One of the first recipes we posted on Husbands that Cook was Thai carrot burgers: tender, juicy patties filled with fresh grated carrots and aromatic spices mixed in a tangy peanut-lime sauce spiked with sautéed garlic, ginger, and handfuls of chopped cilantro. We have been making these zesty and spicy burgers for years, and it always been one of our favorite recipes to prepare, not only because they are delicious, but because they fill the house with the fragrance of fresh herbs and spices as you cook. That wonderful Thai-inspired creation was adapted from Lukas Volger’s Veggie Burgers Every Which Way, and we were thrilled to learn that he just released a new cookbook last week called Bowl. It is beautifully designed and filled with creative one-dish vegetarian recipes for ramen, pho, bibimbap, and dumplings, as well as gorgeous photography and helpful techniques like how to make ramen noodles and potstickers at home. It was difficult to choose which one to make first, but this kimchi fried rice bowl with quick cucumber pickles immediately caught our attention, since we recently made a batch of kimchi and posted a recipe here just a few weeks ago!
This aromatic one-pot meal is a pleasure to make. Like all fried rice recipes, this begins with simple cooked rice. In fact, day-old leftovers are best since the texture improves overnight in the fridge. Ribbons of onions are sautéed with bold garlicky kimchi while the rice is tossed in, absorbing all the rich flavors and turning a beautiful shade of orange. Seasoned with fresh cilantro, sliced scallions, a spoonful of ruby-red kimchi brine and a splash of soy sauce, the plain rice is transformed into an intensely-flavored and satisfying dish. Each serving is topped with homemade pickled cucumbers that are tangy with a sweet crunch, as well as tender sautéed lettuce, and a sizzling fried egg, giving the bowls a colorful blend of bright flavors and textures that is both healthy and delicious.
The key to this recipe is the kimchi. While store-bought is perfectly acceptable, the best and most flavorful is homemade. If you haven’t tried making your own, this is the perfect time to do it! Full of fresh garlic, ginger, and Korean peppers, one jar of this intense side dish will keep for months in the refrigerator and actually improves over time. And if you have never made pickles before, this is your lucky day. This simple and quick recipe gives you sweet, salty, crisp pickles in only twenty minutes, just like what you would see served at a Korean restaurant. They can be kept in the fridge for a week, and can easily be made ahead of time. And for the fried rice bowl, everything here is cooked in the same skillet, which makes cleanup a breeze. This Korean-inspired meal is the definition of comfort food: rich and savory, deeply spiced, and hearty enough to serve as a satisfying dinner for two any night of the week.
Kimchi Fried Rice Bowl with Quick Cucumber Pickles
adapted from Bowl by Lukas Volger
For the quick cucumber pickles:
4 small cucumbers, such as kirby or persian
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
For the kimchi fried rice:
3 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil, divided
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
2/3 cup kimchi, chopped (see note)
2 1/2 cups (385g) cooked leftover rice
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon sugar, divided
1 tablespoon kimchi brine (see note)
3 teaspoons soy sauce, divided
1/2 cup (13g) chopped cilantro
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
4 cups (170g) coarsely chopped or shredded lettuce, washed and thoroughly dried
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
First, make the pickles:
Slice the cucumbers into 1/8-inch slices, and places slices in a bowl. Add the sugar and salt, and toss to coat the slices evenly. Transfer them to a colander, and allow to drain and soften for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse well, then drain, place in a bowl, and add the vinegar. Toss to coat, then taste and adjust vinegar as needed. Transfer pickles to a storage container, and refrigerate for up to a week in advance.
Make the kimchi fried rice:
Preheat oven to 150F. In a large skillet, preferably nonstick, combine 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil and the sesame oil over medium heat. When hot, add the sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chopped kimchi, and cook for 3 minutes, until the kimchi is fragrant and sizzling. Add the cooked rice, crumbling it with a spoon to break up any large clumps. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of sugar, and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is sizzling hot and the pan is dry, about 5 minutes. With your spoon, clear a space in the center of the skillet, then pour in the kimchi brine and 2 teaspoons of soy sauce. Let the liquid bubble for 10 seconds, then stir it into the rice. Cook for 3 to 5 more minutes, until the pan is dry and sizzling. Turn off heat and quickly stir in the cilantro and sliced scallions, reserving a little of each for garnish later. Divide the mixture between 2 wide bowls, then top with foil and place in the oven to keep warm.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat, and add the remaining teaspoon of soy sauce and rice vinegar. Allow to bubble for 10 seconds, then add the chopped lettuce, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. Sauté until the lettuce is wilted, but still crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Divide the lettuce between the two rice bowls, placing it on top of the rice, then recover with foil and keep warm in the oven.
Return the skillet to medium heat, then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. When hot, crack the eggs into the skillet and cook to your liking, which for us is until the whites are cooked and the yolks are still runny, about 3 to 5 minutes. Place one egg on top of each rice bowl, then place a handful of pickles on the rice as well as the reserved scallions and chopped cilantro. Serve with toasted sesame seeds for garnish, and enjoy!
— The kimchi can be homemade or store-bought, and we highly recommend making your own as it is fun, easy, cheap to make, and incredibly flavorful and delicious!
— Kimchi brine is the liquid that collects in the jar, and it can be collected by pressing down on the kimchi in the jar with a spoon, or by squeezing some by hand–while wearing gloves because spicy food and bare skin do not mix.
— Extra cucumber pickles will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.
— A mandoline slicer will make slicing the cucumbers quick and easy, or it can also be done by hand.
— To make this dish vegan, simply omit the fried egg.