari - optional

3 plump garlic cloves, thinly sliced

4 to 5 thin ginger slices (about 2-centimeter rounds)


1 gallon airtight container or jar

Clean the radish by scrubbing with a brush and/or scratching off the stubborn impurities with a small knife. Do not peel the skin. Cut into 2 to 3-centimeter thick discs. Cut each disc into 3 pieces, and then slice thinly into 2 to 3-centimeter squares, placing in a large bowl. 

Cut each leaf of the cabbage lengthwise into about 3-centimeter bite size pieces. Add to the bowl with the radish. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of salt, and toss well to evenly distribute the salt. Let it sit until wilted, about 30 minutes. Do not rinse.

In a small bowl, soak the gochugaru in 1/2 cup of water.

To cut the carrot into flower shapes, cut 3 to 4 “V” shaped grooves lengthwise, and then cut into thin slices. Or simply slice crosswise into thin rounds. Cut the pear (or apple) into 2 to 3-centimeter squares. Cut other vegetables into the same lengths. Add to the bowl with the salted radish and cabbage, and toss everything together.

In a large bowl, dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in 10 cups of water. Strain the soaked gochugaru into the water through a fine mesh. 

Pour the broth over the radish mix and stir well to combine everything. Adjust the seasoning to taste as necessary. Keep it in an airtight container or jar. It will actually be easier to handle if you place the radish mixture in the container or jar first, and then add the broth. Stir to the bottom each time before taking some out to serve.

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By Ro Hyo-sun