I suppose many of you will agree that fried rice is one of the most extraordinary dishes in the world. Whatever we use as ingredients, it always ends up, miraculously, as a flavoursome meal. I am often surprised how good it is compared to some “standard” preparations, where I follow the recipe and respect the ingredients’ list. Naturally, when I learnt about fried rice with kimchi, I had to test this Korean version of fried rice.
For those who haven’t heard about kimchi or haven’t read my previous posts, kimchi (김치) is a very ancient Korean preparation of seasoned fermented vegetables. According to Wikipedia the oldest references to kimchi go back as far as 3000 years ago. Apart from the chili, garlic, ginger and scallions are the most frequent ingredients of the most popular, fiery kimchi version. Kimchi has a very powerful smell, but once you taste it and love it, the smell will never be associated with anything unpleasant. It is spicy, hot, sour and, like most fermented vegetable preparations, very healthy. High in fiber, low in calories and fat, it is packed with vitamin C (thanks to the fermentation) and carotene. It also contains several other vitamins, helps digestion, is said to prevent certain cancers… In short: it’s a wonder food. Its importance in the Korean cuisine cannot be compared to anything in any European food culture I know. It is not only eaten as a side dish, but also put into warm dishes, for example… fried rice.
Kimchi can be made with different vegetables, but the most popular are white radish (daikon) and Chinese (Napa) cabbage kimchi. Until now I have experimented with both (Kkakdugi 깍두기, or Cubed Radish Kimchi, and Mak Kimchi, or Easy Chinese Cabbage Kimchi). Mature and well fermented Chinese cabbage kimchi is the one used in warm dishes, so I waited for its flavours to develop and decided to combine it with fried rice.
Since it was my first attempt to use kimchi this way, I decided, exceptionally, to follow a precise recipe. I have chosen Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokkeum Bap) with Bacon found on Hyosun Ro’s Eating and Living. It was easy, quick, convenient and tasted heavenly. The most surprising part was that the complexity of flavours created by the ripe, well fermented kimchi. It was difficult to believe that soy sauce and chili paste were the only seasonings. Thank you, Hyosun Ro, for introducing me to this amazing version of fried rice.
I have respected the recipe, but changed a bit the proportions, added some frozen peas I often mix with rice and substituted bacon with smoked pork loin. I have also skipped gochujang because I didn’t feel like very hot dishes (my kimchi was quite hot).
TIP: As Hyosun Ro advises, the previous day rice is the best here. If slightly microwaved, it breaks easily into grains during the frying process.
Preparation: 20 minutes
Ingredients (serves two):
about 200 g (1 cup) cooked short grain rice (I used the Japanese rice)
1 onion (sliced)
1 small carrot julienned or diced
about 100 g bacon, diced (or other smoked pork cut; I used smoked pork loin)
8 heaped tablespoons Chinese cabbage kimchi, drained and cut into bite-sized pieces
(5-6 tablespoons frozen peas)
4 tablespoons juice from kimchi
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean chili paste)
1-2 tablespoons canola oil (to fry)
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
Heat some canola oil in the pan and fry the bacon (do not brown it).
(You can remove the fat if the bacon rendered too much of it).
Add onion, kimchi, gochujang and carrot.
Stir-fry for about 5 minutes.
(If using, add the frozen peas and stir-fry for two minutes).
Add the rice, the soy sauce and the kimchi juice.
Stir-fry for another 5 minutes scrapping the delicious browned parts that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Combine with sesame oil just before serving and serve with chopped green onion (optional).