Ultimate Guide to Ponytail Radish Kimchi: Preparation & Serving Tips

Imagine diving into the vibrant world of Korean cuisine with a jar of ponytail radish kimchi, a lesser-known but utterly delicious variant of Korea’s national dish. Unlike its more famous cousin made from napa cabbage, ponytail radish kimchi, or “chonggak kimchi,” features young, tender radishes with their greens intact, resembling a ponytail. This dish not only bursts with a crisp, tangy flavor but also packs a punch of spicy zest that complements any meal.


To craft your own batch of ponytail radish kimchi, gather these fresh, vibrant ingredients. They will intertwine to create the tangy and spicy flavors that are characteristic of this traditional side dish.

Ponytail Radish and Seasonings

  • Ponytail Radishes: 2 pounds (about 1 kg), young and tender with greens
  • Salt: 2 tablespoons, for brining
  • Garlic: 6 cloves, finely minced
  • Ginger: 2-inch piece, peeled and minced
  • Korean Chili Flakes (Gochugaru): 1/2 cup
  • Fish Sauce: 1/4 cup, adds depth to the kimchi’s flavor
  • Sugar: 1 tablespoon, to balance the heat
  • Scallions: 4 stalks, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • Korean Radish (Mu): 1/2 small, julienned (optional for extra crunch and sweetness)
  • Asian Pear: 1/2, sliced thinly (optional for a hint of sweetness)

Required Tools and Equipment

To make your ponytail radish kimchi, you’ll need a few essential tools and equipment that will ensure your kimchi making is as efficient and hassle-free as possible. Gather these items before you start, so everything is handy and straightforward.

Mixing Bowls

Ensure you have at least one large mixing bowl. You’ll use this for mixing the radishes with the seasonings and salt. A large bowl provides enough room to mix your ingredients thoroughly, leading to evenly flavored kimchi.

Sharp Knife

A sharp knife is crucial for cutting the ponytail radishes and any additional optional ingredients like scallions or Korean radish. Aim for a knife that is comfortable to hold and makes clean cuts without bruising the veggies.

Cutting Board

A durable cutting board provides a stable surface for slicing your radishes and preparing other ingredients. Preferably use one that is easy to clean and resists deep scratches where bacteria can hide.


When handling Korean chili flakes and mixing them with the radishes, wearing kitchen gloves can protect your hands from chili burns and strong odors. It also keeps the mixing process sanitary.

Glass Jars or Ceramic Containers

For fermenting and storing your kimchi, use glass jars or traditional ceramic containers. Ensure they are clean and dry before storing the kimchi. These containers will help maintain the right environment for fermentation and prevent any undesirable flavors from contaminating your kimchi.

Weights or Presses

To ensure that the radishes are fully submerged in the brine during fermentation, you’ll need weights or presses. You can find ceramic or glass weights designed specifically for this purpose, or you could use a clean, boiled stone.

Measuring Cups and Spoons

Accurate measurements of ingredients such as sugar, fish sauce, and Korean chili flakes are crucial for the balance of flavors in your kimchi. Have a set of measuring cups and spoons ready to use.

Gathering these tools and equipment in advance will streamline your kimchi making process and ensure that you have everything needed to prepare a delicious batch of ponytail radish kimchi.

Preparation Steps

Now that you have all the necessary tools and ingredients assembled, let’s begin making your delicious batch of ponytail radish kimchi.

Cleaning and Cutting the Radish

First, rinse your ponytail radishes thoroughly under cold running water to remove any dirt or impurities. Make sure to clean around the greens as they tend to hold onto dirt. Next, with a sharp knife, trim the tops of the radishes, removing any wilted leaves, and slice off the root ends. Peel the radishes lightly if preferred, though it’s traditional to leave the skin on for its texture and flavor. Proceed by cutting each radish in half lengthwise if they are particularly large or leave them whole if they are smaller.

Brining the Radish

To prepare the brine, dissolve 1/4 cup of coarse sea salt in 4 cups of water in a large mixing bowl. Submerge the cleaned and trimmed radishes entirely in the saltwater brine. It’s important to ensure all pieces are fully submerged to brine evenly. To keep them submerged, place a plate or a similar flat weight over the radishes. Allow the radishes to sit in this brine for about 2 hours. This process helps draw out excess water from the radishes, making them crisp and ready to absorb the flavors of the kimchi seasoning mix. After brining, rinse the radishes thoroughly under cold water. Squeeze gently to remove excess water and set aside on a clean towel to drain any remaining moisture.

Making the Kimchi Paste

Now that your radishes are brined and ready, it’s time to create the spice-infused kimchi paste that will transform them into the tangy and spicy chonggak kimchi.

Preparing Ingredients for the Paste

Start by gathering all your ingredients for the paste. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup Korean chili flakes (gochugaru)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Optional: 1/2 cup minced Korean radish or Asian pear for sweetness

If you’re using Asian pear or Korean radish, make sure to peel and finely mince them before adding to the paste. The inclusion of these ingredients adds a subtle sweetness and crunchy texture, balancing the robust spiciness and umami flavor of the fish sauce and chili flakes.

Mixing the Paste

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the Korean chili flakes, fish sauce, grated ginger, and sugar. Mix these together thoroughly to ensure the chili flakes are evenly moistened and a paste begins to form.

