We’ve all got a few favorite ingredients that are always in our refrigerators or cabinets — things that can both enliven an ordinary dish as a garnish and form the basis of a meal. For me, one of those secret weapons is kimchi.
Korean in origin, kimchi is a fermented mélange of vegetables, often centered on cabbage and radishes, though you might find some versions with carrots, scallions or other vegetables. It’s spicy, salty and definitely funky, thanks to that fermentation. Some versions use seafood-based ingredients, but vegan varieties are not hard to find either. Excellent local or small-batch brands abound these days (Number 1 Sons in the District is my favorite), although almost any decent grocery store will carry at least one type. We even have a recipe for making your own, if you’re up for it.
I’m a fan of using kimchi in eggs, grilled cheese and tacos, just to name a few. Start experimenting with how you can incorporate it into your everyday staples, and check out one of these recipes from our archives:
Sesame-Chili Salsa, above. This condiment is a manageable step above what you would get if you decided to just put plain kimchi on top of your, say, tacos. With a generous amount of scallions, sesame oil, sesame seeds and soy sauce, the salsa would be great with any sort of grilled meat, too.
Steel-Cut Oats With Kimchi. Kimchi, it’s not just for dinner! If you’re tired of maple syrup and fruit on your breakfast oatmeal, go this savory route, which also features mushrooms, fried onions and runny fried eggs. Then again, oats make a satisfying dinner, too. No matter when you eat it, you’ll love the superb texture created by cooking steel-cut oats in your Instant Pot or other multicooker.
Pork and Broccolini Stir-Fry With Kimchi. This lean and fast dinner from Ellie Krieger proves how kimchi can add some excitement to otherwise potentially humdrum ingredients. If you’re rather not use pork, substitute chicken or beef sirloin.
Mac and Kimcheese With Mushrooms. Miles away from the boxed stuff, this riff on mac and cheese is one of my favorite Food section recipes. There’s more prep involved than your typical homemade mac — roasting mushrooms, charring a bell pepper, chopping the kimchi — but I promise the effort is worth it. Plus, a lot of the work can be done in advance.
Korean Soft Tofu Stew. Let the kimchi really shine in this comforting, vibrant stew. You’ll often see gochujang, a chili paste that is another Korean staple, called for in recipes that also use kimchi. It’s getting much easier to find in supermarkets these days.
Kimchi-Braised Chicken. Bust out the slow cooker for this main course, which uses both the kimchi and its juices to tenderize the chicken and form a mellowed sauce. Pop the finished dish in the refrigerator overnight and you’ll get even better flavors.
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