A few years ago I bought a jar of kimchi and was seriously underwhelmed. I could not see how millions of people could possibly be so in love with spicy fermented cabbage. Was I missing something? I couldn’t even tell if it had gone bad or not, which is never a good sign.
Then I moved here and kimchi was EVERYWHERE. Yes, you run into the occasional person who doesn’t like it, but there are pots of fermenting vegetables on every rooftop in my neighborhood, and I have not had a single meal in a restaurant where a dish of it was not presented on the side. It didn’t take long for me to become completely addicted, and although I’m ashamed to say that I still haven’t tried making my own, I feel like something is missing if I don’t have some with my dinner.
My students are horrified to hear that I buy kimchi at the grocery store, but I just can’t commit to buying a vessel in which to make it, and what if it doesn’t turn out or I give myself food poisoning or I choose a bad recipe? It stresses me out just thinking about it, so for now I’ll stick with buying the oh-so-convenient packages of it from the refrigerator case near the produce section. I realize how ridiculous it is to be this intimidated by a few pounds of cabbage and some red pepper flakes, but it’s just my sad reality.
Note: If you’re vegetarian, inspect the kimchi carefully, because some varieties contain fish. Or be a braver soul than I am and make your own!
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 block tofu, drained, patted dry and cut into thin rectangles
1/2 onion, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I like a mix of brown and white)
2/3 cup chopped kimchi
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
Heat the oil in a large skillet over high. Add the tofu in a single layer (cook in batches if necessary) and cook until golden on all sides (toss the pan occasionally).
Add the onion and zucchini and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft.
Add the rice and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the kimchi and soy sauce, and mix well. Cook for about 2 minutes more, then serve.