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Kimchi: It’s What’s for Breakfast

January 22, 2012

Wake up and smell the fermenting cabbage. If that doesn’t shake you from your slumber, go ahead and make a cup of coffee.

But in all seriousness, kimchi fried rice would make a splendid morning meal. You know, if your spouse wasn’t dead set against the stuff. However, despite her protestations, I have a nice little corner of the refrigerator where a giant half-gallon tub of the stuff now resides. And on the lid of that tub sits my new favorite Korean condiment, gochujang.

I don’t know why people get obsessed with kimchi fried rice, but I do know that I have joined their ranks. Maybe it’s the colors, the deep yellow yolk that runs over the red-pepper-burnished rice. Or perhaps it’s the contrast of textures, from the crunchy bits of well-seared rice, to the slippery egg and the snap of the cabbage. It could simply be that the dish is just so damn easy to make, and just so damn delicious.

If you’ve been following my tweets, you may have noticed that I’ve been enjoying this dish a lot over the past few weeks. I’ve been making it for lunch, because that’s the meal I can cook just for myself, without having to consider anyone else’s preferences.

My lifelong friend ADS noticed, and he wanted to know how to make it. I’m happy to oblige.

That’s the nice thing about having a friend with a food blog. If you want a recipe, all you do is call, and the next day there’s a post on the subject burned into the Internet forever. Whenever you want to reference it, the recipe is just two clicks away.

We live in interesting times.

Before I can give a recipe regarding anything remotely Korean, I need to offer these words of warning. I know virtually nothing about Korean food, cooking, flavors, or preparations. Although I am learning.

As a result, I make kimchi fried rice fast and loose. That means it’s more about throwing things into a pan than sticking to a recipe. It’s never quite the same thing twice, and I’m okay with that. Mostly because despite how I make it, the dish maintains the same basic flavor profile. After all, it only contains a few ingredients.

It consists of old rice, onions, fermented cabbage, red pepper paste, oil, garlic, and an egg.

First I preheat a large well-seasoned cast iron skillet on the stove.
I drizzle in some of my favorite Lion & Globe peanut oil and crank the heat to high.
Then I toss in some sliced onions and sauté until clear.
In goes a bit of thinly sliced garlic, followed in seconds by an avalanche of old brown rice.
Here I often drizzle a bit more peanut oil over the rice.
Toss the rice with the oil, onions and garlic.
Remember the crispy burnt bits are the best so cook the hell out of it.
Toss a heaping spoonful of gochujang (level 3: medium spicy) onto the rice, and mix it in.
Throw in thinly sliced and drained kimchi.
Mix it up, heat it through, and put the pan aside.

Fry an egg however you like, so that the white is set and the yolk is runny.

Drizzle the fried rice with a hint of toasted sesame oil, and turn it into your warmed bowl, scraping up every last crispy bit of rice you can find. I like to sprinkle the whole thing with sesame seeds before I crown the dish with its egg.

Breaking the yolk open and mixing the egg into your hot steaming bowl of rice is one of life’s great pleasures.

Yes, you will likely need to make a trip to your local Asian market to find a jar of the gochujang. Look carefully at the ingredients on the label. Some are filled with junk, while others are a bit more wholesome. I’m quite happy with mine, and have been coming up with new uses for it. Just recently I tossed it with some bow tie pasta, and that too was delicious. Although next time I may look for a spiciness rating of level 4, since I do enjoy more assertively spiced preparations.

So after breakfast today, maybe you can get to the store and buy some. You might need to get kimchi as well. But if you have these items in your house, by this time next week, you should be chowing down on one of the tastiest rice-based breakfasts I know.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2012 11:33 am

    You might like Mingle on Delaware Ave in Albany.

  2. January 22, 2012 11:47 am

    Green onion and butter. Trust me.

  3. ADS permalink
    January 22, 2012 3:38 pm

    I am unclear on “thinly sliced kimchi”. Are you describing something like this http://www2.worldpub.net/images/saveurmag/635-thinly-sliced-radish-kimchi175.jpg – like a juliene or more like just ensuring that no single piece is too big?

    • January 22, 2012 4:20 pm

      Kimchi is slippery stuff. If you can julienne it quickly and safely, more power to you. I think it would be a lot of fun to have the cabbage more thoroughly integrated into the dish. But you don’t have to work that hard. Cutting it into strips that are thinner than your pinky width is totally sufficient. And I’m sure that if you’re in a hurry, you can just throw in a handful of cabbage from the kimchi jar, sauce and all. As I mentioned, this is a very flexible dish. Enjoy it.

  4. Matt K permalink
    January 22, 2012 10:32 pm

    This sounds pretty much like you’re making Bim Bim Bop. A dish I loved in Pittsburgh, but haven’t seen it up here in the Capital Region. Any good Korean places you know about?

    • January 23, 2012 8:27 pm

      I used to live in da Burgh… I miss my fried Jumbo sandwiches from Primanti’s.

  5. January 23, 2012 8:25 pm

    My love for Kimchee knows no bounds!!! I get mine usually from a market on Troy Schenectady Rd near the traffic circle. Do you have a favorite place for buying kimchee? I used to get amazing kimchee pancakes at a Korean restaurant in Camp Hill, PA. Miss that place!

  6. Josh K permalink
    January 30, 2012 5:52 pm

    Living in Pohang, South Korea for over two years, I became a Kimchi junkie.

    Kimchi Jiggae (Kimchi soup) is bachelor food in Korea and what most eat for breakfast. That or they serve up some seaweed or miso style soup with kimchi and a bowl of rice on the side. Kimchi bokeumbap (their version of fried rice where the egg is cracked over at the end and heated up on the actual plate or hot pot) is also delicious.

    Would love to have a restaurant here do up a proper Korean breakfast (or any authentic Korean food for that matter)

    Have been on the lookout for a long time…Some have tried, none have succeeded around here or almost anywhere in the U.S. outside of Los Angeles.

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