Kimchi Fried Rice
Fun fact: I used to hate kimchi. When I was first introduced to the fermented spicy cabbage as a kid, I thought, Why does this smell so much? and It’s so sour!
It’s definitely an acquired taste, because now, I make sure to have a jar of kimchi in stock at all times.
As a college student living away from home, I cannot count the number of times I have cooked kimchi fried rice – kimchi bokkeumbap – for myself. I’m a food enthusiast who is always trying to come up with new recipes from the same core ingredients, but kimchi bokkeumbap remains one of the few staples on my ever-changing budget menu. It’s an easy, versatile, and delicious match for my spontaneous cooking style.
My brainstorming process usually goes like this:
1. What’s in the fridge? I see white rice and garlic – did I mention I’m Asian? I’m Asian.
2. Repurpose breakfast essentials. Grab any leftover cold cut deli meats (ham, turkey, salami, chicken) and an egg. The egg is important.
3. Find the jar of kimchi. Like I said before, it’s always around!
4. Grab the not-so-secret sauce. Gochujang (Korean red pepper paste) is not necessary, but just a spoonful brings out the flavor and color of the kimchi.
5. Garnish and seasoning! I usually have dried seaweed in snack packs – again, I’m Asian – but just salt and pepper should do just fine.
Separate your clove of garlic, then smash it using your palm against with flat side of your knife so it’s easier to peel and slice. Julienne your kimchi, deli meats, and dried seaweed to the consistency of your liking.
Here’s the fun part! Stir-fry your garlic with a drizzle of oil in a shallow frying pan. While the savory aroma of garlic fills your kitchen, add in your chopped kimchi and deli meats, tossing occasionally so the flavors can come together. Now add in your rice and gochujang, breaking up the rice to integrate it with the rest of the ingredients. Pour a ladle of kimchi juice, the red liquid the kimchi sits in, over the top – this gives the dish color and intensifies the taste of the kimchi. Make sure to stir well so that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper as you finish frying, then transfer your kimchi bokkeumbap to a bowl.
So now that you’ve fried the kimchi and the rice, you’re done, right? Wrong. Wipe off any leftover grease from your pan so you can proceed to the final, most important step: frying the runny egg that sits over the rice. Coat the pan evenly with oil before cracking an egg directly into the pan. If you dislike the raw egg whites that tend to settle on the top of the yolk, you can cover the pan with a lid to let the steam lightly cook them. (If you dislike runny egg yolk, this isn’t your dish.) Slide your sunny-side up egg over your rice, then garnish with seaweed and a pinch of salt.
Now you’re ready to eat. Sit in front of your steaming bowl and a single spoon. Inhale the spicy aroma with the reverence it deserves. Give thanks for the blessing of food in your life in the traditional Korean way, with your palms pressed together and eyes closed – jal mokkesseumnida. Gently press the edge of your spoon until the yolk bursts over your rice, a glorious yellow against the red. Gather rice, kimchi, meat, egg, and seaweed in a perfect spoonful, the essence of the yolk seeping in. Savor the crunchiness of the kimchi against the contrast of the soft rice, and the creamy gochujang against the crisp seaweed. Taste the individual and culminated flavors in your mouth as you chew.
Go back for another spoon.