One of the greatest dishes throughout Asia is fried rice. I'm a huge fan of rice, in all its guises but none more so than fried! Born out of a need to use up the previous night's leftover rice, fried rice became a staple as a morning dish throughout Asia. Most Asian countries boast a tasty fried rice dish. Some of my favourites include a simple egg fried rice or a fried rice with salt fish from China, the tasty Vietnamese fried rice with shrimp and sweet sausage. The Laoatian fried rice cake salad Nam Khao is an absolute dream! Lastly, how can I look past the mighty nasi goring from Indonesia and Malaysia? It's one of my all time favourite foods period. But the one I find the most intoxicating and the one I find myself thinking about all-the-time is Korean kimchi fried rice (Kimchi Bokkeumbap).
What is kimchi?
If you're not already familiar with this beloved Korean staple, kimchi is a fermented vegetable condiment - preserved in chilli and salt. Usually cabbage or radish, kimchi is found in every house in every town and city in Korea. It's like salt & pepper. There are literally hundreds of varieties available, and every mother, auntie and grandmother has their one secret kimchi recipe.
The magic happens when the vegetable is fermented over time in the Korean chilli, salt and other ingredients. It's left for months at a time to develop in flavour and bacteria which aids the fermentation. Kimchi is a low calorie, healthy food, rich in antioxidants and is said to help with cancer prevention and ageing amongst other things. Learn more about this superfood here.
Kimchi is present at most Korean tables and served in many different guises. It looks pretty scary to the unknowing eye with its vibrant red hues - you would assume it will blow every vein in your body with spice, but the truth is that most kimchi are pretty fragrant over spicy. Sure there are varieties that ARE volcanic, but for the most part, you'll experience the spice, but in a much more fragrant, rounded way.
I buy store bought kimchi (haven't yet ventured into homemade) and will check the container to see its spice level. Sometimes I buy milk, other times hot. This recipe uses mild.
Leftover Rice; the perfect partner to kimchi
The key to this Korean fried rice recipe is not only the kimchi, but the leftover rice. Rice that has cooled and dried out a little is perfect for absorbing the sauce without just turning into mush. I will never really have leftover rice because I'm greedy, so I will purposely make a pan of rice the night before and when its cooked, spread onto a baking sheet, cover and refrigerate until I need it. I'll also order a couple extra portions when ordering Asian food and force myself not to eat it.
Kimchi bacon fried rice - I think you'll love it.
Often, kimchi fried rice comes with a salty element, like Korean sausage or Spam (they LOVE kimchi fried rice in Hawaii) and bacon! Who doesn't love bacon?! For my recipe I like to use salt pork - it has ALL the saltiness of bacon without the smoky flavour which is what I want for the dish - I don't want the bacon to take over, more just to enhance the saltiness of my version of Korean kimchi fried rice. And let me tell you, it works an absolute dream! If you can't get hold of salt pork (I buy mine at Walmart) you can of course use slab bacon or just regular bacon. See my Kimchi fried rice - youtube video below to see how I maximise all the flavours.
Quick and easy fried rice
Kimchi fried rice is simple to put together - there are few ingredients and the whole dish is done before you know it. One great ingredient I haven't mentioned yet is Gochujang - Korean chilli paste. It's available from most supermarkets these days and while not totally essential, adds another level of authentic Korean flavour to this bokkeumbap recipe. Again, not off the chart spicy, more rounded and lightly sweet - it's completely addictive.
Serving suggestions and substitutes - gotta have a fried egg!
We can't really substitute the kimchi in this recipe, but should you not be able to get hold of any, but you DO have a tub of Gochujang chilli paste, then simply, combine some cabbage with that and you've got a quick fix kimchi - more of a Gochujang fried rice, but still utterly delicious.
One essential in my opinion (in fact, in most people's opinion) is a fried egg. I will never be mad at a fried egg, and a fried rice is nothin without one. I demand on whenever I have fried rice and am very sad if one is not forthcoming. I love to leave mine in for a little longer than usual to ensure it gets a really crispy bottom, while still having a runny yolk. The yolk runs into the rice and it's the best part of eating any fried rice! I'm tearing up!
How to make Kimchi Fried Rice
- 1/2 cup salt pork (cut into dice) (or use 4-5 rashers bacon)
- ½ onion (medium, diced)
- 1 tbsp ginger (chopped)
- 1 tbsp garlic (chopped)
- 2 cups kimchi (Napa cabbage variety) (roughly chopped)
- 3 cups cooked rice (left to cool completely - day old is best)
- 1 tbsp Gochujang (Korean chilli paste)
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 3 spring onion (sliced, for garnish)
- fried eggs (not really optional!)
- nigella seeds (for sprinkling)
- Add the salt pork/bacon to a large dry frying pan and bring it to a medium high heat. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes to brown and render out the fat.
- Remove the salt pork and if there's a lot of fat, pour out until you have about 2-3 tbsp left.
- Add the onion, ginger and garlic and fry for about 2-3 minutes until browned.
- Tip in the kimchi, followed by the cooked rice and stir fry to combine for about 1-2 minutes.
- If you had any kimchi juice, pour in about 1/2 cup, followed by the Gochujang. Stir this into the rice to combine everything.
- Return the salt pork to the pan and season with the soy sauce, stir well.
- Flatten the rice over the surface and let it cook for abour 3 minutes over a medium heat to get a little crispy on the bottom, being careful not to burn. Stir the rice and repeat this process, letting it cook for a further 1 minute.
- Stir the rice one more time and that's it! You're (almost) ready to serve.
- Optional: Fry an egg for each person without turning. Let it get nice and crispy on the bottom. Drain on a paper towel.
- Spoon a portion of the rice onto a plate and top with a fried egg and a sprinkling of spring onions. Give the egg a little sprinkle of Nigella seeds and you're ready to eat!
Nutrition (per serving)
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