Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cooking: Kimchi Fried Rice (김치볶음밥)

     Kimchi fried rice (김치볶음밥: gimchi bokumbap) is a dish that every Korean grew up eating, it's kind of like the mac and cheese or peanut butter and jelly of Korea. What I find interesting about it is that every Korean makes their version of it differently, and they are all right! This is easily one of the most forgiving and adaptable dishes in the world. It's next to impossible to get it wrong! As long as you're using kimchi and rice, anything else can be substituted, added, or subtracted and you will still end up with a delicious plate of fried rice.

     One of the fun things about Korean cooking is that there is usually no measurement, I've asked my mother-in-law how to make some of her amazing soups and sauces and am always given instructions like "some" of this, "a spoon" of that, "a little" of this, and so on. At first I was intimidated to try out this cooking style that didn't use cups and tablespoons, but after I while I realized that every time you make something you have a chance to change it how you like, and you won't miss all of the measuring. Keep this in mind when you follow my instructions, don't worry about exactly how much, just have fun!
     Okay here's what I used today. The must-have ingredient is some decent kimchi. I'm going to be using some from my giant container that's from my giant kimchi refrigerator, but you can use store bought kimchi as well, just be sure buy at least half a head of it, preferably uncut. The extra ingredients I decided to use today were some Paengi mushrooms (팽이버섯), bacon, eggs, and half of an onion. Why did I choose these? Mainly because I already had them sitting in my fridge. Remember that you can use whatever sounds good to you!

Ah yes, this cutting board will do...

Turns out it was way too small.
     My goal today was to make 4-5 portions of kimchi fried rice, so I used an entire small head of kimchi, I'd recommend using a similar amount and trying to make a similar amount as well. Fried rice will keep in the fridge for a while and you can nuke it up whenever you want. Of course you can make half as much too. It would be hard to make more since you'd have trouble fitting it all into the pan. Make sure that you cut the kimchi into pieces that are a little smaller than bite size, if it's too big then it won't mix with the rice well. My cutting board ended up being laughably small so keep in mind that the kimchi juice will spread. You'll want to add that juice to the pan as well.

I'm using a deep non-stick frying pan, but a regular one or a wok would work too.

     Here you can see that I've added all of my ingredients to the pan. It looks too full to add rice to it, but everything will cook down a lot. I'm using some thin sliced bacon so I don't need to worry about adding oil. Other meats that you can use are pork belly, pork shoulder, ground beef, chicken breast or thighs, or nothing if you'd like a vegetarian option. Just remember to add oil if you end up using a lean meat. I'm also using paengi mushrooms and a diced half of an onion. Other good vegetable add-ins are... anything really. I'm even thinking about using some kind of nuts next time as well, just as an experiment. HOW MUCH SHOULD I ADD? Remember that there is no real measurement needed. If you'd like to use a ratio however then I recommend 1:1 kimchi to other add-ins. Remember to use all of the juice from the kimchi!

It's cooked down to half of it's original size. Mushrooms will really shrink.

     You'll want to cook on high and stir regularly until everything comes together. For me this was when my bacon finished cooking since I added it in raw. If you like crispy bacon, or if you are using a different kind of meat then you'll want to cook the meat first before adding the kimchi and other things in. The bacon I was using was so thin that I figured it would be a good timer for how long to cook my mix. but once your kimchi starts to look bright and become pliable then it's done. Don't worry, it's impossible to overcook it, it shouldn't burn if you keep stirring and have a decent amount of oil.

Once your kimchi mixture is done, add your cooked rice. I added about 3-4 cups of slightly mixed grain rice. A good ratio would be 1:1 rice to mixture, but some people like 2:1 to take some of the heat off. At this point everything is "cooked" but it's not finished yet. make sure you mix that rice in until there is no white remaining. Secret ingredient: I added about one of my big wooden spoon's worth of sesame oil when I mixed the rice in. This will really kick your fried rice up a notch, straight into the flavorsphere.

     My fried rice was done at that point, but I like to add some scrambled eggs to the mix. Many people prefer to fry an egg and put it on top of the rice once it's served, and you can do that if you want instead. If you like scrambled eggs in your fried rice though, it's easy to do. Just push some rice out of the way, crack the eggs in the bottom of the pan, angle it over the heat, and scramble. Once the eggs are finished just lightly mix them into the rice. I used two eggs but I think for this much rice I should have used three.

     And here it is served on a nice dish. I garnished it with some dried seaweed (김), you could also garnish with some sliced green onion, or a fried egg like I mentioned before. The fried egg is probably the most well known garnish, but like I said everyone makes their kimchi fried rice differently so feel free to make yours however you want!

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