Welcome to Chow with Me, where Chowhound’s executive editor Hana Asbrink shares all of the irresistible things she’s cooking, eating, reading, buying, and more. Today: The kimchi fried rice with bacon that’s brought immeasurable joy and comfort to her through the years.
If there were ever a reliable comfort food to jolt me out of a mood or be the culinary equivalent of a big bear hug, it’s kimchi bokkeumbap, or kimchi fried rice. I never met a fried rice I didn’t like, but Korean kimchi fried rice is easily up there at the top of my list.
The soul of kimchi fried rice lies in its two main stars: the spicy fermented cabbage known as kimchi and, usually, leftover white rice, rendering it quite a pantry-friendly dish if you’re Korean or just an avid kimchi fan. It’s tasty with just those two ingredients, but the meaty addition of bacon, Spam, or even leftover steak (if you’re so lucky!), brings this humble dish to irresistible heights.
As with most fried rice dishes that come together in minutes, this “recipe” is truly more of a roadmap, meant to suit individual palates and availability. In my house, fried rice or bokkeumbap can normally be found on the menu at the end of the week, when bits and bobs start revealing themselves in the corner of the produce drawer. And the kimchi? Well, there’s a permanent parking spot in my fridge for that. (This is an especially good recipe for overripe kimchi, btw.)
Related Reading: 7 Fried Rice Recipes That Are Even Better Than Delivery
Despite that inherent flexibility of fried rice, there are a few simple elements of my kimchi fried rice I want to share that will really help build incredible flavor:
Scallions: I love what scallions, or green onions, bring to the party. I use the chopped whites to cook alongside the bacon while its fat slowly renders and, in turn, caramelizes the whites. The green parts get tossed in closer to the end when it’s all nearly done, for a fresher (but not overly aggressive) onion vibe. No scallions? No problem. Throw in any allium you have: onions, shallots, chives, leeks, etc.
Butter: Butter loves cabbage, and it loves ripe, fermented kimchi even more. It also rounds some of the spicier notes. Be sure to stir in a generous knob.
Gochujang: The gochujang, or Korean red pepper paste, is the real firecracker element here. I just love to “fry” it in the bacon fat to really let the flavors bloom before adding in the rest of the ingredients. It adds a deep, spicy (but not blow-off-your-head-spicy), slightly sweet, and complex taste that ratchets up the umami factor considerably. If you don’t already have gochujang in your pantry, I would encourage you to give it a spin in your future meat marinades, stews, and dips.
Haechandle Gochujang Hot Pepper Paste, $11.97 at Amazon
The garnishes (the crumbled roasted seaweed, sesame seeds, and fried egg) are all highly recommended elements, if you have them handy. Again, please use what ingredients you have at the moment and get creative if you have to. Heck, if you don’t have kimchi, try subbing in anything from the cabbage family for a non-spicy version.
This delicious kimchi fried rice with bacon has brought me much comfort over the years; I hope this dish can bring you even a fraction of that same happiness to you during these wild times. We can all use a food version of a hug right now.
If you’re in the mood to just sit back and relax, you can watch how I make kimchi fried rice with bacon in the video above.
Hana's Favorite Kimchi Fried Rice with Bacon
- 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or another neutral oil), separated
- 2 strips of bacon, sliced into lardons (small strips) *You can use Spam, deli ham, or even pork loin
- 1 to 2 scallions, white and green part chopped and separated
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups very ripe cabbage kimchi, cut into small pieces
- 1 to 2 tablespoons kimchi juice
- 1 heaping tablespoon Korean red pepper chili paste (gochujang)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 to 4 cups cold/leftover rice
- 1 to 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 to 2 eggs, to fry
- Roasted seasoned Korean seaweed (gim, or seaweed snack), for garnish
- Roasted sesame seeds, for garnish
- Heat a heavy-bottomed pan (cast iron is great) over medium heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil, bacon, and whites of scallion all at once while the pan heats up. Putting the bacon in at this stage slowly renders the bacon fat, while infusing the oil with the scallion aroma. Stir every few minutes.
- Once the bacon and whites of scallion are golden brown, push to one side of the pan. Add your kimchi and kimchi juice.
- Make a little space in your pan for the gochujang. Heat up and “fry” your gochujang in the oil. Stir the gochujang into the kimchi and bacon. Add butter and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add your rice. With a wooden spoon (or two!), slowly combine, making sure there are no clumps or white spots. You can lower the heat a bit as this might take a few minutes.
- Once all is combined, add the greens of the scallions and mix in. Add a drizzle of sesame oil, mix. Turn off the heat.
- In a separate pan, heat over medium. Add the other tablespoon of oil. Fry the egg(s) to your preference. Season with salt and pepper.
- Plate up the kimchi fried rice, top with a fried egg, seasoned seaweed, and roasted sesame seeds. Enjoy!
Header image credit: Hana Asbrink