What the Kimchi?

In honor of NNM, last week I decided to explore Korean cuisine. Before I get started, I’m just going to throw this out there right away…this post is not focused on the health or nutritious benefits of Korean food, but more about my experience and joy of Korean food (which if you remember last week’s post, enjoying other cuisines is very much a part of the NNM theme!).  Moving right along. Now, the only real experiences I have had with Korean food is “Korea Day” in elementary school, cooking Bibimbap in an undergraduate food lab class at Michigan State, and food truck Kimchi fries on the streets of Houston, Texas.

Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a Korean classmate in elementary school that decided we were going to have “Korea Day” once a year, every year, dedicated to celebrating Korean food, traditions, and culture. Here is where I tried on my first jeogori (blouse-like top with long sleeves) and chima (long skirts) and also tried Bulgogi (thinly sliced sirloin beef marinated in soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, pepper, scallions, ginger, onions or mushrooms) for the first time. Oh yes, and we were also delighted to have a “jean day”. “Jean day” at a private Catholic elementary school meant we were allowed to wear street clothes, instead of our navy and white uniform (Go Eagles!).  In other words, I was able to show off my newest “hand-me-downs” AND eat delicious food all day…life doesn’t get much better than that as a 10 year old.

basic-bulgogi-2000x2000
Bulgogi

When I lived in Houston, I stumbled upon a Korean-inspired food truck after a long night out at the bars. Here is where I tried Kimchi fries for the first time. LIFE CHANGER. Kimchi fries=French fries, shredded beef or pork, Kimchi, melted cheese, and a Sriracha mayo sauce drizzled on top. I will never forget sitting on that curb and eating those Kimchi fries for the first time. After I so innocently stumbled upon this lil gem, I discovered that this Korean food truck was by the same bar on the same street at midnight pretty much every weekend. [Insert evil laugh here] I then proceeded to make it a terrible habit to somehow convince whichever friends I was hanging out with on the weekends, that we should probably end up at this “great” bar. All the while, I was plotting to get more Kimchi fries. Honestly, lol right now. Sometimes, I wonder how I became a dietitian. I digress.

So what is this Kimchi I speak of? Kimchi refers to fermented vegetables. These vegetables generally consist of napa cabbage, radish, or cucumber in a brine of garlic, ginger, scallions, red chili pepper, and oyster or fish sauce. Some quick, fun facts about Kimchi. Kimchi is actually Korea’s national dish and was imperative to South Korean troops in the Vietnam War to help keep the”morale” up amongst Korean soldiers in the field. Kimchi itself actually provides a rich source of dietary fiber, vitamin A and C, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, and iron.

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Kimchi

This week of NNM, I focused on making my own Korean-inspired Kimchi fries. Considering my brother-in-law just happened to be desiring to make homemade potstickers on the same day, we gladly headed to our local Asian market together. After we purchased our needed ingredients, we got back in the car to head home. After the last car door shut, we both looked at each other with cringed noses saying, “what is that smell?!”. We both realized the smell of Kimchi is not for the weak at heart. I’m not quite sure how to describe this smell to you, but let’s just say for future reference, double bag that sucker and tie the bag shut when transferring. Now time for the noshing.

For this recipe, you’ll need:

For the fries:

  • 5-6 russet potatoes, cut length-wise (a Mandolin slicer works best here)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons paprika
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the beef with marinade:

  • 1 or 1 1/2 pound beef ribeye, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 7 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

For the Kimchi:

  • 1 1/4 cup Kimchi
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar

For the chili sauce:

  • 3 Tablespoons Sriracha sauce, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (light mayo works here too)

Garnishes:

  • 2-3 scallions, chopped
  • 5 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

Start with your beef and marinade. Once you’ve added the onion, garlic, sugar, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil to a gallon size Ziplock bag, then add your thinly sliced beef. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut your potatoes into fries with the Mandolin slicer. Toss with olive oil, paprika, and salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 30-45 minutes to your desired crispiness. Be sure to toss the fries halfway through for even browning.IMG_2602

While these fries are baking, get started on the meat. Place your marinade with the meat in a medium skillet. Cook on medium-high heat until the beef is to your desired done-ness (we cooked ours for ~5 minutes),  then remove the beef and continue cooking the sauce until it reduces/caramelizes (~5-10 minutes).

Next, mix the Greek yogurt with Sriracha sauce in a bowl and set aside.IMG_2588

Add the Kimchi and sugar to a saute-pan and cook on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Quick side note here: In my making of this recipe, I forgot to add the sugar to the Kimchi. The result: Kimchi was a little fermenting tasting…let’s just say, I won’t forget this step next time. Set the kimchi aside.

When the fries are done, either sprinkle the cheese directly on top of the fries on the baking sheet or place the fries in a baking dish before adding the cheese on top. Place back in the oven and broil until the cheese is melted (about 2-3 minutes).

Now it’s time to plate. Top your melted cheese fries with the caramelized sauce and beef. Next, top with the Kimchi, Sriracha sauce, and scallions. Voila, delicious, homemade Kimchi fries. Enjoy!IMG_2617

-EAW