“That’s not true! I eat risotto! and paella! and biryani . . .”
But despite my protestations, it is true though: I am not a fan of plain, steamed white rice.
I am so un-Asian.
When people find out I don’t really like plain white rice, I generally get two reactions:
• From non-Asian people, they look at me as if I just told them I was born with six fingers on one hand and the extra digit was removed at birth. At this point, they usually tell me how much they love rice.
• From Asian people, they just ignore me. I don’t even think they hear the “don’t,” they just hear the “like white rice.” Because what Asian doesn’t like white rice? Inconceivable!
Plain white rice was the bane of my young existence. As a child, it was always just giant piles of tasteless filler stacked in sticky, unswallowable heaps in front of me. My parents used to make me finish all of my rice before I was allowed to leave the dinner table. I used to drive them crazy by eating my rice grain-by-grain until they finally gave up and sent me to my room — which is all I really wanted in the first place.
As I have gotten older, I have learned to eat it. Partly because it gives me something to chew on as I contemplate all the dishes spinning around the Lazy Susan. After really strong flavors, I have come to appreciate white rice as a palate cleanser. Also, a Chinese meal just feels incomplete without rice on the table, regardless whether I eat any or not.
There is one way to always get me to eat my rice: fry it.
But let’s be honest, I’ll eat just about anything so long as it’s fried
Kimchi fried rice is a particularly good way to get me to eat rice because not only is it fried, it’s so far removed from bland, steamed white rice that I will happily accept it on my plate. For this, I threw in some amazing all-beef hotdogs from my CSA. I know that there are a lot of people who don’t like hotdogs, but I never wonder what is in the ones that I get from my farmer. If you are a vegetarian, or just don’t like hotdogs, you can leave them out. Or replace them with Spam
It’s also traditionally topped with a fried egg, and who can resist fried food topped with more fried food?!
Kimchi fried rice calls for a nice dollop of Korean red pepper paste, or gochujang. Gochujang is one of the most common condiments/ingredients in Korean cooking and as such, is fairly easy to find in Asian supermarkets. I think the problem is that there are so many brands of commercially-made gochujang that it can be a little overwhelming as to which one to pick. This is why I love this post from One Fork, One Spoon. As Diane and Grace point out, it’s hard to shop for Korean ingredients if you don’t speak Korean! I certainly don’t, and really appreciated their tasting notes and photographs of labels and brand logos.
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2-3 hot dogs, cut into pieces
2-3 green onions, chopped
2 cups of cooked (preferably day old) rice, japonica variety preferred
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
2 cups of napa cabbage kimchi, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of gochujang
1 egg per person
How to prepare:
1. In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Add the sliced hot dogs and the green onions. Cook the hot dogs until they are heated through and the green onions have softened.
2. Add the rice to the pan, breaking up any clumps with the side of a wooden spoon or a spatula. Evenly drizzle the sesame oil over the top of the rice and let it cook undisturbed for about a minute before stirring it.
3. Add the chopped kimchi and the gochujang to the skillet. Stir everything together until red pepper paste has been well-incorporated and the kimchi has been evenly distributed throughout the rice. Adjust the seasoning. Lower the heat and spread the rice and kimchi out in an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Let it cook for a few minutes until the rice has become nice and crispy on the bottom. Stir the pan again, scraping the browned rice off the bottom of the skillet. Adjust the seasoning for a final time and divide the fried rice into bowls.
4. In a separate pan, fry up one egg per person. Top each bowl of kimchi fried rice with an egg. Scatter some chopped green onions on top and serve.