10 Essential Kimchi Dishes

Kimchi has had something of a moment lately, as culinary border-hoppers and microbial enthusiasts alike have celebrated the fact that the stuff is not just good, but also good for you. The tart, funky flavors that make the spicy pickle so addictive are the result of lactic acid fermentation, a process that produces probiotic bacteria believed to promote health. Think of kimchi as the original Korean superfood.

And while kimchi may be emblematic of Korean culinary heritage, serving as the cornerstone of many a traditional meal, it has also found its way into a number of unorthodox dishes that keep one foot planted in the peninsula while the other travels far and wide. Think tacos, sandwiches, and other Franken-creations. Some of these spin-offs are now so established that they’ve become second-wave icons in their own right.

So whether you’re looking to soak up kimchi's natural benefits, or just think it's pretty darn tasty, there are plenty of reasons to keep some at home. The one caveat is that if you’ve been inspired to make your own batch (or have bought it by the jar-load), chances are you’ll be looking for a few ways to use it up that don’t involve eating it straight from the container while parked in front of the fridge. To that end, here are 10 kimchi dishes, from the traditional to the trailblazing, that will help you get the most out of that prickly, pungent pickle.

1. Basic Napa Cabbage Kimchi

You’ll find myriad variations on kimchi in its native Korea, but the napa cabbage kind is the most commonplace. Making it is pretty simple, too: Just grab a few fundamental ingredients and the biggest jar you’ve got, then let the forces of fermentation work their magic.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

2. Kimchi Soft Tofu Stew (Soondubu Jjigae)

In restaurants, jjigae is typically served at a temperature so blisteringly hot, it bubbles and boils ferociously in its crock well after making its way to the dining table. You can feel free to scale back on the theatrics (and the burn risk) at home, but serve it hot enough to savor the warming, nourishing properties of this fiery stew.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

3. Tofu Kimchi Dumplings

If you get the sweats from the mere thought of the above-mentioned steaming, bubbling kimchi and tofu stew, you can also get your fill of those same ingredients in these bite-size dumplings. When nestled between the grasping prongs of chopsticks, no pocket of cabbage and spice is too hot to handle.
Photo and recipe from The Kitchn

4. Mackerel Pike Kimchi Stew

For committed lovers of Korean cuisine’s fire and funk, kimchi mackerel stew is a must. The fishy fish and pungent pickle make for a heady flavor pairing that attacks head-on. Fans of subtlety look elsewhere.
Photo and recipe from Beyond Kimchee

5. Kimchi Ramen

Kimchi ramen isn’t the collision of two trending foods—it actually has roots that go back decades in Korea. The chile-accented broth gives the noodles a spicy sheen, adding a fiery jolt to each and every slurp. This particular recipe adds a dash of citrusy Sichuan pepper, turning up the intrigue (and the heat) a notch.
Photo and recipe from Divine Healthy Food

6. Kimchi Pancakes

Starchy, spicy, and filling, kimchijeon make for an excellent snack, especially after a couple of drinks. You can cook them two ways: as a pillowy pancake filled with chopped vegetables, or with unfurled whole cabbage leaves, for a delicate fritter.
Photo and recipe from Maangchi

7. Kimchi and Shrimp Fried Rice

Fried rice is one of those forgiving dishes that make maximal use of any leftovers you might have lying around. But if there’s one thing that it should always include, in my opinion, it’s something spicy, and kimchi and pepper paste fit the bill just perfectly here. Eat it for dinner, if you like, but I believe it's best for brunch, when sometimes you just need a bit of a kick to the senses.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

8. Kimchi and Bulgogi Nachos

Korean and Tex-Mex cuisines make natural bedfellows because they both embrace the salty and spicy, while leaving room for the sweet. Here, all those flavors intermingle in a glorious pile of nachos, swapping out the salsa for kimchi and the chili for pear-accented bulgogi.
Photo and recipe from Two Red Bowls

9. Korean Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi Slaw and Sriracha Sour Cream

Who could have guessed that kimchi-garnished Korean tacos would become the massive hit that they are? What once was a novelty item from a food truck is now prime dinnertime fare that you can easily put together on a weeknight.
Photo and recipe from The Stay at Home Chef

10. Grilled Kimcheese Sandwich

They may be from different worlds, but spicy kimchi and gooey, melty cheese belong together like star-crossed lovers. Kimchi's spice elevates the otherwise humdrum grilled cheese sandwich into something lively and exciting, while rich cheddar tones down the pickle's more aggressive notes. Think of them as a high-functioning culinary odd couple.
Photo and recipe from Steamy Kitchen

Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.

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