When Alice Choi left the nest of her tight-knit Korean-American community, her mom packed five Korean cookbooks. “They probably were the only ones ever published then,” Alice laughs. “But making sure that we knew about our culture was really important.”
That was years ago. Before Korean barbecue became the hot new thing. Before food trucks dished fusion tacos. And before blogs like Alice’s Hip Foodie Mom existed, preserving recipes for the next generation and putting them within reach for anyone.
Case in point: Alice’s Kimchi Fried Rice. Explosively flavorful and easy enough for a Tuesday, it features two Korean staples, kimchi and gochujang (more on those ingredients later). Like her parents, Alice insists on day-old rice for texture, but she does make one change. Most Koreans add Spam, a hangover from the war. Alice prefers the smoky flavor of bacon. And who’s going to argue with that?
Kimchi Fried Rice
Hands On 30 minutes Total 45 minutes
4 cups leftover cooked white or brown rice, chilled
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds, divided
5 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 cups kimchi, drained and chopped (reserve 3 to 4 tablespoons of the liquid)
1 tablespoon gochujang
2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1⁄4 cup sliced green onion, divided
4 fried eggs
Roasted dried seaweed (optional)
1. In a large bowl, stir together rice, 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil and 1 teaspoon of the sesame seeds; set aside. In a 12-inch skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon of drippings in the skillet.
2. Add the chopped kimchi, kimchi liquid and gochujang to the skillet. Cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add rice mixture, soy sauce, fish sauce and the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Cook and stir until well combined, then spread mixture evenly. Cook, without stirring, until rice is browning on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Stir well, then cook for another 2 minutes.
3. Add bacon and 2 tablespoons of the green onion; cook and stir for 1 minute. Serve topped with a fried egg and garnished with the remaining 2 tablespoons green onion, 1 teaspoon sesame seeds and, if desired, the seaweed (thinly shredded with kitchen shears).
Makes 4 servings. Click or tap here for a printable version of this recipe
Kimchi (top left) is fermented cabbage seasoned with gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes), garlic and ginger—sauerkraut with a more fiery personality.
Roasted dried seaweed (bottom left) comes in sheets and is a common garnish across Asian cultures. (You might know it by its Japanese name, nori.)
Fish sauce (bottom middle) doesn’t taste fishy, just sort of funky and savory. With soy sauce and sesame oil, Alice explains, it makes up the holy trinity of East Asian cooking.
Gochujang ((top right) is like Korean ketchup with some heat, Alice says. It’s sweeter and thicker than Sriracha sauce, with more complex flavor.
Sesame seeds (bottom right) come to life when toasted. Warm them in a small skillet over medium-low heat until just golden and aromatic. Watch closely—they burn fast!
Pro Tip: Shop Small
With interest soaring in Korean food, many large supermarkets stock all these items. But Alice loves the wide selection and low prices at Asian grocery stores. Intimidated? “If you can’t find something, just ask,” she says. “Or pull out a phone and point!”
Get to Know: Alice Choi
Texas-born Wisconsinite. Mom of two girls. Frequent shopper at the Dane County Farmers’ Market in Madison.