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Kimchi Fried Rice

Kimchi Fried Rice (2)
Kimchi Fried Rice (1)

I don't like getting too lovey-dovey about things. Sentimentality freaks me out. I would much rather have people show their affection by picking on me or doing something around me that's normally reserved for alone-time; folding laundry or taking off their shoes, maybe. Even when it comes to TV shows and movies, I gravitate towards cringey comedies or those weird shows that never let themselves resolve. I love an ending like in What About Bob or The Jerk: the characters just continue on doing the dumb stuff like you've observed throughout the film. That's how it is in the real world, after all.

I'm laying down this disclaimer, because when I thought about sharing  a kimchi bokkeumbap recipe, part of me figured I should tell some sweet story about the things I learn from Dan. How, growing up with different cultures and backgrounds allows us to teach each other so many things. And that's true. But, at least in our case (which I'm sure is not the same for countless others), the whole interracial relationship thing rarely comes up, except for in good-natured moments when we tease each other about our cultural differences. Often, Dan points out that things I'd assumed were universal rules (packing sandwiches for a bagged lunch, or using a terrycloth washcloth in the shower) are actually very specific to my upbringing. Korean-Americans are likely to pack kimbap, for example, and they often use these exfoliating mitts to wash themselves. Over the years, our habits have merged. We, collectively, eat a lot of sandwiches, and we kvetch together when we forget to pack our "scrubber" for an overnight trip someplace.

Unsurprisingly, cuisine is a huge theme of these lessons. I certainly never had a rice cooker growing up and my mom never would have known what to do with a ton of sesame oil in the cupboard. Eating buttery Carolina rice cooked on the stove top would have been completely bizarre for little Dan and I remember the look of wonder on his face when we ate Belgian waffles with ice cream on top for the first time together. Again, nowadays, there's always a little of both of us represented in our home, meals and outings. And that means we always have tons of kimchi in the fridge; often more than I know what to do with. In many Korean homes, there's actually a separate mini fridge for kimchi and other panchan, so it doesn't take up space or make the rest of your groceries smell like tasty, but distinctively fermenting cabbage. To be honest, I think we're probably just a few years away from taking that step.

When you have so much kimchi, and the inevitable stale rice always left in the cooker, the only thing to do is fry it all up! Kimchi fried rice (or, kimchi bokkeumbap -- 볶음밥 means "fried rice") has started to taste just as homey and comforting to me as a bowl of buttery mashed potatoes. Spicy, warm, and even better with a fried egg on top, it's simple, quick, and kind of impossible to screw up! Here's how you do it:

Kimchi Fried Rice

  • 3 cups leftover, cooked rice
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped kimchi (I use a pair of kitchen shears to get bite-sized pieces)
  • 1/4 cup kimchi juice (squeeeeze it out of your container and into a smaller cup!)*
  • 3 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 chopped scallions
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 1 fried egg, per person (optional, but awesome!)

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Once hot, add in olive oil. Add in kimchi and warm for 1-2 minutes. Try not to brown, just soften.
  2. Add rice, sesame oil and kimchi juice and stir to combine with the warmed-up kimchi. Gently press into a "cake" and let fry for 5-10 minutes. This will produce some delicious, crispy bits, but if you smell anything more intense than a delightful toasty aroma, stir and reshape. The rice should never, ever burn, but should develop a bit of a crust on the bottom of the pan. Conversely, don't be overly cautious! A crust won't form if you're constantly stirring!
  3. Once the rice is heated through, remove from heat and give a gentle stir with a wooden spoon. (A wooden spoon or plastic paddle prevents you from breaking or crushing the rice grains too much.) Add in sesame seeds and scallions and again give a gentle stir. Place fried rice into large bowl.
  4. Reheat the same pan and, again, add olive oil when ready. Crack in eggs and fry for a few minutes until yolks are just set.
  5. Serve in individual bowls, each with a fried egg on top! I, personally, like an additional drizzle of sesame oil, and sometimes a drizzle of soy sauce. Experiment with tasty toppings of your own (additional scallion or sesame seeds, sliced seasoned seaweed, bean sprouts). Also, once you get the recipe down, you'll know how to play with the proportions to use up whatever amount of leftover rice you might have.
  6. *This intensifies the kimchi flavor, but you can replace with soy sauce for a less spicy, or less kimchi-fied version.

Home Update!

Where to Eat in Times Square, Part Deux