Let’s Talk Food: Korean Kimchi Fried Rice

  • Photo courtesy Audrey Wilson Pork and Kimchi Dumplings.

  • Photo courtesy Audrey Wilson Kimchi bokkeumbap.

Got leftover rice in the refrigerator? Kimchi bokkeumbap is a great way to make a meal in one. Just top with a sunny-side up egg and you have a complete meal! The starch molecules in the stale rice have crystallized or retrograded, so the grains are hard and dry, which make for perfect fried rice.

Raid your refrigerator and look for just 4 ounces of ham, Spam, bacon or sausage. Most Korean families do not have a recipe for bokkeumbap but instead look for leftovers to add into the fried rice. The only two ingredients that are standard are the cold rice and kimchi.


Remember that there are stages of fermentation in kimchi which will tell you how much kimchi juice needs to be added in the fried rice.

In Korea, cabbage kimchi or tongbaechu-kimchee is packed into an earthenware crock called an onggi and is buried in the ground. This method of burying prevents the kimchi from freezing. It ferments during the winter months. These days however, many serious Korean households have a kimchi naengjanggo, a dedicated refrigerator with multiple zones to produce batches with different levels of fermentation. Cool, Tracy Kim, you need one like this!

The stages of fermentation include:

Geotjeori: fresh, unfermented, relatively crunchy kimchi that is sweet and salad-like, with bright white cabbage.

Kim chee: well-fermented, everyday kimchee.

Shin Kimchi: over fermented and more acidic, and often the kimchi used for bokkeumbap and kimchi guk.

Mukeunji: fermented at a low temperature for at least six months, making it very pungent.

If you don’t have refrigerated rice, cook the rice two hours ahead and allow to cool, spread on a rimmed baking sheet to cool, then refrigerate when cooled.

When you have leftover rice, make sure you place it in the refrigerator immediately after you have taken what you need for the meal. Bacillus cereus, is a bacteria in rice that is not destroyed by heat.

These bacteria produce toxins that may give you mild vomiting or diarrhea. These bacteria spores remain dormant in the uncooked rice until you wash the rice. The water germinates and begins to grow.

So refrigerate the cooked rice an hour after it is cooked. Refrigeration won’t kill this hardy bacteria but it will slow down its growth.

Ever heard of “fried rice syndrome”? It affects 63,000 people with food poisoning caused by B.cereus so make sure you refrigerate your rice.

Kimchi Bokkeumbap

(Kimchi Fried Rice)

Cook’s Illustrated

Serves 4 to 6

With tongs, hold 2 inches above a low flame on a gas burner to toast:

1 8-inch sheet of nori or sheet gim

Turn every 3 to 5 seconds, until the mori is aromatic and shrinks slightly, about 20 seconds.

Using kitchen shears, cut the nori into four 2-inch wide strips. Stack strips and cut crosswise into thin strips.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add and heat until shimmering:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Add and cook until the onion in softened and ham is beginning to brown at edges, about 6 to 8 minutes::

2 (1/4 inch thick) slices deli ham, cut into 1/4-inch pieces, about 4 ounces (or other meats such as Spam, sausage, smoked seafood, canned clams or oysters, smoked oysters, barbecue meat.)

1 large onion, chopped

Add the white parts of:

6 green onions, white and green parts separated and sliced thin on bias

Stir in and cook, stirring occasionally, until kimchi turns soft and translucent. 4 to 6 minutes:

1-1/4 cup cabbage kimchi, drained with 1/4 cup juice reserved, cut into 1/4-inch strips

1/4 cup water

4 teaspoons soy sauce

4 teaspoons gochujang paste

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Add and reduce heat to medium-low, ccok, stirring and folding constantly until mixture is evenly coated, about 3 minutes:

3 cups cooked and cooled short-grain white rice

Stir in and increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to stick to skillet, about 4 minutes:

4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoons vegetable oil

Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with:

1 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Green onion green part

Shredded nori or gim

• • •

Here’s a recipe for dumplings that would go with the fried rice.

Pork and Kimchi Dumplings

Makes 24


1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, softened and chopped fine

1/2 cup kimchi, chopped fine

1/4 cup green onion, chopped fine

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons mirin

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

4 ounces lean ground pork

Make wonton pi (or purchase wonton wrappers)

2 cups flour

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

Mix and knead until smooth ball forms. Form a cylinder, 1-inch in diameter, then cut 1/2-inch pieces, roll on floured board until thin as wonton pi should be, flouring as needed.

If you do not want to make your own, purchase:

24 wonton wrappers

Place 2 teaspoons wonton filling in each wrapper, fold to half-moons, seal with water. Keep on baking sheet dusted with cornstarch.

Spray steamer with cooking spray, steam dumplings for 10 minutes, or fry in oiled frying pan.

Combine and serve with dumpling:

2 tablespoons chopped green onion

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1-1/2 tablespoons mirin

1-1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds


1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.