Don’t be intimidated by the fiery red colour of Kimchi Fried Rice. It actually isn’t that spicy! But it’s certainly loaded with flavour, even more than its Chinese counterpart. It makes an excellent (essential) side dish for a Korean food night, or alongside any Asian food. And it’s a satisfying meal in itself!
Kimchi Fried Rice
Kimchi Fried Rice is as common in Korea as Chinese fried rice is in China. Every household makes it, and it’s a thrifty comfort dish that makes use of leftover cooked rice and kimchi from the fridge. Extra ingredients on hand are often added to keep things interesting.
This fiery-red Korean rice dish is more bark than bite! While it is full-flavoured, it is not nearly as blow-your-head-off-spicy as one might expect.
Though having said that, if spicy is your thing, it’s very simple to dial up the spicy factor until you go cross-eyed!
So what does Kimchi Fried Rice taste like? Well … Kimchi. 🙂 But more! The sauce for Kimchi Fried Rice is made with a combination of the juices from a jar of kimchi, plus gochujang, the Korean soy bean chilli paste commonly used in Korean cooking.
If you love fried rice, this is absolutely one for you to try. It’s one of the more intensely flavoured fried rice dishes, which is right up my alley. I am all for kapow flavours!
What goes in Kimchi Fried Rice
Here’s what you need to make Kimchi Fried Rice:
Kimchi – Kimchi is pickled and fermented cabbage, often spicy. It’s pretty widely availably these days even in everyday grocery stores, especially with the whole fermentation trend amongst the healthy food crowd.
Fashion aside, skip the boho-hipster kimchi brands and stick to a tried-and-true Korean one! Not all kimchi is created equal, so if you can get to an Asian store, even better. Typically the kimchi will be fresher, with better flavour. I am using Paldo brand in this recipe.
Rice – Use day-old cooked rice that’s been refrigerated. Or better yet, have you got a stash in the freezer? If not, WHY NOT?? Rice freezes perfectly and it’s a handy to have a stash ready to go. It’s an Asian thing. 😇
Struggling with how to cook rice? Here’s how I make it. A game-changer for anyone who has struggled to cook rice on the stove!
Type of rice – Any plain white rice works well for the most neutral flavour base, whether long, medium or short grain. Jasmine, basmati, brown and other rices with more flavour will also work just fine but will add their own distinct flavour to the dish.
Enoki mushrooms – While you’ll find every Korean household has their own standard inclusions for Kimchi Fried Rice (I’ve even heard of Spam ham being a regular!), enoki mushrooms is a fairly popular choice you often see at Korean restaurants. Substitutes are provided in the recipe card notes;
Gochujang – A soy bean-based Korean chilli paste that is packed with umami (savoury flavour), commonly used in Korean cooking for heat, flavour and its rich red colour. A dollop of this can save any (Asian) dish that you feel is missing “something” and it lasts almost forever in the fridge. It’s spicy, but we don’t use much, just 1 tablespoon.
Garlic – It would be an understatement to say Koreans love their garlic. Kimchi Fried Rice would never happen without it!
Sesame oil – Koreans also love sesame oil!
How to make Kimchi Fried Rice
Kimchi Fried Rice is flavoured with the juice of Kimchi plus a dab of gochujang for a extra kick of flavour. Really, don’t skip the gochujang. It would be like making Chinese Fried Rice without soy sauce. Just, no!
Part 1: Prep the kimchi
Extra juice from kimchi – Measure out 1 packed cup of kimchi, then either press through a sieve to extract as much juice as possible OR just grab handfuls and squeeze it out. I normally do the latter, but thought it would be more respectable to use a sieve for the purpose of sharing this recipe!
The purpose of this step is twofold – To extract the kimchi juice which we use as the sauce for the fried rice, and to remove water from the kimchi so the fried rice doesn’t go soggy;
Measure out 1/4 cup of kimchi juice. If you’re struggling to get this much out of the 1 cup of kimchi you measured, if you’re still short, steal some more out of the kimchi jar or squeeze more cabbage!
Chop kimchi into 2cm / ⅘” pieces – Not too fine, we want the chunks in the fried rice.
