Korean Cooking: A Pickled Garlic Recipe Comparison (마늘장아찌)

In July at the 2013 Worldwide Korea Bloggers welcome dinner we received a goody bag at the end with an array of items and one of them was a cook book. The dinner was held at the Institute of Traditional Korean Food hosted by Director Yoon Sook Ja and she presented us with her very own book “The Beauty of Korean Food: With 100 Best-Loved Recipes”. The book goes over everything from table settings for different seasons and different kinds of meals to table manners in Korea, special ingredients and finally main dishes and side dishes. It’s a wealth of information and it was the first thing I skimmed through when I got home that night.

I’ve been eagerly trying my hand at one or two Korean recipes a week for a couple months now and generally it goes like this: I think of what I want to eat, I check a couple websites for basic recipes and compare and contrast and then I’ll ask an older woman at the market or my mother-in-law how she makes the dish and I’ll blend them together. I want to have at least three resources because I have no background for Korean cooking. If I’m cooking a western meal it just feels right, I don’t necessarily have to measure everything out because I know what the sugar will do or the salt will do and how much I like, but with Korean dishes I’m still feeling it out.


I really wanted some pickled garlic a few weeks ago. My mother-in-law usually sends it up once or twice a year and it’s one of my favorite side dishes. We eat it up pretty quickly and then wait until her next batch. I noticed a recipe for it in the cookbook we’d received but I also noticed that it was slightly different than the way my mother-in-law had explained her process. I decided for this dish I would try both recipes to compare and contrast the outcome rather than the recipes themselves as I’d done with the other dishes. We started both batches on the same day and after this I feel like I need a special calendar in the kitchen just for fermented dishes. Do Korean women have calendars in their kitchens with when to check different dishes and see how the fermenting process is going? How do they remember when to take them out and eat them?

The Beauty of Korean Food

Garlic Side Dish PrepIngredients:

4 Whole Bulbs of Garlic

1.5 Cups of Water

3/4 Cups of Vinegar

2 Tbs. Soy Sauce

3 Tbs. Sugar

2 Tbs. Salt


  1. Cut off the roots and stalks of the garlic, peel two layers of the skin off, wash and drain garlic in a strainer for two hours.Garlic
  2. Put the garlic into a jar, add the water and the vinegar and ferment for 10 days in a dark cool place.Garlic Side Dish Prep
  3. Filter out the liquid into a pot and add the soy sauce, sugar and salt and heat on high for 3 minutes. When it comes to a boil, allow it to boil for 1 minute before turning it off.
  4. Put the liquid back into the jar with the garlic bulbs and ferment for one month.
  5. After at least a month, the garlic is ready to be eaten.
  6. If not eaten in one go, put the remaining garlic into a container to be refrigerated with some of the liquid. Enjoy.Garlic Side Dish

My Mother-In-Law’s Recipe

Garlic Side Dish PrepIngredients:

4 Whole Bulbs of Garlic

Equal ratios of Water, Soy Sauce, and Plum Extract, enough to cover the garlic completely

Half as much Vinegar


  1. Cut off the roots and stalks of the garlic, peel two layers of the skin off, wash and drain garlic in a strainer for two hours.Garlic Side Dish Prep
  2. Put the garlic in the jar and use equal ratios of the water, soy sauce and plum extract to cover the garlic and then add the vinegar. (For ours we used just over 1/3 cup of water, soy sauce and plum extract and then put in a half of a 1/3 cup of vinegar.)Garlic Side Dish Prep
  3. Filter out the liquid into a pot and bring it to a boil for 1 minute and then turn it off and let it cool.
  4. Once it has cooled, pour it back into the jar and put it in a cool, dark place to ferment for 3 days.
  5. After three days has gone by, filter out the liquid into a pot once again and bring to a boil for one minute and turn it off. After it has cooled pour it back into the jar once again.
  6. Let it ferment for at least 1 month and then enjoy.
  7. After opening the jar any uneaten garlic should be put in a container to be refrigerated and should be eaten as a side dish with meals. Garlic Side Dish

I have to say that the book directions on a few of the recipes that I’ve read through are a bit abrupt and a bit confusing because of that. In this recipe for example it doesn’t mention after you boil the mixture in step three whether you should let it cool before adding it back to the garlic or not. In fact, it doesn’t even say to pour it back into the jar with the garlic. It reads as I should boil the mixture and then I should ferment the garlic for another month. I added the liquid hot because I figured, if my mother in law hadn’t mentioned in her recipe that I should let it cool, I would have assumed based on the way the recipe read to add it hot and so I did. Though the book is helpful in some respects, it assumes that I have prior knowledge of Korean cooking or general Korean ingredients, which I don’t. I would not recommend this book for a person trying their hand at Korean cooking for the first time unless they have a Korean friend nearby to connect some of the missing dots in the recipes.Garlic Side Dish

After a month we took both of our jars out and gave them a try. The jar for our mom’s recipe garlic side dished gasped as we opened it, a good sign for the fermentation process I think. It tasted good, but my husband said it needed some more time in the cupboard to be as good as his mothers. The jar for the book recipe did not gasp when we opened it and still tasted mostly of garlic. My husband and I agreed we liked his mother’s recipe better and in the future will probably stick to that. Garlic Side Dish

Korean Cooking: Pickled Garlic. This common side dish on any Korean table is a delicious bite between meat and more. Check out the recipe to learn how to ferment your own and make a great treat for the table.

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3 Responses

  1. Anne says:

    Found your blog looking for info on green pumpkin, really enjoying your recipes! Thank you. 🙂

    • Hallie says:

      Thanks for the comment. That green pumpkin recipe was a little accidental as I’m sure you read, but worked out well. I hope you have some good food on the table soon!

  1. September 18, 2016

    […] vacation and ready to cook. I wanted to make a couple different things this week. The first one a garlic sidedish that I’ll write about later as it takes a few weeks of fermenting and the other dumplings, mandu […]

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