When life gives you five quarts of homemade vegetarian kimchi, make kimchi fried rice.
That was my cousin’s unsympathetic suggestion when I was attempting to complain about my overabundance of kimchi. She’s always telling me how she goes out for amazing Korean vegan food. Or is it vegan Korean food?
She’s neither vegan nor Korean, but she is smart and I decided to take her advice. Having no idea what exactly kimchi fried rice entailed wasn’t going stop me. Really, what’s the worst thing that could happen? If it wasn’t good, I’d still have 4 3/4 quarts of kimchi to go.
Step one: find a recipe for bokkeumbap (please don’t ask me how to pronounce that).
Step two: make lunch.
Step three: marvel at how delicious this 15-minute meal is.
It was good. So good. For, uh, research purposes, I may have made this three days in a row.
The key to this, like any fried rice dish, is using leftovers. Fresh rice is too soft and will stick to the pan; use rice that has dried out in the fridge overnight. My very favorite brown basmati rice was great for this. I cook up a good-sized batch all at once to use throughout the week, so it was already refrigerated and ready to go.
Still skeptical that brown basmati rice is freaking delicious? Bridget can vouch for me, and even has a method for cooking brown rice in only half an hour. I tried it and it works!
When I say leftovers, I don’t just mean the rice. Fried rice is a great way to use up what’s lingering in your crisper. If you have a single carrot or zucchini, half a pepper, a quarter of an onion, or a partial block of tofu, dive it and toss it in.
Clockwise from top left is what I had laying around: a few handfuls of spinach, a fresh chopped shiitake mushroom, one diced yellow carrot, chopped scallions. Not pictured: lots of garlic. The recipe calls for about one cup of vegetables, total. The spinach is obviously more than a cup itself, but it shrinks so much that it works.
The other obvious ingredient in kimchi fried rice is, of course, kimchi. If you’re a few days away you can make your own. That will ensure that it’s vegetarian and allergen-free.
Store-bought kimchi is absolutely fine, just read the label if you have any dietary restrictions or allergies. While your best bet is a Korean or Asian market, your regular grocer might have it in the refrigerated section near the miso and tempeh. Sometimes it’s near produce (usually mushrooms and bean sprouts), sometimes it’s near dairy.
Post-prep, the fried rice comes together really quickly. It may seem like a lot of oil, but you want the rice to get coated and crunchy without any chance of sticking to the pan. My kimchi wasn’t especialyl spicy, so I added a generous dollop of chili paste along with the traditional “some assembly required” fried egg.
Unlike the scrambled eggs added to Chinese fried rice or pad Thai, a sunny-side up egg crowns the dish and is stirred in before eating. If you’re worried about the runny yolk, use a pasteurized egg. The crunchy browned rice, the savory bits of scallions and garlic, the spicy heat of the chili paste, and the softness of the egg all combine to make something bigger and better than the sum of their parts.
To make the dish vegan, stir-fry some cubed soft tofu and add that for a nice textural contrast in lieu of the egg. The creaminess of the tofu would offset the crunchy-spicy-tangy base quite nicely. Maybe I’ll go make it again, just to verify…
Are you a kimchi fried rice fan? What’s your favorite Korean dish?
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 3 scallions, chopped
- 1 cup diced vegetables
- 3 cups cooked rice
- 1 cup kimchi, drained and chopped
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons Korean chili paste (kochujang)
- 2 eggs
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 servings