Temple Whole Cabbage Kimchi (Sachal T’ongpaechu Kimchi)

Sachal Tongpaechu Kimchi, Temple Whole Cabbage Kimchi


Buddhist Temple food is purely vegetarian, as is its kimchi. It is usually made from napa cabbage, radishes, wild lettuce, radish greens, mustard greens, spinach, sweet potato stems, lotus, burdock and various herbs. Green onions and garlic are not used because, according to Buddhist doctrine, as members of the five forbidden vegetables, oshinchae; they, along with salted shrimp and meat, are said to arouse human carnal desire. Artificial additives are also prohibited. Temple recipes use ginger, coarse sea salt and sometimes ground cinnamon. As a salting agent, either doenjang or soy sauce is used. Kelp replaces salted shrimp as the main flavoring agent. It is infused in a porridge made with sweet rice flour, barley or pumpkin. Kimchi made for later use is made with salt and gochu garu only.


I learned this recipe from Okbong Sunim, my oriental painting teacher. When she passed away several years ago, she was the Head Nun of the largest nunnery in South Korea, Donghaksa situated in the Gaeryong Mountains. This kimchi has a clean, refreshing flavor. The directions are almost identical to the whole cabbage kimchi recipe. For all vegetarians, this will be a welcome recipe!


Makes 6 quarts

About 1 hour to prepare and 3 days to mature at room temperature




5 pounds napa cabbage

2 cups coarse sea salt, plus additional if needed


For stuffing,

3 tablespoons sweet rice flour

5 cups water

2 ounces dried kelp sheets

2 cups gochu garu (medium kimchi grade) or to taste

2 dried red hot peppers, soaked and pureed

½ tablespoon soy sauce

1 pound mu (Korean radishes), peeled and cut into 3-inch matchsticks

2 regular persimmon, peeled and halved

4 soft and red persimmon (hongsi), peeled and pureed

2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 ounces mustard greens, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces




Wash the cabbage once and drain. Remove the tough outer leaves and reserve for later use. Trim off the very bottom of the cabbage, leaving enough of the root end intact to hold the cabbage together. On a cutting board, hold one cabbage root end up with one hand and, with a sharp knife, slice the cabbage lengthwise into halves, halfway down. With both hands, split the cabbage. (In this way, the halves will divide cleanly.) Repeat with remaining cabbages. If the cabbage is over-sized, the halves can be sliced lengthwise into quarters. Wash once more, but do not drain.


In a large (at least 6-quart capacity) nonreactive bowl, place the water drenched cabbage pieces and outer leaves. Arrange them in one layer with cut sides up. Sprinkle 1-1/2-cups sea salt between the leaves. Dissolve the remaining ½-cup salt into 1-cup lukewarm water, and sprinkle evenly over the cabbage. Let it set about 2 to 3 hours. Shift the cabbage every half hour for even salting. As water is drawn out of the cabbage, the salt water will eventually cover all the pieces completely. The cabbage should be crunchy but a bit under salted. Rinse a couple of times and drain on a colander. Set aside. Discard the salt water and reuse the bowl for stuffing.


To make the stuffing, in a small saucepan, dissolver the sweet rice flour in 5-cups water and add kelp. Bring to a boil and decrease the heat to medium low. Gently cook for 5 minutes, until it becomes a thin paste, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Let cool a bit. In the large bowl, combine the sweet rice paste, gochu garu and soy sauce. Mix well into a bright, deep red paste. Add radishes and mix well. Add persimmons, ginger and mustard greens and mix all well.


Place all salted cabbages in the bowl. Wearing rubber gloves, begin to work with one cabbage at a time. Starting with the outer leaves and working in, insert the stuffing between the leaves, smearing it generously on each leaf. Tightly press the leaves together to create a bundle, and transfer it into a 6-quart wide mouthed jar or 3 wide mouthed 2-quart jars with screw-top lids. (I find the smaller jars easier to handle. They also keep the kimchi fresher, longer). Repeat with the remaining cabbage pieces. Press down firmly on the bundles to pack well and remove trapped air bubbles. Use reserved outer leaves and loose individual leaves to wipe up the remaining stuffing at the bottom and sides of the bowl. Spread the leaves to cover the kimchi. Pack well.  Add a little salt water to the bowl to mix with the remaining bits and pieces of stuffing. Pour over the kimchi and pack in well. All must be immersed in liquid. Add more salt water if needed. Be sure to leave at least a 2-inch headspace.


Close the lids tight and double wrap in plastic bags. Secure the necks with rubber bands to keep the kimchi fresh. Let mature at room temperature overnight. The next day, ladle some of the juice out of the jars, taste, and adjust the saltiness by adding either salt water or sugar water to the kimchi. Again, let mature at room temperature for 2 to 3 days more and then transfer to the refrigerator to stop the fermentation. The kimchi will stay fresh for 3 months or even quite a bit longer.