Why Hello there, and Welcome to Kitchen Catastrophes, where one man, utterly incapable of comprehending calendars, blunders through life without dates. I’m your inept but innuendo-inundated author, Jon O’Guin, and today, we’re tackling a simple dish. Really more of a culinary canvas. As such, if you want to jump straight to painting, here’s the link to the recipe. For the rest of us, let’s discuss Kimchi Fried Rice.
Before we do, an apology of sorts; I mentioned the lack of calendars in the opening paragraph because, while it is now summer, (thanks to the turning of the solstice last week) in my neck of the woods, you might not have KNOWN that. While we had a brief heat wave a few weeks ago, the last week has had several drab and cloudy days, and even some standard half-committed Washington rain. As such, the idea of it truly being “summer” has not been forefront in my mind, so I missed that the biggest grilling day in America, the 4th of July, is quickly approaching. I noted this last week, and said I’d try and get something together by today, but…no luck. I saw a play Thursday night, teched a play Friday night, and spent 9 hours Saturday in a car and 6 in another state, so I did not get any cooking done. Don’t worry, we have…machinations…in the works that will get you some grill fodder soon enough. So let’s set that aside for now till it comes to room temp, and focus on today’s dish, Kimchi Fried Rice, or bokkeumbap.
Who Put the Bap in the Bap-Shoo-Bap-Shoo-Bap?
The Sixties was a…strange time in music. Rock and Roll was just getting established, so quite a few acts asked “But what if we just made nonsense sounds?” Consider the case of Wooly Bully.
A Song whose performers somehow became WORSE ethnic stereotypes as the decades progressed.
A 1965 number 2 hit with no lyrical coherence, named after the lead singer’s cat, and changing the tempo to a previously written song called “Hully Gully Now”, which was the name of a dance.
Moving on, since I’m not actually here to talk about the 60’s rock scene (which I was only briefly involved in, due to a witch’s curse) I’m here to talk about Bokkeum-bap. A word I have very little idea how to pronounce, so FUCK you, Jon Who Has To Read This For the Patreon Supporters! Mangle another proud nation’s beautiful linguistics with your dumb tongue! What was I saying? Sorry, I’m a little loopy. As I just noted, lot of travel yesterday, and also a fair amount of alcohol. (Like, 4 drinks over the course of the day. But when you don’t eat a lot that day, and spend a fair bit of it in a warm car on bumpy roads, 4 drinks feels like a lot more.)
Anywho, as we addressed back in the post about Bibimbap, “Bap” is just the Korean word for cooked rice. Bokkeum, as it turns out, is Korean for “(stir) fried” (as opposed to deep fried). Bokkeum-bap is therefore simply “fried rice”. AS with English, it’s common to add the primary ingredient (a protein, or distinct flavoring) before the compound. For example, Chicken Fried Rice would be Dak-bokkeum-bap, and Kimchi Fried Rice would be kimchi-bokkeum-bap, since, you know, Kimchi is their word.
I was going to use a joke here about “that’s our word”, but, uh, it turns out the Google image search of that phrase is a dumpster fire. So enjoy this Korean Park instead.
Bokkeum-bap is, reportedly, a popular addition at the end of an evening of at a Korean Barbecue restaurant. If you’re unaware, a majority of Korean barbecue restaurants have grills built into the tables, where customers order their meats, and either cook the meat themselves on the grill, or have staff do so right in front of them, in a sort of Benihana-hibachi meets South African Grilling shack set-up. After cooking and eating much of the meat, you ask your server to “please fry some rice”, to put together an additional meal of the remaining meat.
Whether or not that’s true, I have to tell you that making this recipe of Kimchi-Fried-Rice, as most fried rice is, pretty much a breeze. I made 3 servings, by myself, no help, inside of 30 minutes on the first try. But, before we tackle the dish as a whole, we have to hit the main event. Because we’ve never actually talked about what exactly Kimchi IS on the site.
No, it’s not what gets re-aligned when White Girls Do Yoga
Kimchi is Korea’s fermented vegetable side of choice. It’s a noun, a verb, and some would argue, a way of life. Or, to strip it down to something you’re a little more likely to understand: it’s basically the Korean version of sauerkraut. Specifically, Korean’s climate makes it easy to grow vegetables during the spring and summer, but winters can be fairly harsh. As such, they took to storing vegetables in salt in pots to help them keep through the winter. This naturally leached out liquids, creating simple brines that cured the vegetables. And that’s where Germany stopped. “Oh, cool, our cabbage brines itself and gets tangy, neat.” Korea eventually went “This is nice, but I wish it had a little more heat”, and so they added chili powder or paste to it. And that explains the basic, common color of kimchi: a sort of subdued red.
