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Thai and Lao Som Pak Recipe – Pickled Cabbage

Learn how to make Thai and Lao Som Pak, pickled and fermented cabbage that is simple to make with less than three ingredients.

Lao and Thai pickled cabbage has a combination of salty and umami flavors. There is no canning involved in the recipe process. Making this delicious dish is easy and requires only three ingredients. It makes for an amazing side dish and it’s a condiment that goes with just about every meal.

Som Pak, known as Laotian Kimchi, is a delicious comfort food that is found in most Lao family kitchens and is often served with grilled fish and meats, braised pork and eggs, minced meat salad, papaya salad, and sticky rice

laos som pak fermented pickled cabbage-1

All About Som Pak Pickled Cabbage

What does Som Pak Pickled Mustard Greens taste like?

Som Pak is a fermented cabbage that has a tart and sour flavor. It is generally eaten as a side dish and accompanies other dishes by enhancing other ingredients within the cuisine.

What’s the difference between Som Pak Pickled Cabbage and Som Pack Pickled Mustard greens?

Fermenting leafy vegetables is a way to prepare condiment that have a tart and sour flavor popular in Thai and Lao cuisine. Pickled cabbage is made using regular head of cabbage. Pickled mustard greens are made using mustard greens often referred to as gai choy.

What are other names for Som Pak Pickled Cabbage?

With most Thai and Lao cuisine translation, the way that dishes are translated in English are the phonetic spellings because of the type script differences between English and Thai/Lao languages.

Lao pickled cabbage is also referred to as the following names:

  • Laotian Kimchi
  • Som Pak
  • Som Pak Gai Lump
  • Som Pak Galum
  • Som Pak Ka Lump
  • Sompak
  • Som Pacht
  • Gaht

Som means sour. Pak means leafy vegetable. Galum means cabbage.

laos som pak fermented pickled cabbage-1

How do you pronounce Som Pak Pickled Cabbage?

Som is pronounced like saying the word “womb” but with an S. Pak is pronounced by saying “ack” but with a P.

Other Variations of Som Pak Fermented Cabbage

There are other Lao and Thai variations of this dish, which includes using mustard greens (Som Pak Khat) as well as mixing in pig ears.

I know pig ears might sound gross to you, but the cartilage of the pig ears provides a texture and a crunch you won’t find anywhere else.

There are also recipes that add in sugar, salt, sticky rice, and Thai bird’s eye peppers. The rice version helps kickstart the fermentation process, but I’ve found that the fermentation process does well without the rice.

Furthermore, there are Indochina regional versions of this dish include:

  • Vietnamese Dua Cai Chua
  • Chinese Suan Cai

Where did Som Pak Pickled Cabbage originate from?

There isn’t really an origin that anyone claims for pickled cabbage, as there are various regional versions that can be found across Asia.

Can you buy pickled cabbage at Asian grocers?

Asian markets sell pickled cabbage often in cryovac packaging as well as canned versions. Often, pickled cabbage that is commerically made may contain food coloring and other additives. Here’s a cryovac version and a canned version.

When do you know that fermented cabbage has gone bad?

When there is a white film floating on container, that means that the fermented cabbage Som Pak has gone bad.

How long do you ferment pickled cabbage before it is ready?

At room temperature, pickled cabbage is recommended between 24 hours and 72 hours. 

My preference and recommendation is 24 hours because I find 48 hours to be to sour and bitter for my taste.

Asian Grocery Store List for Som Pak Pickled Cabbage

There is nothing special you need to get at the Asian market to make this delectable condiment.

Tips and Tricks Before Making Som Pak Lao Pickled Cabbage

Choosing the Right Cabbage Head

You’ll want to pick a cabbage that feels light in weight. Cabbage with heavy leaves are generally too dense and take longer to ferment to taste.

Finding a Container with an Air Tight Lid

Make sure you pick a large container with an air tight lid, as the cabbage will be sitting fermenting for at least 24 hours.

If you wanted to go more modern, you can use a fermentation crock like all the young ones are doing these days! It saves you from having to stuff it into jars.

Adding in Other Ingredients

If you want to add MSG or Thai bird’s eye chiles, you can in order to increase the spice factor.

