One of the things I had to give up after my infatuation with wine started to take a big part of my life is “kimchi“. I don’t have to explain about what it is any more, thanks to the Korean Wave, which has spread Korean culture and cuisine across the globe. I had an interesting encounter with a Korean lady, who runs three Korean restaurants in Paris. We talked about developing the Korean cuisine and matching Korean food with wines. I’ve heard about and experienced the popularity of Korean cuisine among the French in big cities, but after talking to her, it became more convincing. Korean food is known as healthy cuisine overseas whereas it’s known to me as the spicy and salty enemy of wine. So when discussing the issue of Korean food and wine, it brings up many aspects of flavours and cooking.
I made this radish kimchi while I was in France and gifted a few people for a taste. People get excited about probiotics and health benefits of kimchi, and keen on learning how to make it when an opportunity comes along. Kimchi contains lots of healthy vegetables, which people shy away from but know that are good. The fermenting process makes them easy to eat creating healthy nutrients. There’s lots of ginger, onion and garlic, and fruit, most commonly pears, but apples and persimmons are being added for natural sweetness, which helps fermentation. If I add grapes, would it taste like wine??? In the southern part, oysters are added into kimchi and my sisters hate it so my mum makes two separate batches.
Blend the stinky vegetables with sweet fruit, and then add stinky fish sauce and red chilli flakes and toss it well. Traditionally, kimchi is fermented buried underground in clay vessels like Georgian wines! But you can ferment it in glass jars – make sure the material of the containers is glass otherwise it’ll stain the containers and stink the fridge and the whole house! I personally prefer when kimchi has developed a tangy taste and at this stage, kimchi is best used for kimchi fried rice, which is a soul food for many Koreans.
When kimchi lands in the hands of French chefs, they create some awesome recipes beyond kimchi stew and kimchi fried rice. I was surprised to see how big this Kimchi Chronicles site, which was just a small blog when I was working for a Korean food website, has grown to a TV show. There I found a recipe I’ll try one day; Grilled Steak with Kimchi Butter. But all I can give you now is unfortunately this humble quick yet hearty version of fried rice with kimchi.
Fried rice usually requires a few day-old rice and if you cook with newly cooked rice, it’s too wet and sticky; not nice. Here in Turkey, however, there is a type of rice called Baldo, which is excellent for making fried rice. Baldo rice, similar to risotto rice, arborio, is starchy but keeps its shape well so the rice doesn’t get mushy. The only thing you need to watch out is to soak the rice in warm water for 20 mins to take out the starch before cooking.
Whether you use freshly cooked rice or leftover rice, the base is to pan-fry vegetables of your choice and my favourite combinations are onion+carrot+spring onion+shrimp or tuna. For me, an egg is a must and the easiest way to top it off with a fried egg is to push the rice to the sides and cook the egg in the centre, which is not so fancy. You can break the yolk or keep it runny.
As long as the kimchi tastes good, the result is good. Let’s say the above was a quick and lazy version for myself and then the second was a fancier version for Mr.O and a guest. As I know the Turks get easily put off by the aromas of foreign food, I used a very little kimchi and tricked it with black cumin seeds, which worked very well to make it more appealing to the Turkish palate.
I even took an extra step to please them by making balsamic and pomegranate reduction with tarragon. OMG, the humble kimchi fried rice is turning into a ladybug to fly off the plate out of shame. Sorry, I don’t usually play with food but sometimes I have to do what I have to do.
I was glad that I had tried and found how brilliantly the tarragon sauce worked with kimchi recipe. I’ll definitely do it again. Have you been smitten by the power of kimchi, too? I’ll give you a page where you can find a recipe for kimchi and some others.
I hope you enjoy the show but unfortunately, Youtube is banned here and I can’t watch it! But the good news is that Kimchi is now available in major supermarkets in Istanbul, finally!! I was so excited when I saw it on the shelf.