Kimchi fried rice is the quintessential comfort food of Korea. For me, this dish has so many memories and people associated with it. I usually make it when there is not much left to cook anything with or I get lazy and just want to cook some simple food. When I make it, I use the biggest pan I have in my kitchen, a 14-inch nonstick pan because my husband almost always heads back to the kitchen with his emptied bowl for the second refill saying, “man…this is so good. Can I take it to the office for lunch tomorrow?”
Nobody knows who came up with this idea of stir frying left over cold rice and over-ripened Kimchi but, in some ways, the two ingredients make perfect sense. Both are in the kitchen 24/7, steamed rice in an electric rice cooker with “keep warm” mode and Kimchi in the refrigerator.
As a typical Korean, my refrigerator is always filled with 2 or 3 different types of Kimchi. In fact, I have a small refrigerator salvaged from an office closing down and that is my Kimchi refrigerator. It’s a perfect way to use up leftover food and create homey comfort food.
There are two additional ingredients I always cook kimchi fried rice with: bacon and butter. The pungent acidic flavor and crunchy texture of Kimchi go very well with pork. You will find that a lot of Korean foods made with Kimchi also have pork belly, pork butt, bacon, or pork sausage. Butter is the ingredient I add to the dish as a finishing touch. It makes the rice look as shiny as your grandma’s silk hanbok and tastes..ummm..everything that butter is supposed to. (I am sure you know what I mean.)
If you’re a vegetarian, skip the bacon and use tofu instead. Stir fry small pieces of tofu and rice with any type of oil you like. You may want to add other vegetables as well. Peppers, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus, zucchini, or peas are good choices.
Ingredients (Makes 2 portions)
3 strips Bacon, cut into strips about ¼ inch lengths.
1/3 cup Yellow onion, chopped
1 cup Red Napa cabbage Kimchi, drained and chopped with juice saved.
2 cups Steamed white short grain rice, chilled in refrigerator
2 Tbsp Canola or vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
½ Tbsp Butter
2 Eggs cooked sunny side up (Optional)
2 Tbsp Green onion, sliced thin (Optional)
1. Cook bacon in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes until golden brown. Take out bacon from the pan and set aside on a paper towel but leave bacon fat in the pan.
2. In the same pan with bacon fat in it, add the yellow onion and Kimchi. Sauté until the onion becomes translucent and Kimchi is somewhat sweated out for about 3-4 minutes.
3. Add rice in the pan and try to break the lump of rice with an up and down motion using a flat wooden spoon or spatula then stir for about 5 minutes. If the pan gets too dry from rice soaking up the oil, add canola oil or vegetable oil about one tablespoon at a time as you stir fry the mixture of rice, yellow onion, and Kimchi. If you like a stronger Kimchi flavor, add Kimchi juice a tablespoon at a time as you continue to stir fry.
4. Take pan off the heat, add bacon and butter, and mix well
6. Transfer rice to a serving platter, put a cooked egg on top, and sprinkle with green onion before serving.
IMPORTANT Don’t try to make kimchi fried rice with hot or warm rice. It will turn out incredibly mushy. Use only cold or at least slightly chilled rice.