Napa Cabbage Kimchi With Steamed Pork Belly

Napa Cabbage Kimchi With Steamed Pork Belly

During gimjang, the annual Korean kimchi-making gathering, it's customary to set aside a portion of the seasoned cabbage to eat fresh with steamed pork belly, after everything else has been put up for the year. This recipe from Julya Shin and Steve Joo of Oakland's Nokni restaurant yields a savory, pungent kimchi that's delightful to eat immediately and only gets better with age. Make the trip to an Asian grocery to find all of the traditional ingredients -- it's worth it.
  • Total:
  • Serves: 6 persons



  1. Step 1

    Prepare the cabbage the day before you plan to make kimchi: Trim the root ends if they protrude. Remove any bruised leaves, and reserve for lining steamer baskets. Quarter each head of cabbage lengthwise through the root. If any outer leaves fall off, set them aside.
  2. Step 2

    Dissolve 5 tablespoons of salt into 6 cups water in a large bowl. Dip each wedge of cabbage into the brine, and rub fine sea salt along the cut sides of each wedge. Place wedges cut side up in a large roasting pan or other container. Place any loose leaves in a smaller container, and cover with remaining brine.
  3. Step 3

    Fill 3 gallon-size zipper bags with water, and seal tightly. Place over cabbage to weigh it down and encourage it to release water. With time, the cabbage will become submerged in its own brine. Rotate the cabbage wedges every few hours so that they all get even exposure to the brine. Store in a cool place overnight.
  4. Step 4

    In a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine water and rice flour. Bring to a boil, whisking continuously until the mixture thickens. Scrape slurry with a rubber spatula into a small bowl, and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Step 5

    Use a very sharp knife to score through the skin of the belly by slicing diagonal lines 1/2 inch apart. Repeat on opposite diagonal to yield a diamond pattern. Slice belly into two pieces approximately 2 inches wide. Place pork into a bowl, cover with water and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Step 6

    Fill a large bowl with cold water. Set a colander in another large bowl. Dunk each wedge of cabbage in water to remove excess salt. Place each wedge cut-side down in colander to encourage water to drain.
  7. Step 7

    Taste the water halfway through rinsing the cabbage. If it’s as salty as gargling water, change the water, and continue with remaining wedges. Drain loose cabbage leaves from brine, and rinse in water bowl. Drain separately.
  8. Step 8

    Taste the cabbage: It should be nicely seasoned. If it’s unpalatably salty, change water, and rinse cabbage once more.
  9. Step 9

    Place pears and onions in a blender, and purée until smooth, adding a little splash of water if needed. Pour into a large bowl. Add rice slurry.
  10. Step 10

    Add radish, scallions, chives, garlic, ginger, chile flakes, salt, shrimp and fish sauce into bowl, and use hands to mix thoroughly. Wrap a piece of rinsed cabbage around a pinch of the filling, and taste. It should be highly seasoned and flavorful.
  11. Step 11

    Line a bamboo or metal steamer insert with reserved cabbage leaves, and place pork belly atop cabbage. If using a bamboo steamer, fill a pot with the same dimensions as basket with 2 inches of water. Bring water to a simmer. Cover steamer, and set atop pot. If using a metal steamer insert, set inside a large pot and add water just until it starts to come through the bottom of the insert. Cover pot, and bring to a simmer. Cook pork until completely tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 45 minutes. Set aside.
  12. Step 12

    One at a time, place a wedge of cabbage in the bowl of filling. Gently rub the outside of the wedge with the filling, then lightly smear a little filling into each layer of cabbage within. Fold the wedge in half to create a tight bundle, then set onto a tray. Repeat with remaining wedges.
  13. Step 13

    Tightly pack cabbage bundles into wide-mouth quart or half-gallon jars. Press cabbage down as you pack more in to prevent air pockets. Add liquid from the filling if needed to ensure kimchi is submerged, and leave at least 1/2 inch of headroom.
  14. Step 14

    Toss remaining filling with loose cabbage leaves, and pack into a separate jar or eat fresh with pork belly.
  15. Step 15

    Wipe the rims of the jars, and tighten the lids. Loosen each lid a 1/4 turn to ensure gases produced during fermentation can escape.
  16. Step 16

    Put the jar in a cool, dark place. Taste daily until it is lightly effervescent and tangy, but still sweet, then refrigerate. The kimchi will continue to ripen with time and will be delicious for up to 6 months.
  17. Step 17

    Cut room temperature pork belly into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange on a platter beside a few wedges of fresh kimchi and instruct guests to assemble bites by wrapping a leaf or two of kimchi around a piece of pork.