When I was 11, my dad went to South Korea for the first time. He fell in love with the country and its people, but most of all, he fell in love with Korean cuisine. And at the top of his list of amazing Korean eats was Kimchi in all its incarnations. Of course in Central Missouri, garlic shoot kimchi, and radish kimchi could and can be hard to find, but some Walmarts, and many Schnuck’s carry the most common type of kimchi, made from napa cabbage.
While I was a bit of a slow convert to kimchi, once my pre-teen self got over the smell, I really enjoyed the almost sparkling sensation in your mouth. Kind of like red-pepper garlic pop rocks, foaming on your tongue, attacking your tastebuds. Korean recipes can be very labor intensive, especially if you make your own condiments from scratch. But Kimchi-fried rice or Bokum Bab is an easy recipe to make at home, especially if you skip making your own kimchi. I like to make it on a busy weekday, (like Monday) with rice cooked over the weekend. It’s a simple, fast dinner that’s gluten-free and whole grain and can be made vegetarian, vegan or kosher without sacrificing on taste.
An added bonus is that fermented foods like Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Kefir and Kombucha are really good for your gut and when consumed on a regular basis could give your metabolism a boost. Don’t believe me? See articles below:
Recipe for Kimchi-Fried Rice
- 2 cups of day old rice (I prefer whole grain basmati, but whatever you’ve got will work)
- 1 cup of kimchi
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tbsp oil (I use extra virgin olive oil because I’ve always got it on hand)
Optional add ins:
- tofu (firm is best for this dish)
- chopped vegetables (broccoli, carrots, cabbage, onions)
- bean sprouts
- Heat your oil in a wok or a large skillet
- Cook any meat or fresh vegetables you want to use.
- Add in your kimchi
- When the kimchi is warm, add in your rice.
- Stir the rice into the kimchi, using chop sticks to break it apart
- Add in tofu, if desired.
- Add in the eggs
- Cover your wok or skillet and turn off the heat.
- Leave covered for 4 minutes for a poached egg with a runny yolk.
- Plate the kimchi fried rice with sprouts and the egg on top.
- Make your rice a day (or a few days ahead) and leave it in the refrigerator uncovered to dry it out. It will fry up better and not get too greasy or sticky.
- To make the kimchi rice less spicy, use less kimchi and more fresh vegetables.
- White rice is traditional for this dish, but brown rice is less processed and higher in fiber.
- Cook big batches of rice in your rice cooker and freeze it to have it on hand for rice-based recipes.
- Kimchi is fairly expensive at $3-$6 for a small jar, but you can make your own. Check out this recipe from David Lebovitz. You can even buy a kit, if you think you need one, on Amazon.
- Kimchi has a very pungent smell. Not everyone will like it right away and some people will outright despise it (thinking of you, mom). Also, after eating kimchi, your sweat will smell different. Less like whatever you normally eat, and more like garlic and red pepper. Unless, you like me, spice almost everything with garlic and red pepper…..
- Want to learn more about Korean cooking? Check out these books on Amazon:
(links to Amazon products are affiliate links, which means if you buy something, I get a small commission, which doesn’t affect the price you pay in any way)
P.S. If you’re interested in trying Korean food out before you prepare it at home, I have four recommendations, two in Missouri, and two in Barcelona.
- In Jefferson City, Missouri, try out a limited Korean menu at I Love Sushi on Missouri Boulevard.
- In the St. Louis, Missouri area, have an authentic Korean meal at Seoul Garden near the Cypress Road Airport Exit.
- In Barcelona, Spain, have an authentic, if expensive Korean meal at San Kil on Carrer Legalitat off of Carrer d’Escorial, metro stop Joanic
- In Barcelona, Spain, get some Korean to go (Tuesday-Saturday) at the Masitta Korean Food Stand (stand 922)at the back of La Boqueria market off of La Rambla, metro stop Catalunya or Liceu.
(links go to maps of how to get to the restaurants)
Many thanks to my father, who always insisted that I try new things and is directly responsible for kimchi becoming a permanent fixture in my eating habits, even here in Barcelona, where I have to make a special trip to an Asian or Import Market to get it. When I finally get to Korea (and I will), I hope to fall hard for “Lady Korea” and lose weight stuffing myself with fermented goodies at every meal. Just like Dad. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get to go together.