Nabak Kimchi, the water kimchi

Have you ever heard kimchi called “Nabak Kimchi“? It is a watery kimchi with cabbage and radish mingled in delicious yet pungent kimchi broth.

This is the kimchi that doesn’t use any fish sauce or any fish product, so you can serve to your vegan friends or people with seafood allergy. It is also very mild in spiciness so even the young children who are not accustomed to the spiciness can enjoy the goodness of kimchi.

The word “nabak (나박)” comes from the shape of sliced cabbage and radish. Koreans call the technique of slicing vegetables to a thin squarish shape “nabak-nabak”. Don’t you just love the way it sounds? nabak-nabak?


Nabak KimchiIt is fairly simple to make and tastes wonderful. Just by looking at the picture of my Nabak kimchi makes my mouth water because my brain remembers how it tastes.

If you have some leftover cabbage and small piece of Korean radish you can whip this up quite fast, although you need to let this kimchi ferment for a few days before you eat. You are getting very good source of healthy bacteria without much heat. And this kimchi brings light and refreshing flavor, it often accompanies to heavy main course in Korean feast.

Let’s start.


tutorialFor the cabbage, I suggest to use more yellowish tender parts of cabbage such as cabbage heart about 15-16 cabbage leaves. Slice into 1″ pieces but discard the bottom end (4-5 inches) of leafy part of cabbage.


tutorial-2Slice your radish in nabak style, about 1″ size with 1/8″ thickness. Can you manage that?


tutorial-3Combine the cabbage and radish in a bowl and sprinkle 1 tablespoon salt over, toss. Let them sit for 30 minutes. Rinse once and place in a large container.


tutorial-4Meanwhile make thin rice glue: whisk in 1 tablespoon of sweet rice flour with 1 cup of water. Bring it to gentle boil and cook until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool.


tutorial-5Dice onion and Asian pear into chunks. Peel garlic and ginger.


tutorial-6Combine onion, pear, garlic, and ginger in a blender and puree until very smooth.


tutorial-8In a small mixing bowl, mix chili flakes, the onion puree mixture, and the rice glue.


tutorial-10If you have a piece of loosely weaved linen, cotton, or even a large coffee filter, it will be very useful. Just pour the chili mixture over…

(If you don’t have any of those, use a fine strainer to strain out the juice)


tutorial-11and twist to strain the juice. This step will get rid of the fibers from the onion and the pear, and yield smoother and cleaner kimchi broth later on. Pour the juice over the cabbage and radish mixture in a container.


tutorial-12Or you can tie with a string and add to the cabbage and the radish directly. The mixture inside the sash will continue to ooze the juice out as the kimchi ferments.


tutorial-13Pour 1 liter of water to the mixture. I highly suggest to use mineral spring water rather than tap water for this recipe. Because water is an important ingredient in this kimchi and you want to use good drinking water to make the difference.


tutorial-14Add thinly sliced carrots, red chili, and green onion to the kimchi. You will need to add some salt to season. Season according to your taste but not too much. Remember you can always add more salt later on. (If you taste the kimchi now, you will be quite disappointed because it just doesn’t taste good. But patience and the faith will pay you back later on)

Cover with a lid and let this kimchi to sit on the room temperature for 2 days, then store in the fridge for at least 3 days. Basically you can enjoy the pungent yet refreshing flavor of this water kimchi about five days after.

The cabbage and the radish will stay crisp all the way to the end and the kimchi broth is something that makes your mouth water. Serve this kimchi as a side dish or along with many types of Korean BBQ. It will brighten up your taste palette.

Another way to enjoy this kimchi is serving with simple vermicelli. Simply cook the noodles, rinse out with cold water, then pour over this nabak kimchi and mix together to serve. It makes a wonderful light meal.

I made the cold noodle soup with nabak kimchi for a quick lunch for myself and it was delish! I can definitely see how refreshing it will be during the hot summer season. Hope you get to try it.


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Nabak Kimchi with Noodles

Nabak Kimchi, the water kimchi

Nabak Kimchi, the water kimchi


  • 15-16 Napa cabbage leaves
  • 3/4 lb Korean radish
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sweet rice flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 large Asian pear, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon pureed ginger
  • 1 tablespoon Korean chili flakes
  • 1 liter natural spring water
  • 1 small carrot, thinly sliced (about 1/8" thick)
  • 2 green onion, sliced
  • 1 fresh red chili, thinly sliced, optional
  • kosher salt or sea salt to taste
  • 1 piece of linen or cotton fabric with slightly loose weave, about 12-inch square in size
  • a piece of string or yarn, about 12-inch long


  1. Slice the cabbage leaves into 1" slices discarding the bottom 4-5" of leafy parts. Cut the thick whte stem parts in half, if needed. Slice the radish into about 1" square with 1/8" thickness.
  2. Combine the cabbage and the radish in a large bowl and sprinkle salt over and toss. Let it sit for 25-30 minutes. Rinse once and drain. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile mix sweet rice flour with 1 cup of water in a small sauce pan and bring it to boil, and simmer for 2-3 minutes to thicken. Let it cool.
  4. Combine the onion, garlic, and pear in a blender and process until very smooth. Transfer the puree into a mixing bowl. Add pureed ginger, Korean chili flakes and the rice glue. Stir well.
  5. Line a linen fabric over bowl and pour the chili mixture to the center of the fabric. Gather up the faric and tie with a string tightly.
  6. In a large container put the cabbage and radish mixture, add the carrot, green onion, and the red chili. Place the chili sash in one corner of the container with a string hanging over, pour the spring water over in the container and toss well. Gently squeeze the sash to release the juice out of the chili mixture.
  7. Season the kimchi broth with salt to your taste. Cover and let it sit in a room temperature for 2 days to ferment first, then keep in the fridge for 3 days before you enjoy.

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  1. 1

    Adela says

    Ohhhhh yes!!!! I remember having this “water kimchi” on a hot Summer afternoon when my mother used to put noodles or leftover rice with this water kimchi with a bit of sesame seed oil!! Most refreshing and absolutely delicious. Thanks Holly for allowing me to remember my childhood in Korea. We left Korea 50 years ago and I still remember having this great refreshing and delicious lunch my mother used to prepare for us. I’m definitely going to make it!

    • 2

      Holly says

      Hi Adela

      Glad that this kimchi brought the childhood memory back to you. It is refreshing to serve with noodles. Hope you get to try this recipe.

  2. 7

    Holly Y says

    Mmmmm! Beautiful. You make it look so easy. I’m so scared to make kimchee. I usually buy it. I really want to try and make this. Thank you for sharing.

  3. 8

    Sue Schneider says

    Hi Holly- I really enjoy your blog. My mother is Korean and has always fed us kimchee and other tasty Korean foods. She has put an American twist on some things, using what was available to her. Though my mother never made this type of kimchee for us, I am looking forward to sharing this recipe with my sister and trying it. We both have made our own kimchee and other Korean foods. We are certainly not like native cooks, by any means, but we do enjoy the few dishes we have under our belts. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. 12

    becky says

    how many servings does it make?
    could you help me how to make at least 20 with the recipe?? Please??



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