Saturday, May 22, 2010

Kimchi Fried Rice

Comfort foods come in all different forms: dark chocolatey brownies, succulent roast chicken, assorted finger foods and piping-hot pizza.

Comfort foods can be sweet, salty, savory, sour or spicy, depending on my mood.

Comfort foods can be as elaborate as a Sauerbraten dinner from a $35 piece of meat that took me 3 days to prepare, or a spicy noodle dish that uses a block of 29¢ ramen and requires a mere 10 minutes to fix.

Comfort foods can present a pretty picture plated and garnished meticulously, whereas others never see a serving dish because I devour them straight out of the saucepan, right off of a wooden spoon.

In a previous entry, I spoke of Mandu, my favorite street vendor food from my time in Korea. Another one of my all-time favorite comfort meals stems from my year spent in Seoul: kimchi bokkeumbap, or Kimchi Fried Rice. The perfect late-night meal to stave off a hangover after 8 hours spent partying in Itaewon or the ideal warming dish to push off the chill of the harsh winds blowing down off the mountains on a wintry weekend evening.

Don't be scared by fermented kimchi's pungent fragrance, frying the kimchi mellows the flavor and the smell, making Kimchi Fried Rice blend well with all sorts of ingredients - leftover chicken, fried tofu strips, mushrooms, julienned carrots, fresh baby bok choy, bell pepper strips, even a drained can of albacore, but this recipe below is fantastic just as it is.

Kimchi Fried Rice

  • canola or peanut oil
  • 1 cup fermented kimchi,* cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 egg
  • sesame seeds
  • nori strips
  1. Heat some canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chopped up kimchi. Saute for about 5 minutes.

  2. Add the chopped onion and green onion and continue to saute for another 5 minutes.

  3. Add the sugar and salt and stir very well.

  4. Add 1 cup of the cold, cooked rice,* (See Notes) and stir well. Once it is all nicely coated, add the other cup of rice and cook for another 5 minutes.

  5. Add a drizzle (1 t or so) of dark sesame oil, stirring well.

  6. At this point, you can push the rice and kimchi to the sides and add a beaten egg to the center and scramble well.

  7. Once the egg is cooked through, push the rice and vegetables back in, mixing it all together, cooking for another 2 minutes.

  8. Serve in a bowl and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and nori strips.

  • All Kimchis are not the same. If you have a limited variety of kimchis available to you in your grocery store, you've got it easy: chances are the only kind they have for you is the fermented kimchi made from bok choy, which is just what this recipe calls for.

    If you live near a Korean grocery like I do, you may find yourself staring in shock at all the different jars of kimchi - all labeled in Korean, of course - and you might be at a loss over which one to choose. For Kimchi Fried Rice, be sure to ask for the fermented, sour kimchi instead of the fresh kimchi. I have found that the flavor of the fermented kimchi just tastes better in this recipe.

  • For best results for your fried rice dishes, whether it is Nasi Goreng from Indonesia, Thai Basil Fried Rice or Kimchi Fried Rice, you need to use cold, cooked rice. Leftover rice is the best, though sometimes I make up a batch and cool it in the fridge for an hour before making the fried rice. There is something about the hot rice that can turn the dish into a sticky, glutinous mess.

  • Sometimes I will cook the beaten egg into a crepe-like pancake in a separate pan first, let it cool and then cut into strips and use that as an additional garnish. In Korea, it was common to have kimchi fried rice served on top of a fried egg.

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