When I was first introduced to kimchi, I approached it with serious trepidation. It's hard to believe that was only a few years ago, because these days I work it into my meals at all times of day and as often as possible. This vibrant Korean dish of fermented cabbage comes with a spicy funk and wallop of tangy flavor that has the power to instantly transform dinner from boring to wildly delicious, with almost no effort at all.
But First, What Exactly Is Kimchi?
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish (which can also be used as a condiment) made from fermented vegetables, spices, and aromatics. It packs a unique punch of flavor that's spicy, funky, and tangy all at the same time. It often includes Napa cabbage, daikon radish, scallions, and a spicy paste made with Korean red pepper, garlic, ginger, and dried shrimp, although there are hundreds of different versions, including many that are vegetarian. It's made using the same process used to make sauerkraut.
Thankfully, it's pretty easy to get your hands on kimchi. It's readily available at most grocery stores in the refrigerated aisle, near other fermented foods, like sauerkraut and pickles.
Make your own: How To Make Easy Kimchi at Home
All the Ways to Add Kimchi to Dinner
If kimchi is a new addition to the jars of condiments in your fridge, it can feel a little intimidating figuring out how to use it. At least, that's how it began for me. I started by adding it to grain bowls, then slowly started branching out. Along the way I learned that this funky cabbage can be worked into almost anything you're eating. Here are a few examples I love.
- Buddha bowls: The spicy punch of kimchi will work with almost any combination of grains, veggies, beans, or meat you pack into a bowl.
- Eggs: Whether they're scrambled, fried, poached, or hard-boiled, a spoonful of kimchi makes eggs for dinner so much more exciting. It's also great in frittatas.
- Salads: I was skeptical about this until I tried our kimchi and radish salad, and it won me over big time. Funky kimchi instantly makes a mix of lettuce and crunchy radishes stand out in a crowd.
- Fried rice and stir-fries: Mix some kimchi into these weeknight-friendly meals, or use it as a topping. Either way, it makes these dinners anything but boring.
- Buttered noodles: On those night you can only muster the energy to make a bowl of buttered noodles, mix in some kimchi for a wildly delicious, no-effort upgrade.
- Grilled, roasted, or baked meats and fish: Just before serving, top off a seared flank steak, chicken breast or thighs, pork chops, tenderloin, or just about any type of fish with a generous layer of kimchi, and you've just added a huge punch of flavor to dinner.
- Braised vegetables: I love stirring kimchi into braised greens. Use this trick no matter what type of vegetables you're braising.
Recipes with Kimchi
Your turn! What did I miss? What are some of the tasty ways you work kimchi into dinners?