Part 2: Making the Kimchi Fried Rice
Cook enoki mushrooms – Most recipes will have you cook the enoki mushrooms with the rice. You get a better result by cooking it separately so it doesn’t go soggy, and nor does it get weighed down by too much of the rather intense Kimchi Fried Rice sauce.
I cook it in sesame oil and a little garlic for flavour;
Set aside – It takes barely a minute to start wilting in the pan. Then simply remove it to a plate;
Sauté garlic with gochujang – This takes the raw edge off the gochujang, and removes some of the excess water to keep the fried rice from going soggy. It also intensifies the gochujang flavour;
Cook kimchi – Next, we add the kimchi and cook it for a minute to drive off any excess moisture and warm it through. Kimchi does not need to be cooked, we just don’t want cold bits of kimchi in our fried rice!
Add kimchi juice;
Toss well – Toss the rice well to ensure all the flavours coat the rice evenly. You especially want to ensure the gochujang coating the kimchi goes through the rice;
Add enoki mushrooms back in, and toss through to disperse. You’re done!
Optional toppings: Fried egg & nori strips
If you’re serving Kimchi Fried Rice as a side dish for Korean mains, especially things that are a bit saucy, then it’s fine to serve it unadorned.
However, if you’re serving it as a meal, I definitely recommend topping it with a fried egg, sunny side up! This is a traditional topping for Kimchi Fried Rice, and the runny yolk essentially acts like a bit of sauce for the dish.
Other traditional garnishes that are more for visual effect than flavour include:
Crispy nori / dried seaweed strips – You can buy roasted, crispy nori seaweed in small packets which is just cut into little batons. Otherwise, just use normal nori or skip it. It’s really not a big part of the eating experience, it’s more for visual;
Green onions – Just finely sliced for a nice splash of fresh green colour; and
Black sesame seeds – The black colour pops against the red rice and the egg! But again, it’s not a big deal to skip it.
How to serve Kimchi Fried Rice
Ideas for serving Kimchi Fried Rice:
A side dish to all things Korean;
As a completed meal, topped with the egg;
Throw it together on the hotplate at the end of a home Korean barbecue; or
Use it to stuff into Korean Lettuce Wraps – try it with Momofuku Pork Bossam. Epic!
Enjoy! – Nagi x
The Spicy Side of Life: Korean recipes
Watch how to make it
Kimchi Fried Rice
- 2 tsp sesame oil , toasted, separated (1 tsp + 1 tsp)
- 2 garlic cloves , finely chopped
- 200g/7oz enoki mushrooms (Note 1)
- 1 tbsp oil , vegetable, peanut or canola
- 1 tbsp gochujang (Korean chilli paste, Note 2)
- 1 cup (packed) kimchi (Note 3)
- 1/4 cup kimchi juice , from the kimchi above (Note 3)
- 3 cups cooked , day old white rice (Note 4)
- Fried egg , runny yolk, sunny-side up
- Black sesame seeds
- Green onions , finely sliced
- Crispy seaweed strips (Note 5)
- Strain kimchi juice – Place kimchi in a sieve set over a bowl. Press firmly to extract as much juice as you can. We need juice for the sauce, and to reduce the wetness of the kimchi so it doesn't make the rice soggy.
- Measure kimchi juice – Measure out 3 tablespoons of the kimchi juice and set aside. (Note 3 if you're short).
- Cook enoki mushrooms – Heat 1 tsp sesame oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add enoki mushrooms, about 1/2 tsp garlic, plus a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes until just-wilted, then remove to a plate.
- Garlic and gochujang – Return pan to the stove. Add oil. Add garlic and cook for 20 seconds until it's lightly golden. Add gochujang and cook for 30 seconds until it dries out a bit – just move it around in a lump, breaking it up a bit as you can.
- Cook kimchi – Add kimchi and cook for 1 minute, just to heat it through (kimchi doesn't need to be cooked) and drive off any excess moisture.
- Add rice and kimchi juice – Add rice and kimchi juice, toss well for 1 1/2 minutes until the rice is fully stained red. Toss well to ensure the gochujang mixed with the kimchi disperses throughout the rice.
- Enoki mushrooms and 1 tsp sesame oil – Add the enoki mushrooms and remaining 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Toss through rice.
- Serve, topped with garnishes of choice!
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