Next, add the minced garlic to the bowl. If you’ve chosen to include minced Korean radish or Asian pear, add them now. Use your gloved hands or a spoon to mix everything vigorously until the paste is uniformly combined and the sugar is well dissolved.

This paste is what will imbue the brined radishes with deep flavors and a vibrant red color making your ponytail radish kimchi not only delicious but also visually appealing. Be sure to coat the radishes evenly with this paste in the next steps to achieve the best flavor in every bite.

Assembling the Kimchi

Now that your spicy kimchi paste is ready, it’s time to combine it with the brined radishes to start the kimchi transformation.

Applying the Paste

  1. Begin by wearing gloves to protect your hands from the spicy chili paste. This will also help in mixing without burning or staining your hands.
  2. Drain the brined ponytail radishes thoroughly, ensuring no excess water remains. Gently squeeze them to remove any lingering brine.
  3. Place the drained radishes in a large mixing bowl. Add the prepared kimchi paste to the radishes.
  4. Using your gloved hands, thoroughly mix the paste into the radishes, ensuring each radish is evenly coated. Be gentle to avoid breaking the radishes while ensuring that the paste infiltrates the greens and the crevices of the radishes for optimal flavor infusion.

Storing and Fermenting the Radish Kimchi

  1. Prepare a clean, airtight container for fermenting your kimchi. A glass jar or a BPA-free plastic container works well.
  2. Start packing the radishes into the container. Press down gently after each handful to minimize air pockets, which are not ideal for the fermentation process.
  3. Once all the radishes are in the container, pour any remaining paste from the bowl over them. Press down again to ensure the radishes are snug and covered with the paste.
  4. Leave about an inch of space at the top of the container to allow for expansion as the kimchi ferments.
  5. Seal the container tightly. You can now leave the kimchi at room temperature for about 1 to 2 days to begin fermentation. After this period, place it in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process and preserve its freshness.
  6. Check and press down on the radishes daily for the first few days to keep them submerged in the brine that forms, which is essential for even and safe fermentation.

Fermentation Process

After packing your kimchi, the fermentation begins—an essential step to develop its distinct savory and tangy flavor.

Initial Room Temperature Fermentation

Once you have sealed the kimchi in a container, leave it at room temperature for about 1 to 2 days. This period allows the beneficial bacteria to start fermenting the sugars present in the radishes and other ingredients, producing lactic acid. You should notice subtle changes in the kimchi, such as the appearance of small bubbles and a slightly tangy smell—both signs of active fermentation. To ensure an even fermentation, check on your kimchi daily and press down gently on the radishes; this helps keep them submerged and exposed evenly to the fermenting brine.

Storage and Maturation

After the initial fermentation at room temperature, transfer your kimchi to the refrigerator. This cooling step slows down the fermentation process significantly, allowing the flavors to meld and mature without the risk of over-fermenting. Ponytail radish kimchi typically reaches its optimal flavor and texture after about 2 weeks in the fridge. However, you can start tasting it after a few days to see how the flavor develops. Store it in the refrigerator for up to a few months, making sure the radishes are submerged in the brine to keep them crisp and prevent any spoilage. Remember, the longer it ferments, the more pronounced and robust the flavors will become.

Serving Suggestions

Once your ponytail radish kimchi is perfectly fermented, the next step is to serve it in ways that highlight its unique flavor and texture. This fermented delicacy is versatile, elevating a wide range of dishes from ordinary to extraordinary with its distinctly tangy and spicy taste.

As a Side Dish

Ponytail radish kimchi serves beautifully as a traditional side dish or “banchan.” Pair it with steamed rice, grilled meats, or tofu to balance its intensity with their mildness. The crunch of the radish and the fiery seasoning provide a contrast that wakes up the palate, making every bite of your meal more exciting.

With Korean BBQ

Kimchi and Korean BBQ are a match made in heaven. Serve your ponytail radish kimchi alongside grilled bulgogi, galbi, or any other Korean BBQ meat. Its spicy and acidic profile cuts through the fattiness and richness of the meats, offering a refreshing cleanse to your taste buds with each bite.

In Stews and Soups

Enhance the flavor complexity of Korean stews and soups like soondubu jjigae (soft tofu stew) or kimchi jjigae by adding a generous spoonful of your ponytail radish kimchi. It infuses the broth with a deep, tangy essence, enriching the overall savory notes of the dishes.

As a Topping for Savory Pancakes

Chop the kimchi into smaller pieces and add it to the batter of Korean savory pancakes, such as jeon. This not only incorporates the kimchi’s flavor throughout the dish but also adds a delightful texture contrast thanks to the crisp, juicy pieces of radish.

In Fusion Dishes

Let your creativity flow and integrate ponytail radish kimchi into various fusion dishes. Include it in tacos, burgers, or even atop a pizza for a Korean twist that surprises and delights. The spicy, pickle-like flavor of the kimchi beautifully complements and enhances these global favorites.

Whichever way you choose to serve your ponytail radish kimchi, its robust flavors are sure to impress, adding a uniquely Korean zest to your culinary creations.


So now that you’ve got the scoop on ponytail radish kimchi don’t be afraid to experiment with this vibrant condiment in your kitchen. Whether you’re spicing up your favorite dishes or exploring new culinary territories it’s sure to add that extra kick. Embrace the zest and tang it brings to every meal and watch as it transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. Happy cooking!

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