Esther Chiang’s Kimchi

Esther Chiang is an inspiring figure at Common Ground, a unique magnet high school, urban farm, and environmental education center in New Haven. Common Ground is where learning, growth, and environmental sustainability intersect, creating a nurturing environment for students and the community.

As the Food Justice Education Coordinator and Co-leader of the Cooking Club, Esther brings a rich educational technology background and spiritual guidance to her role. Her experiences at the Farminary and Eloheh, an indigenous farm, have profoundly influenced her approach to farming and food justice. At Common Ground, she integrates her passion for the environment with her commitment to education, guiding students through hands-on experiences that connect them to their food sources and each other.

With this kimchi, specifically, a student suggested we make it after learning about it on TikTok. Kimchi has a strong smell and flavor, but everyone tried it without batting an eye, and even those who didn’t like it were respectful.

 It shows me how much the world has changed for the better since it was one of the top foods that was made fun of when I was growing up and brought to school for lunch.

Esther Chiang

A crucial part of Esther’s work is the after-school Farm-to-School cooking club, where students explore diverse food cultures and develop leadership skills. This club is a microcosm of Common Ground’s larger mission, teaching students about sustainable agriculture and culinary arts. Esther’s efforts ensure that these experiences are educational, empowering, and culturally enriching.

Esther’s philosophy on food and education is rooted in her personal history, influenced by her grandmother’s gardening and her experiences introducing people to new foods. She believes deeply in the power of food to bridge cultural divides and foster understanding. This is exemplified in her kimchi recipe, made from Common Ground’s cabbage, which celebrates the students’ openness to new culinary experiences.

Esther Chiang’s role at Common Ground exemplifies the power of combining education with environmental and food justice. Her dedication to this cause inspires students and the community, making her an integral part of Common Ground’s mission to cultivate learning, growth, and sustainable change.

Kimchi Recipe

Makes about 8 pounds of Kimchi



6 pounds (about 2.7 kg) napa cabbage
½ cup Kosher salt (2.5 ounces = 72 grams)



2 cups water
2 tablespoons sweet rice flour
(glutinous rice flour)
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
(brown or white sugar)
2 cups Korean radish matchsticks
(or daikon radish)
1 cup carrot matchsticks
7 to 8 green onions (scallions), chopped
1 cup chopped Asian chives (buchu), optional
(substitute with 3 green onions, chopped)
1 cup water dropwort (minari), optional
½ cup garlic cloves (24 garlic cloves), minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
1 medium onion, minced
½ cup fish sauce
¼ cup fermented salted shrimp (saeujeot)
with the salty brine, chopped
2 cups red pepper flakes (gochugaru)


Prepare and Salt the Cabbage:

  1. If the cabbage cores stick out too much, trim them off with your knife over your cutting board.
  2. To split a cabbage in half without shredding the densely packed leaves inside, first cut a short slit in the base of the cabbage, enough to get a grip on either half and then gently pull the halves apart so the cabbage splits open.
  3. Cut a slit through the core of each half, 2 inches above the stem. You want the cabbage leaves to be loose but still attached to the core.
  4. Dunk the halves in a large basin of water to get them wet. Sprinkle salt between the leaves by lifting every leaf and getting salt there. Use more salt closer to the stems, where the leaves are thicker.
  5. Let the cabbages rest for 2 hours. Turn over every 30 minutes so they get well salted. From time to time, you can spoon some of the salty water from the bottom of the basin over top of the cabbages if you want to.
  6. After 2 hours, wash the cabbage halves a few times under cold running water. Please give them a good washing to remove the salt and any dirt. As you wash, split the halves into quarters along the slits you cut into earlier. Cut off the cores, give them a final rinse, and put them in a strainer over a basin so they can drain well.

While the Cabbage is Salting…

  1. Combine the water and the sweet rice flour in a small pot. Mix well with a wooden spoon and let it cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until it starts to bubble. Add the sugar and cook 1 more minute, stirring. Remove from the heat and let it cool off completely.
  2. Pour cooled porridge into a large mixing bowl. Add garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, fermented salted shrimp, and hot pepper flakes. Mix well with the wooden spoon until the mixture turns into a thin paste.
  3. Add the radish, carrot, and green onion, plus the Asian chives (or more green onions) and the water dropwort if you’re using them. Mix well.

Time to Make the Kimchi!

  1. In a large bowl, spread some kimchi paste on each cabbage leaf. When every leaf in a quarter is covered with paste, wrap it around itself into a small packet and put it into your jar, plastic container, or onggi.
  2. Eat right away, or let it ferment for a few days.


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