Monday, November 27, 2017

My Kimchi Quest: First Try and Kimchi Fried Rice

I've finally decided to get over my fear of fermentation, that nagging worry that I'm going to kill my family with a deadly bacteria, or at a minimum have glass shards and vinegary vegetables blown all over my kitchen. (Is it any wonder my superpower is coming up with the worst case scenario for any and all occasions?)

Korean kimchi crocks.

But with assurances from experienced friends that neither of those outcomes was likely, and with one quick experiment under my belt—a shrub, or drinking vinegar that my neighbor Bill shared with me—I've decided to tackle kimchi, the ubiquitous pickled and red-peppered cabbage dish found at every meal in Korea. My goal is to make a kimchi similar to the one I had as a foreign exchange student in that country, made by my host mother and stored in earthen crocks on the flat roof of her home.

Kimchi ingredients.

I've found a commercial one that's very reminscent of hers, the Napa Kimchi made by Choi's Kimchi, a local company that began when founder Chong Choi took his kimchi, which he'd been making for his family and sharing with his neighbors, to sell at the farmers' market. Starting with that profile, for my recipe search I decided to start slow, with a super simple recipe by Julia Moskin of the New York Times that she adapted from Tart and Sweet by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler.

While it worked like a charm—No death! No explosions!—and was quite delicious, it's not as spicy or quite as vinegary as my Korean mother's (or Choi's). So I'll keep looking for recipes that will measure up to those fond and drool-inducing memories.

Kimchi, and lots of it!

In the meantime, these experiments mean that I've got jars of the pickled, cabbagey Korean condiment resting comfortably in my fridge. Julia's recipe produced about three quarts or so of the stuff, and since my family isn't in the "let's have kimchi for every meal" groove, in order to clear space for the next batch I've had to come up with some creative uses for it.

This kimchi fried rice recipe is cobbled together from several online sources and is terrific all on its own or when combined with various proteins—think tofu, leftover chicken, even seared slices of beef. You can cook up the rice just for the recipe, but if you have leftover rice sitting in the fridge, I think it actually works better.

And I'll keep you updated on my quest for that kimchi of my dreams!

Kimchi Fried Rice

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 c. bacon, chopped
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped fine
2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
2 c. kimchi (with juice)
2 c. enoki mushrooms (or other mushrooms)
4 c. cooked jasmine rice
1-2 Tbsp. sesame oil, to taste
1 Tbsp. fish sauce, to taste
2 Tbsp. gochujang, to taste (available at Asian or specialty grocers)
Salt, to taste
4 eggs

In large skillet or wok, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add bacon and sauté until it starts to render its fat. Add onions and sauté till tender. Add garlic and stir to warm it, then add kimchi and mushrooms. Sauté until tender. Add rice and sesame oil and combine well. When it’s warm and starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, taste it for seasoning and add fish sauce and gochujang, as well as salt, if desired.

When ready to serve, fry eggs separately in a bit more vegetable oil, keeping yolks soft and runny. Put the fried rice in a bowl and top each serving with a fried egg (or two).

Serves four.

Photo of kimchi crocks (onggi) from Wikimedia.

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