For a long time these jars of commercialized kimchi arranged between the tofu and rice papers wrappers at the grocery have been eyeing my shopping cart. I never responded to these advances since I figured my stockpile of East Asian chili paste would make that pick up a bit redundant. But let's admit that kimchi brings something to the table that other chili pastes do not - a fermented, vinegary tang and crunchy bite that just might be the medicine I'm looking for.
Besides some medical advice, let me all take a moment to instruct you on what too many have been missing out on for years: Korean Cuisine. For some odd reason, it is commercially overshadowed in the U.S. by Chinese, Thai, and Japanese. Well, it took me a trip to Korea to learn that Korean food is just, if not more, satisfying as these other East Asian culinary competitors. I stumbled upon this place because I figured after a two-week trip to Japan I might as well make a stop in Korea on the way home. I mean, its right there.
Turns out, if I were to redo my Japan/Korea trip I would have spent much more than four days in Busan and Seoul. Not only did the food blow me away, but Koreans are such wonderful hosts to foreigners. They're smiling, inquisitive, and outgoing...in some ways, dramatically different from the Japanese. I loved Japan, and I'll save the details for a future post, but Korea should not be missed.
This recipe may not be particularly Korean in a traditional sense, but gets at that hearty meal-in-a-rice-bowl thing they've really got down. Of course, kimchi. Looking back on it now, topping this with a fried egg would have added some richness to round out the elements and tie it all together.
Ingredients for Marinade:
- 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 2 tbsp. chili paste (like sriracha or sambal)
- 2 tbsp. of sweet chili paste (gochujang is traditional to Korea, but a Thai style will work. Or, add more honey and whatever chili paste you have)
- 1/8 cup toasted sesame seeds
- 1 jalapeno, sliced thin
- 1 cup chopped scallions
- 1 1/2 cups brown rice
- 2 packages of extra firm tofu
- 1 bunch of asparagus, roughly chopped
Begin by preparing your rice and cooking it as you prepare the rest of the meal.
Slice your blocks of tofu into 1/2 inch slabs and lay them on a few layers of paper towel to dry out. Let sit for about ten minutes, flipping halfway. While your tofu dries out a bit, mix all the ingredients for the marinade and let that sit to mingle as well. When both elements are ready, marinate the tofu pieces for as long as you want, but at least ten minutes.
Heat a frying pan on a very high flame and add 1 tbsp. vegetable oil. Add the tofu, shaking off pieces of scallion and jalapeno for now so it makes full contact with the hot pan. Watch out, the pan will really sizzle. Flip when that side is browned.
Combine your rice, tofu, and asparagus in a bowl and top with kimchi. Add that fried egg, if you want.