Our Mildly Insane Kimchi Bokkeumbap, A Recipe From “Koreatown”

March 17, 2016 9:51 am Last Updated: March 17, 2016 9:55 am

Our Mildly Insane Kimchi Bokkeumbap


Bacon. We kept coming back to bacon when talking about this kimchi fried-rice recipe. Bacon is quintessential Americana. Our kimchi fried rice needed bacon, and for months we tested and were continually disappointed that the essence of bacon—Americana!—was being muted by either too much rice or too much kimchi. Then it came to us. We needed to use more bacon! Like a lot more. Like how French chefs view mashed potatoes: equal parts butter and potatoes. That’s scary, right? Also scary good.

We went that direction here and by the grace of god and Allan Benton did this ever work. The crispy rice unites with the decadent gochujang butter, while the bacon is there just being wonderful. And remember, the key to good fried rice is using cold day-old rice, which is nice and dried out and gives you a much better fry. So the next time you order takeout, get an extra order of rice and keep it in the fridge for a day or so. And if you didn’t plan ahead, no sweat. Make some rice and lay it out on a sheet tray and freeze until cold.  

Kimchi Bokkeumbap. (Sam Horine/Clarkson Potter/Publishers)
Kimchi Bokkeumbap. (Sam Horine/Clarkson Potter/Publishers)
Number Serves



  • 1/2 pound of slab bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, cut into small dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-inch knob of ginger, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped extraaged
  • Napa Cabbage Kimchi (recipe below)
  • 2 cups cooked rice, preferably day-old
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, fried sunnyside up
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin


1. In a large skillet, wok or cast-iron pan over high heat, cook the bacon, stirring, until fat is fully rendered and the bacon is barely starting to crisp. Pour out all but 2 tablespoons fat.

2. Add onion, garlic and ginger and sauté for 1 minute, or until very aromatic. Add chopped kimchi and rice and sauté, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until very hot. Drop the heat to medium-low and flatten the rice with your spatula. Continue to cook until the bottom layer is crispy, about 2 minutes; think Spanish paella here. The longer you leave it, the more crispy the bottom will become, but be careful not to burn the garlic.

3. While the rice continues to crisp, in a small bowl mix together the gochujang and softened butter.

4. Serve from the pan or wok, topped with fried eggs, sliced scallions and gochujang butter.

Baechu Kimchi


Napa Cabbage Kimchi

Napa cabbage: The granddaddy of all kimchi. This is the kimchi that people think of when they hear the word kimchi—from taco topper to the cooler case at Ralph’s. There are literally thousands of different kimchi recipes and combinations, tied to the seasons. That said, this recipe is special.

Traditionally, napa kimchi is made in the late autumn (October through December) to prepare for the famously harsh Korean winter. The tradition is called kimjang, and back in the day entire communities got together to make it in large batches. We’re talking as much as 100 heads of cabbage at a time, with recipes passed down village to village, generation to generation. But you can certainly make yourself a batch any time during the year if you can find plump and healthy napa cabbage.

Buying the Cabbage

Look for cabbage that appears healthy and fresh; remove the outer few layers of leaves if anything is browned. At Korean markets, the peeling away of blighted leaves is often done right in the store. The remaining leaves should be tightly packed.

The Paste and Marinade

Next make the rice flour paste (an important binder) and the marinade, which includes an essential ingredient: salted fermented shrimp called saeujeot. While many recipes call

for fish sauce, we feel the salted shrimp add a pronounced flavor that is just too good to omit. Once combined with the cabbage (don’t forget to wear gloves!) and stuffed into glass jars or plastic containers of varying sizes, the waiting game begins. 

Kimchi Is Alive and Always Changing 

Kimchi is all about personal taste, and some like their kimchi fresh, while others like it older and funkier. Our general suggestion is to make a large batch (like 6 to 8 heads) and store it in several jars to sample after different time periods. But if you’re new to the kimchi making process, start small with the recipe here and scale up later. After 5 days, pull out a small jar and eat it wrapped in lettuce with a hunk of Grilled Kalbi. After 10 days, pull another jar and place on the table with Godeungeo Gui (broiled mackerel. Keep one in the back of your refrigerator for two months and stew it down in a Kimchi Jjigae. Or, at any age, just snack on it directly from the jar. Give a jar to your best friend or boss or favorite food fan. This is a serious stocking stuffer. 

Amount Makes

2 quarts


For the Cabbage:

  • 12 cups water
  • 1 cup coarse sea salt
  • 1 large napa cabbage (2 to 3 pounds)

For the Rice Flour Paste:

  • 2 tablespoons sweet rice flour
  • 1 cup water

For the Marinade:

  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped, peeled Asian pear
  • 2-inch knob of ginger, roughly chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 Korean red chile peppers, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup salted fermented shrimp
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup rice flour paste
  • 1 cup coarsely ground gochugaru
  • 1 bunch scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, grated 
  • 1/2 cup peeled and grated daikon radish


1. Brine the cabbage. In a large container. combine 12 cups of cold water and the sea salt. Cut the napa cabbage head lengthwise, then into quarters. Place in the salt water and brine for 6 hours at room

temperature. The brining step both adds flavor and opens the cabbage’s pores, allowing the marinade to soak in. Rinse in cold water and have a little bite. If you would prefer it saltier, brine for another 6 hours to overnight; it’s a matter of personal preference.

2. Make the rice flour paste. Once the cabbage is brined, make the rice flour paste. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, continually whisk the sweet rice flour and 1 cup water until it reaches a boil. Keep whisking for 2 minutes until it reaches a pudding-like consistency. Remove from heat, transfer to a container and refrigerate until cool.

3. Make the marinade. Combine the onion, Asian pear, ginger, garlic, chile peppers and ¼ cup water in a food processor and run until smooth, then transfer to a large bowl. Add the shrimp, sugar, rice flour paste, gochugaru, scallion greens, carrot and daikon and combine well.

4. Drain the brined cabbage, rinse each piece well in cold water and place them in a very large bowl. While wearing plastic gloves, toss the cabbage with the marinade, coating well. Transfer to clean, large glass jars or clean plastic containers with lids that fit snuggly. You can cut the cabbage to fit if you want, or keep the leaves whole and pack them tightly in the jars. Affix the lids, though not too tightly, and place the jars in a cool, dark and dry space and allow to ferment for 1 day. Heads up: The fermentation process may cause some kimchi juice to bubble over, so place the jars in a plastic bag. When done, refrigerate for 5 to 7 days, or until the kimchi has reached your desired level of funk. It will keep up to a month in the refrigerator to enjoy eaten directly from the container, or longer for use in further cooking, like in Kimchi Jeon and Kimchi Jjigae.

(Recipe reprinted from “Koreatown” by Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard. Copyright © 2016 by Matt Rodbard and Deuki Hong. Photos by Sam Horine. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC)

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