I am all about comfort food, especially this time of year. As I write this, it is a typical Seattle winter day... which means it is gray, chilly, and drizzly. PRIME comfort food weather, I tell you. As of late, I've been getting cozy with kimchi fried rice. It's a rising star in the world of foodie trends, and for good reason - the addition of cabbage kimchi transforms typically bland fried rice into a just-spicy-enough, pleasantly-pungent dish that you can't put down. If you're unfamiliar with kimchi, I urge you to become friendly with the Korean dish celebrating cabbage in all of its chili-tinged, fermented glory.
A few notes before you go frolicking off into kimchi heaven:
- Traditionally-crafted kimchi often includes fish sauce as an ingredient, so you'll want to find a brand that leaves out the fishiness. I happen to love Trader Joe's store brand of cabbage kimchi (found in their refrigerator section), which is vegan, spicy-but-not-hot and inexpensive to boot.
- You're welcome to use white or brown rice - I've tried both and they are equally delicious, though I find the toothsome texture of the brown rice to be quite pleasing.
- I followed Molly Wizenberg's recommendation of using butter (Earth Balance is my favorite vegan option) instead of oil, and she is 100% right about the importance of the butter in rounding out the kimchi's pungency. That said, I think that coconut oil would be equally effective should you want a whole-foods alternative.
Vegan Kimchi Fried Rice
makes 6-8 entree-sized servings
4 tablespoons non-dairy butter, divided (may substitute coconut oil or neutral cooking oil)
8 ounces shitake mushrooms*, cleaned, stems removed, and sliced
3 cups vegan napa cabbage kimchi, chopped (about 2 packages of Trader Joe's kimchi)
3 medium carrots, grated
1 cup shelled frozen edamame, thawed
6 cups cooked medium-grain rice, cooled and preferably one day old
salt to taste
1 bunch scallions, sliced
Bring a large skillet or wok over medium high heat (I do mean large - you'll need a 12 to 14 inch pan to fit all the rice without making a total mess). Add one tablespoon of butter and sauté the mushrooms until golden brown, about 5-10 minutes. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside. Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan and sauté the kimchi and carrots until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked rice, edamame, mushrooms, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, stirring to combine. You want the rice to brown a bit and soak up all the spicy goodness from the kimchi, which will only take a few minutes. Once the rice is done, adjust seasoning, stir in the scallions, and serve immediately.
*The first time I tested this recipe, my grocer was out of shitakes, and it was sad. You can see in the photograph that I used button mushrooms instead. Today I made the rice with shitakes as planned and the difference is substantial - the dish really benefits from a flavorful 'shroom.