It looks kind of like someone tried to make potato salad with salsa instead of mayo.
Because it’s fermented veggies, it’s having a heyday now as a probiotic food source. And since, as noted, it’s both the verb AND the noun, you can experiment with Kimchi-ing various different veggies to see what happens. Normally, Kimchi is cabbage-based, but kimchi carrots, radishes, kale, all are possible. This batch I’m using is actually radishes, because we used up our cabbage container. One quick word of warning: a lot of traditional kimchi is NOT strictly vegetarian or vegan, as the paste used to brine the vegetables often contains salted, cured, or even raw seafood. Shrimp pastes, whole oysters, etc. This is to help add complex flavors, and foster specific microorganisms in the fermentation process.
But most of that can wait for another day (probably one fairly soon: I’ve HAD a fermenting jar for like, a year and a half now, I just haven’t put in the effort to fill it yet.). Today, we’re focusing on its use in this dish.
Dishing on the Chi
Kimchi is both a primary point of texture for this dish, as well as a component of the sauce. And holy fuck, it’s 3 AM, I have to go to sleep.
I obviously can’t take pictures of myself sleeping, so instead, here’s a sneak peek into an upcoming sticky situation.
Morning Jon Here: so, as I was saying, Kimchi’s a primary point of texture for this dish (the core recipe is, in essence, just Kimchi, Rice, sauce, and egg), and a component of the sauce. How does this too-too solid radish do that? By CRUSHING.
As part of the brining and fermenting process, the vegetables end up changing how they store water. They become, in essence, a little more like sponges, where the liquid permeates them, but is not OF them. So after chopping up the radishes to more bite-sized pieces, you squeeze them to remove brine. Do so over a measuring cup, as you’ll want ¼ of a cup of the brine to form the base of the sauce. With my radish Kimchi, that actually used more liquid than the ¾ cup kimchi the recipe called for could produce, so I had to squeeze a little more and add it.
the murky depths of saucy success
Kimchi juice in a cup, you then add soy sauce and gochujang, the Korean Spice Paste that goes with everything, supposedly, and a prime reason my family enjoys Korean food so much. Gochujang is very sticky, and without coating your tools or hands in oil first, is a bit of a bitch to get into the bowl. Stir that all together, and you’ve got your sauce for later. Quick stirring tip: over the years, I’ve found that stirring against the sides of a bowl is a fool’s errand unless your bowl is much larger than what you’re making. Too often, forcing the liquid or powder against the side causes a spurt of pressure that forces it up and over the edge of the bowl. So while it might not feel as effective, stirring mostly in the center of the dish, and taking slower scrapes around the edges to incorporate is the cleaner way.
Once your sauce is prepped, you’ll also have your kimchi!
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
By which I MEEEEAAAN, IT’S GREEN, AND RED.
This is, as noted, radish kimchi, so it’s much chunkier than normal kimchi, which is like, cabbage leaves. It’s got nice tang, a bit of spice, and is overall a real fun dish once you become accustomed to fermented flavors. (maybe that should be Thursday’s post: a guide to eating fermented foods) And in the original recipe, it’s the ONLY thing other than some magic onions that goes into this other than the sauce and rice. I say “magic onions” because they are NOT listed in the actual ingredients, but just suddenly show up in the steps. “Add kimchi and green onion to the pan, adding the white parts first”, the recipe says, as if it had asked me at any point to dice green onions. Now, I chose not to dice green onion for this recipe, because as it turns out, we don’t have any. We used up all our green onion previously. Can’t use what you don’t have. So instead, we added ham.
The one downside to cooking in two pans entirely on my own is the timing for my pictures is just utterly atrocious.
Ham is, of course, not very much like green onion, but this is where we get into the idea that the recipe I’m giving you is a canvas: fried rice is, at its core, just rice and sauce fried with whatever you want. And my family likes pork in our fried rice, but didn’t feel like springing for barbecue pork to cut up, so we bought a ham steak and cut it up. If you want to keep the meal vegetarian, don’t add ham, and just rely on the fried egg we add later for protein. Or add tofu. Or make it vegan, and take OUT the eggs, but add tofu. Whatever works for you.
