Kimchi is one of my favourite fermented foods to eat. I’m addicted to its bold, full-bodied taste, and enjoy eating it raw alongside eggs, Asian dishes, burgers, salads and tacos. Not only does kimchi amp up the flavour of a dish, but it also adds additional nutrition, and is an excellent source of naturally occurring probiotics obtained from the kimchi fermentation process. Researchers have actually discovered a new species of the probiotic lactobacillus unique to kimchi and have named it lactobacillus kimchii. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11034488. Kimchi is not only a delicious and healthy raw condiment, it is also amazing when cooked. The microbes are killed off, but the nutritional value and superb flavour are maintained. My favourite way to cook kimchi is to make kimchi stew (kimchi jjigae)
COOKING WITH KIMCHI: KIMCHI STEW
When kimchi ages, the flavours become more pronounced and acidic. Since this pungency might overpower the dish you would serve it with, older kimchi is great to cook with. In Korea, older kimchi is cooked into a stew (jjigae). This stew has many variations, but the most popular includes fatty pork. This combination works well, since the acidity of the kimchi nicely balances out the richness of the fatty meat.
The kimchi stew recipe that I use is so easy since it contains only a few ingredients and no additional seasoning. The kimchi is already full of flavour, and the pork belly adds extra flavour and salt. If you want more heat and punch, you can also add additional ginger and gochugaru pepper. My twist on the traditional recipe is to fry the tofu slices in the rendered pork fat and add them to the stew about 10 minutes before the stew is ready. The crisp and pork-infused tofu makes a nice contrast to the softened kimchi base.
I like to eat my kimchi stew with rice and sauteed greens. Tip: If you are serving rice and prefer a thicker stew, reserve the water that was used to rinse the rice and add it to the stew instead of regular water. The residual rice starch will help to nicely thicken the stew. Alternatively, you can make a slurry of rice flour and water and add it to the stew near the end of cooking.
How To Make Kimchi Stew
Serves 2-4 people
- 3 cups fermented kimchi (cut in bite-sized pieces)
- 4 ounces/114 grams pork belly*
- 2 cups water (or water from rinsed rice)
- 12 oz/350g firm or extra firm tofu firm, cut into ? slices
- 2-3 green onions, sliced in bite-sized pieces
- 1 tsp grated ginger (optional)
- 1 tsp gochugaru pepper (optional)
* Pork belly can be substituted with bacon or any other fatty meat. For a less rich version, fish can also be substituted. For a vegetarian/vegan version, add sauteed seitan or flavoured tempeh.
- Cut pork belly into small cubes. Add to hot, dry (no additional oil is required) pan and saute until golden brown.
2. Remove pork and add tofu slices to the rendered pork fat. Fry on both sides until golden brown. Remove from pan and reserve.
3. Add kimchi, cooked pork, water (and optional seasoning) to the pan. Simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes.
4. Add green onions and fried tofu. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
5. Serve on rice, top with fresh coriander and bean sprouts for a crisp, fresh contrast.