Making “Ponytail Radish Kimchi” or “Bachelor (Chonggak) Kimchi” With Almost Any Radish

 

Although I have made various kimchis keeping the leafy stems and greens attached to my produce (or fermented the leaves separately), I’ve never been able to source true chonggakmu, which literally means Bachelor radish. The bachelor connection is that in times past, young unmarried men in Korea typically wore a special ponytail signifying their status. The leafy stems of these radishes share quite a likeness.

But then again, all radishes grow leafy tops which are edible. So at a certain point, I stopped holding out for true chonggakmu and started making my own kimchi inspired by that style. A recent incarnation was made with some beautiful white globe radishes I received from Farmbox Direct. (I recently tried Farmbox out and had a very good experience, which I discuss and review in honest detail here.)

Although I’m always on the lookout for true chonggakmu (and I’ll probably just have to grow it myself), these super crunchy white globe radishes were just screaming out to be made into kimchi this way. They’re a little larger than the red ones we typically eat here, and nowhere near as large as Korean radish and daikon, which should be reserved for making kkakdugi (cubed kimchi).

Before we jump to the recipe, the last thing I’ll say is you can make whole radish kimchi with any reasonably sized radish with the leafy top intact and healthy. The radishes probably best known in the US for making kimchi – daikon and Korean radish – are too large for making this kind of kimchi. If you’d like to make this ponytail-style kimchi even with the common red variety radishes in the store, go for it!

If the leafy tops started wilting, look spoiled and what not, those parts should be discarded. In some cases, the top may not be going bad, but isn’t as perfect as when it was fresh out of the garden. They can often be revived by taking a bath in ice water for a couple hours, without need to remove much or any of the tops.

The best radishes to use will simply be those which are very firm and crunchy, and frankly you can still follow this recipe if all you can find are the ones without the leafy steams included. Like kimchi in general, there’s far less rules than people often think about what is and isn’t feasible. Kimchi in its literal meaning isn’t just Napa cabbage, but literally any fermented vegetable.

These radishes are delicious as banchan (sides to a larger meal), but I also really enjoy cubing them and adding to ramen soup, fried rice, and other cooked dishes.

Yield: ~2.5 lbs. kimchi

You will need:

  • Quart mason jar (or half gallon and double all ingredients for 5 lbs.)
  • Knife & cutting board
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Small saucepan & wooden spoon
  • Optional: small blender or processor (for mixing the kimchi paste); otherwise use a medium mixing bowl and be sure to finely mince the garlic & ginger
  • Kitchen gloves (when handling hot pepper paste)

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 2.5 lbs. radishes with leafy stems intact (around 7 chonggak or white globe radishes), cut vertically from top to bottom (this gives you two pieces of radish, each with some of the leafy stems)
  • 1/4 cup canning salt
  • Glutinous rice porridge (1 TBSP sweet rice flour simmered in 1/2 cup water)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
  • 2 TBSP salt shrimp
  • 2 TBSP fish sauce (use an additional 1 TBSP if no salt shrimp)
  • ~5-6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • Optional: hot pepper(s) of choice, such as 1-2 red jalapenos or serranos; finely mince unless using a blender

Directions:

1.) Wash the radishes including the leafy stems. Peel or cut off any dirty sections or wilting stems, including any dark sections near the stem. Cut off any root ends and cut the radishes in half from top to bottom as described above.

2.) Place a layer of radishes in the mixing bowl and evenly salt, Add additional layers of radishes and salt until all the radishes are placed and all the salt is used up. Let them sit for 30 minutes, then turn all of them and allow another 30 minutes.

3.) Meanwhile, prepare the rice flour porridge by mixing 1 TBSP sweet rice flour in 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously until it thickens (it may also slightly bubble). Then add the 2 tsp sugar and keep stirring for another minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

4.) Make the kimchi paste by combining the cooled rice flour porridge, gochugaru (pepper flakes), fish sauce, salt shrimp, minced garlic, ginger, and optional hot pepper. Mix in a mixing bowl or blender (if using a blender, you only need to rough chop the garlic, ginger, and hot pepper beforehand; otherwise they should be minced).

5.) When the radishes are ready, rinse them several times and allow them to drain in a colander (or shake them and place on paper towel) for several minutes. Then, wrap the leafy greens around themselves a couple times and gently tie them in a knot at the base of the radish.

6.) Place the radishes back in the mixing bowl and coat each one evenly with the kimchi paste. Carefully transfer them to the mason jar. If excess kimchi paste remains, work it into nooks between the radishes and a layer covering the top of the radishes. Before sealing the jar, pack down firmly one last time.

7.) For the next two days, leave the kimchi out at room temperature. If using a regular lid, just burp the jar once or twice a day. With an airlock lid, just let it sit out. On the the third day, transfer the kimchi to the fridge. Wait at least another 24 hours before eating. Some prefer to give the kimchi a couple weeks in the fridge for the fermentation and flavor to develop further.

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