The last ingredients you’ll need is actually the one you needed to start first, because of course it is, did you really think we’d get THIS deep in without some kind of twist or confusion? Luckily, it’s super easy. You need pre-cooked rice. For complicated reasons to do with moisture, the best fried rice is made with rice cooked at least a day ahead of time. You want it rehydrated, and then partly re-de-hydrated, so it absorbs the oil and flavor better without a weird texture. The batch we used here is the O’Guin Family Six Day Rice Recipe.
I’m really just kind of mixing and matching pictures of the same 3 things.
The Six Day Rice Recipe is: make a normal batch of rice, planning to use it the next day, and then leave it in a sealed container in the fridge for six days, because you’re bad at time management and planning. Also, don’t make the right AMOUNT of rice, because, again, you’re bad at planning so you were running out of rice. The point is that rice is made, cooled, and allowed to dry a little before you use it.
And, since I brushed over it before, it’s important to remember that all stir-fries are just very short “dump recipes”, as I call a wide array of foods. The process of making a dump recipe such as fried rice is “heat a pan, dump in the ingredients that cook longest. Then the ingredients that cook a little less. Repeat the last step until no ingredients remain. Cook to completion, and serve.” In this case, the tiers are
-Kimchi and onions/ham (to open up these ingredients’ flavor, and lay some of it into the oil that will cook the rest of the ingredients.
-Rice and some additional flavored oil
Each step cooks for 3-5 minutes on its own, and then the next step is stirred in. It’s actually super easy to see why Asian restaurants love stir-fries, because once you have the mise en place established (all the ingredients are pre-cut and roughly proportioned, which is standard in a commercial kitchen), it’s a task that’s very easy to do pretty well. And that’s what today’s recipe produced: a pretty good fried rice.
As with most of my successes, I immediately tried to cover it up and bury it beneath eggs.
We topped ours with sunny side up eggs, because I had no time to flip the frying eggs, so I just cooked them until they set, then dropped the heat on the pan to low until I finished the rice. And the result was pretty good. I’ll say that, in my opinion, it wants something more. Perhaps I should have let the rice cook a little longer, to get a kind of crunch (in actuality, I used too much sauce. The sauce proportion I used was for 4 cups of white rice, and I had about 3.) and probably some more vegetables would have punched it up. Some kind of dark leafy green, or maybe a half-cup of frozen peas and carrots. As it was, the ham and kimchi were too visually similar to the rice, meaning it was a somewhat bland-looking mass. Flavor wise, it was pretty good, but it needed some more variations in texture to really land, and maybe a drizzle more of sauce. Despite being built on kimchi and gochujang, it’s not actually very spicy. It’s warm, rich, and a very respectable first try for fried rice.
If you want to help me afford more of that ever-expensive rice, consider supporting us via Patreon. Or simply share our content on social media. You can check out our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for various reactions, pictures of what I’m eating, pet photos, and assorted other intel.
THURSDAY: LET’S DO THAT FERMENTED FOOD THING. THAT SOUNDS LIKE FUN.
MONDAY: I HAVE TWO IDEAS, BOTH BASED ON BARBECUE/GRILLING. SO IT’S EITHER BURGERS OR BARBECUE. WE’LL KNOW MORE BY THURSDAY.
Welcome to the
Kimchi Fried Rice
4 cups cooked and cooled rice
3 tbsp butter or vegetable oil
¾ cup kimchi, packed, coarsely chopped, squeezed of liquid before measuring
½ cup diced ham (optional)
¼ cup green onion, diced (optional)
¼ cup reserved kimchi liquid
1 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 tbsp gochujang
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
Nori Flakes, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Furikake, or other garnish
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter, or heat chosen oil until sizzling. In another skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil/butter over medium-low heat. As both pans heat, mix together the gochujang, soy sauce, and kimchi liquid until combined for later.
Once oil is heated, add the kimchi and green onion or ham if using, and cook for 3-5 minutes, until kimchi and other ingredients are starting to brown.
Add the rice, drizzling with sesame oil, and cook an additional 3-5 minutes, until rice is becoming toasted. AS the rice toasts, add the eggs into the other skillet, and fry until whites are set, but yolks are still mostly liquid. Then add the mixed gochujang-kimchi sauce, and stir together, and heat for another 3-5 minutes. Portion rice into bowls, and top with 1 fried egg per bowl.