Some time ago, I’ve been talking about my taste for rice, an ultimate comfort food to me, but I haven’t told yet about tofu. It’s another food I love though, and I’d like to briefly give praise to it first. On the contrary to many people, I don’t find it bland or even tasteless ; neither is it a weird ingredient reserved for vegetarians and Buddhists only, but a versatile food everybody may cook with* (and even associate with meat, by the way) !
* be careful though, at least if you’re a women, it seems that soy products’ health benefits depend on how young you have been used to eat them (do not eat too frequently if you didn’t do so before puberty).
Tofu is good on its own, as the main ingredient of a dish, and able to bring something special to other dishes too : a complementary « beany » taste, which turns to nutty when it is pan-fried like here.
I took inspiration for this technique from « Taste Hong Kong » (one of my reference foodblogs when it comes to Chinese food), of which method for pan-frying tofu with a crust is absolutely foolproof. Having been practising it for a while, I used it on a leftover firm tofu which I had the idea to combine with one of my comfort rice dishes, namely the traditional Korean fried rice. I’ve been in luck, since both have been quite highlighted this way !
I admit this experiment wasn’t that adventurous nor a wild guess, the association of kimchi and tofu having been inspired to me by kimchi mandu, a variety of Korean dumplings. And though I’m not that familiar with Korean food, I’m quite sure it is to be found in other dishes as well. Anyway, as a popular dish, kimchi bokkeum bap seems to be prepared in endless ways.
The main ingredient apart from rice (leftover rice being used all over Asia to make fried rice dishes), kimchi, sometimes also spelled as « kimchee », is kind of the signature food of Korean cuisine. Probably do you already know what kimchi is about : fermenting vegetables, using several ingredients which would make them ripe (the more fully the better « kick ») and give them a more sophisticated taste. The seasoning mix especially includes a generous amount of chili pepper that has the kimchi colored in a brilliant red.
A number of different veggies get turned into kimchi, but the most well-known, which is the one used in this recipe, is the « white », napa cabbage-based, called baechu kimchi in Korean.
It should be widely available in most areas now, but sometimes, it might be more convenient or better to have it made at home than purchased in a specialty grocery (ok, only if you already have some specific Asian ingredients readily available at home !). Having tried a couple of recipes, I’ll go for « Korean Bapsang » ‘s from now on. I didn’t change a line of it, except that I had to substitute dried shrimps (same as here) for salted shrimps and fresh ones (it would be 30 gr. for the cabbage amount in the original recipe) ; but it still turned out pretty good !
This recipe suits perfectly my liking, however, if you do have a favorite way to make kimchi, feel free to stick to it ! One can find a range of recipes for homemade on the Internet, and even French people seem to have been affected by some sort of kimchi making fever 😀
Anyway, I won’t tell you to make some just on the purpose of making this recipe, but if you have kimchi on hand, you really should think of trying it. Just like any fried rice recipe, it’s easy to make, involving little preparation and a short cooking time. Not to mention what a tasty and balanced meal it is ! I sort of go emotional about this dish, which is the one I made the first time I used kimchi… and since then, I’d make it at least once as soon as I have kimchi, especially homemade. Note that I found the present recipe (which I only adapted slightly apart from adding the tofu) on the blog of a French guy who married a Korean woman, so I guarantee it’s an authentic one !
Yields 2 servings as a main course.
- 3 tbsp vegetable cooking oil
- 200 gr. napa cabbage kimchi aka baechu kimchi (homemade if available)
- white part of 1 scallion (optional)
- 2 rice bowls of cooked rice
- 2 tbsp of kimchi « juice » (the liquid in the jar)
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds, dry-roasted (that is fried in a pan without additional fat, over medium heat, stirring constantly, until aromatic and nicely browned)
- 2 pinches of chili pepper flakes, I used Korean kind aka gochugaru (optional)
- 100-200 gr. firm tofu – adjust to your liking (and your protein needs !)
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tbsp scallion green (~ green part of 1 scallion)
Slice the tofu into 1 cm / 1/2 -inch thick rectangles, pat them dry and sprinkle salt over each side.
Arrange them on a plate lined with paper towel and put another paper towel on the top. Let sit for 10-15 mns. This step helps removing excess water from the tofu, which could cause sticking to the pan and/or not having the crust nicely formed.
In the meantime, discard the stem part of the kimchi piece (that retains the leaves together), if any, and chop the leaves into 1 cm-wide (1/2-inch) strips or desired pieces. Finely chop the scallion white if using and thinly slice the green part too.
In case it wasn’t made ahead, dry-roast the sesame seeds as mentioned above, then set aside to cool.
Heat a pan (large enough to lay all tofu pieces flat) over medium heat, until you can feel the heat with your hand placed a few centimeters over it.
Pat dry the tofu pieces with a clean paper towel right before putting them gently into the pan.
Wait for the side facing the pan to be browned (you’d be able to check how the crust forms and how much it browns by the edge) before turning the tofu pieces over. Let them brown in a similar way on the other side, then set them aside on a plate, again lined with paper towel to get rid of excess oil.
If you want to know more about this tofu pan-frying affair, do not hesitate to check « Taste Hong Kong »‘s post (see link above), where you’ll find crystal clear and beautifully illustrated tips.
Once cooled, slice the tofu pieces neatly to get about 5 cm/2 inches long, 1 cm / 1/2 inch wide and 2-3 mm thick slivers.
Heat 1.5 tbsp of oil a wok or pan (even the one you used for the tofu if it is high-sided enough, considering we need to stir-fry) over high heat.
Put in the chopped kimchi and optional scallion white and sauté for about 1 minute, until aromatic.
Add the rice and kimchi juice, lower the heat to medium and keep frying, tossing well to loosen the rice lumps and have the grains evenly coated with the liquid (~ 2-3 mns).
In the mean time, in an other pan, fry the eggs sunny side up with the remaining 1/2 tbsp of oil, until the white is set but still soft and the yolk runny.
When rice is warmed through, add the tofu slices and stir to distribute them evenly. They should be warm too but you want them to remain crispy, so don’t keep on the heat too long which could make them turn soggy.
Add salt and pepper to taste as well as the optional chili flakes, stir quickly, then mix in the sesame oil off the heat.
Divide into shallow plates or bowls, top each with an egg, and sprinkle with 1 tbsp scallion green and 1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds per serving.
Grab a pair of chopsticks and enjoy !
By the way, I’m glad to bring to your attention that the Ogrerie passed the 6 monthes of existence a few days ago (huh, already ?) ! I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for stopping by, following my blog or leaving comments, it means a lot and gives me support to keep on posting. Hope I’ll still be able to please you !