The recipe I am going to share is so easy, that you are going to want to make this often. This recipe is not too salty or too sweet (like some recipes that call for sugar).

laos pickled fermented cabbage recipe

How to Make Authentic Laos Som Pak Pickled Cabbage Recipe

Ingredients for Lao Som Pak Pickled Cabbage

  • 1 large cabbage head
  • 10 green onions cut into 2-inch stems, green stems only (white bulbs removed)
  • 1-16 ounce bottle of drinking water
  • 2 tablespoons of salt

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Instructions for Making Laos Som Pak Pickled Fermented Cabbage

Cut the cabbage and chop it into 1 inch pieces. 

laos pickled fermented cabbage recipe

laos pickled fermented cabbage recipe

laos pickled fermented cabbage recipe

Put the cabbage in a large bowl and add cold water to rinse.

Wash the cabbage. Rinse and drain three times.

In a large clean bowl, pour in the bottle of water.

Put the cabbage and green onion into the salt water mixture. 

Add in the salt.

laos pickled fermented cabbage recipelaos pickled fermented cabbage recipe

Knead the mixture together.

laos pickled fermented cabbage recipelaos pickled fermented cabbage recipe

Pack the mixture really tight into the container.

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Put plastic wrap on the top of the mixture to prevent air.

 

Seal the container with a lid, ensuring it is on tight.

 

Leave on the kitchen counter at room temperature for at least 24 hours. After 24 hours, taste it to see if it is sour enough to preference. If not, allow it to ferment for another 12-24 hours, up to 72 hours. 

Once it gets to taste,  stop the fermentation process by putting it in the refridgerator.

laos pickled fermented cabbage recipe

Serve with sticky rice, grilled fish and meat, sausage, and larb.

lao som pak fermented pickled cabbage recipe 033

Preserving Som Pak Pickled Fermented Cabbage

Som Pak can last up to 7 days in the refrigerator.

Troubleshooting Tips for Fermenting Pickled Cabbage

What happens if I get mold on top?

If mold starts appearing on your pickled cabbage, that may mean that there is not enough salt or there are too many greens floating on top. If black mold is found, toss out the batch and clean the container to try again.

What temperature is too high for room temperature?

Fermented pickled cabbage should not be fermented higher than 85°F to allow for a slow fermentation process.

Frequently Asked Questions About Som Pak Pickled Cabbage

What can I substitute in place of cabbage?

Som Pak can be made with Chinese mustard greens.

Summary About Som Pak Pickled Cabbage Recipe

Som Pak is one of the best pickles that you can make right at home. This simple recipe only requires three ingredients. While there are different varying recipes online for Som Pak, they all result in a tangy and sour condiment that enhances other dishes that it accompanies.

Simple dishes like this Lao and Thai pickled cabbage are ubiquitous recipes that embodies total comfort food for those that grew up eating them, like myself. 

laos pickled fermented cabbage recipe

Thai and Lao Som Pak Recipe - Pickled Cabbage

Yield: 10
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Additional Time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 25 minutes

Som Pak, known as Laotian Kimchi, is a delicious comfort food that is found in most Lao family kitchens and is often served with grilled fish and meats, braised pork and eggs, minced meat salad, papaya salad, and sticky rice

Ingredients

  • 1 large cabbage head
  • 10 green onions cut into 2-inch stems, green stems only (white bulbs removed)
  • 1-16 ounce bottle of drinking water
  • 2 tablespoons of salt

Instructions

  1. Cut the cabbage and chop it into 1 inch pieces. laos pickled fermented cabbage recipe
  2. Put in a large bowl and add cold water. Wash the cabbage and drain three times. laos pickled fermented cabbage recipe
  3. In a clean container, pour in the bottle of water. Add in the salt. laos pickled fermented cabbage recipe
  4. Put the cabbage and green onion into the salt water mixture. 
  5. Pack the mixture really tight into the container. Put plastic wrap on the top of the mixture to prevent air.
  6. Seal the container with a lid, ensuring it is on tight.laos pickled fermented cabbage recipe
  7. Leave on the kitchen counter at room temperature for at least 24 hours. After 24 hours, taste it to see if it is sour enough to preference. If not, allow it to ferment for another 12-24 hours, up to 72 hours. 
  8. Once it gets to taste,  stop the fermentation process by putting it in the refridgerator.
  9. Serve with sticky rice, grilled fish and meat, sausage, and larb.

Notes

Som Pak can last up to 7 days in the refrigerator.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 8Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1274mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g
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