Kimchi fried rice is right at home in the canon of comfort foods and can be put together quickly. The ideal for all fried rice is to achieve individual grains that are slightly crisp, caramelized, and saturated with flavor. To avoid gloppy, slippery rice, rule number one is to not overfill the skillet, which is why this recipe yields only two servings. Rule number two is to make sure the pan is hot when you add the rice. I also find that a nonstick skillet is terrific for fried rice, requiring less oil than a standard skillet and creating much less of a mess to clean after-ward. Stir-fried lettuce has a wonderful, succulent texture and mild flavor that complements the bold kimchi flavors here. Hydroponic lettuces are a great option because of their crispy texture.
- Heat the neutral-tasting oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring periodically, until soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the kimchi and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, until fragrant and the kimchi begins to brown in parts. Raise the heat slightly, then add the rice, crumbling it into the pan with your hands or using a spatula to break it up. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the sugar over the rice and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the pan is dry.
- Clear a small space in the middle of the skillet and pour in the kimchi brine and 2 teaspoons soy sauce. Let the liquid bubble for about 10 seconds, which encourages caramelization of the soy sauce, then stir it into the rice. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes more, until the pan is dry again. Quickly stir in the cilantro and scallions, reserving a little of each for garnish, then divide the rice mixture between two bowls and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Return the skillet to the heat. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon soy sauce and the rice vinegar, allowing it to bubble and caramelize, then add the lettuce. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for just 30 to 45 seconds, until the lettuce is half wilted—it should still have a bit of crunch. Divide the lettuce over the fried rice in each bowl. Top each bowl with 1 fried egg, the pickles, if using, and any reserved herbs and scallions, and garnish with the sesame seeds.
Excerpted from BOWL: Vegetarian Recipes for Ramen, Pho, Bibimbap, Dumplings, and Other One-Dish Meals © 2016 by Lukas Volger. Photography © 2016 by Michael Harlan Turkell. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Lukas Volger is a cookbook author and editor. He co-founded Jarry, an award-winning queer food journal, and his most recent book is Start Simple. For more information, visit lukasvolger.com or @lukasvolger on Instagram.