An easy, vegetarian and family-friendly introduction to fermented superfood, kimchi.
Kimchi is a big ask for some. Even more so for those with families to feed.
For starters – not to put too fine a point on it – kimchi stinks. To highest Heaven. Even hardcore kimchi fans would have to admit this. In fact, I have read that many Koreans have little refrigerators just for kimchi (much like many US college dorm rooms/man caves have beer fridges). #goals
It’s also a wee bit spicy from the Korean chilli flakes, as well as a bit sour and sometimes fizzy from fermentation – which can be slightly off putting traits in comestibles when one is used to sweeter, or at least more neutral, food.
And mostly food doesn’t hiss at you.
But hopefully you can get past/have got past these “attributes” to appreciate the intense flavour of this firework of the food world. Spicy, pungent and fermented, this Korean condiment/side dish/vegetable dish will make any savoury recipe to which it is added explode with added umami and interest.
For such an out there kind of food, kimchi goes with a multitude of other dishes. I have quite a few recipes here on Food To Glow where kimchi features (grilled kimcheese and kimchi nachos are faves), and I make them often. But there are many more that I have seen and wish to try some day (in South Korea, if at all possible).
So, how to make kimchi family-friendly? Well, the answer is fried rice. If your family likes Chinese fried rice then I pretty much guarantee that they will like kimchi fried rice. In the presence of such established flavours as rice and eggs, kimchi is softened and tamed. If you add it at the end, and just warm it through, it will also still retain much of what many of us eat kimchi for – its nutritional benefits. Full of fibre – it is after all, all vegetable – minerals, vitamins and gut health-superstar, Lactobacillus, kimchi is the food trend that is only getting bigger. Because it seems here to stay, and we will be seeing it everywhere, why not get the family on-board with this easy weekday recipe?
You may have kimchi in the fridge waiting to be promoted to meal status. But if not most health food shops, and all Chinese and Korean markets, will have the good, refrigerated, stuff.
What to look for: When purchasing kimchi – or sauerkraut – always reach for the cold option. The ambient temperature versions are NOT authentic or particularly healthy: these are really just pickled and will have added vinegar and salt.The good stuff, properly fermented and full of beneficial bacteria, is itself pickled, but naturally so. The proliferation of the Lactobacillus species during the fermentation process converts the sugars in whatever vegetables that are present (often cabbage) into lactic acid, making it deliciously sour and contributing to the formation of glutamic acid – the basis of the umami – fifth – taste.
And mostly it isn’t salty, although salt is initially used to break down the vegetables over 12 hours before being thoroughly rinsed then mixing with a spicy paste. I make kimchi and rarely let my supply dwindle, but when that does happen I will pick up a small pack from my favourite Chinese supermarket – although it is not as quite as good as homemade, and it usually has fish sauce in it. So, don’t think I am being a snob about kimchi and only homemade will do. If you haven’t had it before, but are “kimchi-curious” buy it first to see if it is your thing. If not, no biggie. Hating your homemade kimchi? Bit more of a deal.
Lastly, did you know that authentic kimchi fried rice will have chunks of Spam in it? As I’ve never actually eaten Spam, nor am I likely to, I won’t recommend it. If you want to up the protein, by all mean add some tofu, sauteed prawns, another egg (maybe scrambled for kids) – whatever. Except Spam. Just no. 🙂
Kimchi Fried Rice
An easy, vegetarian and family-friendly introduction to fermented food superfood, kimchi.
2 tbsp rapeseed oil or melted coconut oil (if in the US use another oil, like non-extra virgin olive oil, or the coconut oil)
3-4 spring onions/scallion, chopped + a little of the green for garnish
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 tbsp minced or grated fresh ginger
1 medium carrot, grated and lightly squeezed of liquid
150g-175g kimchi, squeezed and chopped but liquid kept for adding later
250g cooked brown sushi or basmati rice (or even something like quinoa)
1 tbsp (optional) gochujang (Korean red pepper flakes – available at Chinese supermarkets and online) OR a good pinch of chilli powder, although it is a different taste
1 tbsp coconut aminos OR 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
Steam fried eggs, poached eggs of scrambled eggs (keep warm while stir frying the kimchi rice or do simultaneously, if you can)
Seaweed flakes of snips of toasted nori – optional
Toasted sesame seeds
Other options: cooked peas, cooked shredded chicken, tofu cubes, cooked prawns
1. Add the cooked rice to a mixing bowl. Take a little of the oil – about 1/2 tsp – rub it on your hands, and mix the rice to break up clumps and slightly coat in oil.
2. Heat the remaining rapeseed oil in a well-seasoned wok or large, non-stick saute pan. add the spring onions – save back some green slices – ginger, garlic, carrot and kimchi. Cook this until it gets quite dry but isn’t sticking – about five minutes. Add the rice and stir well. Let cook while mixing the saved kimchi juice with the gochujang if using, sesame oil and coconut aminos/soy sauce. Pour this into the rice and turn up the heat, stirring as needed to prevent sticking. You want the rice thoroughly cooked through and piping hot – about five minutes. If you have any add-ins, pop them in now. Taste and see if it needs any other seasoning -more soy sauce, some white pepper, a bit more sour (add lime or lemon juice).
3. Spoon into warm bowls and top with cooked egg, seaweed, remaining spring onion slices and the sesame seeds. Serve immediately. Add something like sriracha if you like to boost the heat.
This is thoroughly comforting dish, and so easy to make if you have homemade or bought kimchi in the house. As you may suspect, kimchi keeps for a long time so don’t be put off making or buying it as it will liven up meals for many weeks to come.
Note: This recipe will serve 2-3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children.
More Kimchi Recipes from Food To Glow!
Kimchi and Carrot Savoury Pancakes (Kimchi Jeon)
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