If you’re not yet sure about kimchi (Korean spicy fermented cabbage), this dish could be just the right gateway drug for you. Once sautéed, kimchi loses some of its pungent harshness, but answers back with an addictive, tangy-spicy warmth that deepens with a little time spent sizzling.
Kimchi is so flavorful, it makes the perfect fried rice base. No need to mix in egg or smother it with soy sauce. You could probably dispense with every other ingredient; all you really need is kimchi, rice, and heat. It would still taste so good.
This recipe has a little more than that going for it, though. I based it off a recipe I found in a discount Japanese cookbook, of all places (from a series that a friend and I have dubbed "bookazines"), and modified it to be more like dishes I’ve enjoyed in restaurants in Korea. I added gochujang (Korean chili paste), sesame oil, and a fried egg on top (because few dishes are not improved by a fried egg!).
For the fried rice in the photo, I opted for shrimp, but I’ve also made it with chicken before (and pork would work, too). Or leave the protein out entirely. Like I said, all you really need is kimchi, rice, and heat to make this spicy, tangy comfort food.
As Allison (Spontaneous Tomato) suggests, this recipe is fine without the addition of meat. I made a vegetarian version, using a kimchi without seafood, and it is a satisfying, tasty dish -- comfort food for those of us who turn to warm bowls of rice in those times of need. While I would scale back the amount of sesame oil (for me a full teaspoon verges on bitter), what really makes the dish is the garnish of seaweed, egg, and green onion, which for me aren't optional. I can see many chilly winter mornings with a nice, steamy bowl of this for breakfast. —vvvanessa
canola or vegetable oil (up to 2 tablespoons)
chicken or pork (cut into bite-size), or shrimp, optional
scallions, whites only, finely sliced (up to 2 scallions)
kimchi, chopped (up to 1 1/2 cups)
gochujang (Korean chili paste, up to 2 tablespoons)
cooked rice (up to 4 cups)
salt, to taste
buchu (Korean garlic chives; called nira in Japanese), chopped in inch-long pieces
Heat canola or vegetable oil in a large, deep frying pan over high heat. Then add chicken, pork, or raw shrimp (if using) and cook, stirring frequently, for several minutes until the meat changes color and begins to look nearly cooked. Add more oil if necessary.
Add the scallion whites, and cook while stirring for 1 to 2 minutes. Next add kimchi and gochujang, and cook while stirring for 3 to 5 minutes until the kimchi starts to get soft. (If using pre-cooked shrimp, add now, and stir to coat with kimchi flavors.)
Add the rice, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Then mix well until the rice is coated with the kimchi. (You can always add a little bit of the briny liquid from the kimchi jar if it seems like there’s not enough color or spice for all of your rice!)
Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for just a few more minutes until the rice is warmed through. Add the garlic chives in the last minute of cooking, and stir well until they start to wilt. Season with salt, to taste.
Serve topped with a fried egg and sprinkled with scallions or shredded seaweed.