Kimchi (Korean fermented spicy vegetables) is known by us, foreigners, almost exclusively in its raw form, served as a cold side dish. Its use in warm dishes is less popular abroad and is not very tempting for some people. The first time I prepared Kimchi Fried Rice I realised that this kimchi has much more to offer than I had thought and its addition to leftover rice has become my regular trick to make this humble dish delicious and complex in just one gesture. With this soup I feel I have discovered a big new chapter of the kimchi possibilities. Just like in the case of fried rice, kimchi has released here complex flavours and aromas, giving a certain illusion of robustness to this evidently light and healthy dish. Unlike in fried rice, here kimchi mellows and loses some of its power, just enough to enchant even those who find raw kimchi too violent. It may sound strange, but there is something evidently comforting and homely about this soup, so exotic in appearance.
The original recipe comes from Growing Up In a Korean Kitchen by Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall, a fascinating book full of food-related childhood memories and homely Korean recipes, some of which are all but “tourist pleasers”. Apart from the famous dishes, I was glad to discover some interesting recipes most Korean cooking sources don’t mention. My first choice went to kimchi soup mainly because I had all the ingredients and because I have been tempted by the concept of a kimchi soup for quite a long time.
I have slightly modified the recipe. First of all, I jumped on the author’s suggestion and used chicken instead of pork. Apart from minor changes in ingredients’ amounts and procedures, my boldest step was to transform this soup into a one-pot meal, substituting tofu with potatoes. I can only hope my Korean visitors will forgive me and still allow me to call it “kimchi soup”. For the real kimchi soup recipe, I encourage you to buy the very special Growing Up In a Korean Kitchen.
If you wish to try kimchi in fried rice, here is a very simple adjustable recipe:
If you feel like making kimchi yourself, here are some options, all very easy to prepare:
TIPS: The best kimchi to use here (or in kimchi fried rice) is well matured, strong kimchi, so it’s also a good way to use up kimchi leftovers.
I strongly advise here home-made chicken stock or at least good quality, natural stock (no taste enhancers, etc.).
If you wish a stronger, hotter soup, add 5-6 tablespoons of kimchi liquid.
Freshly squeezed ginger juice can be obtained by grating ginger and then squeezing the grated pulp (the below 1/2 teaspoon required about 1 cm fresh ginger).
Preparation: about 30 minutes
Ingredients (serves 2-3 as a main dish):
1 chicken breast
2 big potatoes peeled and cut into 2 cm/0,8 in cubes
7 heaped tablespoons Napa cabbage kimchi (cut into 1cm/about 1/2 inch pieces)
(5-6 tablespoons kimchi juice, if you want to obtain a stronger soup)
1 litre chicken stock
5 big shiitake mushrooms (fresh), sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
white part of 1 green onion, chopped
3 oz/ 85 g soybean sprouts (I have skipped them in the batch you see above, but they were marked as optional in the book)
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon rice wine (I used sake)
1 small clove garlic, crushed
a white part of green onion, very finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger juice (see above)
1/2 teaspoon sugar or syrup
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
salt, freshly ground pepper
Cut the chicken breast into thin, short ribbons.
Combine the marinade ingredients and mix them with chicken pieces.
In the meantime heat one tablespoon oil in a big pan.
Fry the garlic cloves and mushrooms for a couple of minutes.
Add the stock, the chicken, the potatoes, the kimchi (and kimchi juice if you opt for a stronger soup) and cook at medium heat until the potatoes are soft.
Add the chopped white onion, salt, pepper and cook for 5 more minutes.
Serve with fresh green onion or chives, or just the way it is.