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Shrimp and Kimchi Fried Rice

I'm constantly on the search for ingredients that are packed with umami goodness, and that's where my love for fermented foods began. The process of fermentation creates and unlocks new flavors in ingredients we would otherwise deem ordinary. Kimchi is made through a process called lacto-fermentation. Lacto-fermentation harnesses the power of lactobacillus bacteria to break down starches and carbs into lactic acid and carbon dioxide, giving kimchi it's signature tartness and effervescence.

Another compound created as a byproduct of the fermentation of starches is the infamous monosodium glutamate. MSG gets a bad rap, but there has been plenty of evidence in the last few years debunking it's supposed health risks. In fact, free glutamate is a substance that naturally occurs in foods that we eat every day, like mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese and yeast and the body metabolizes MSG no differently than naturally occurring free glutamate. Glutamate wakes up flavor receptors on our tongue that would otherwise be "sleeping", which is why it makes things taste so much more satisfying. There is such a thing as umami overload, which is where we start to talk about balance of flavor. Our tastebuds can perceive five flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and savory. Truly delicious, satisfying food makes proper use of all five flavors, creating proper balance within the dish.

This dish is layered with fermented ingredients, lending it a punch of savory flavor, as a well as salt and acidity. The kimchi provides a pleasant tartness and spice, and the fish and soy sauces provide ample amounts of umami and salt. All of this together creates an incredibly balanced and satisfying dish. Another fantastic thing about this recipe is it's versatility. The shrimp can be swapped out for any protein of your choice. You can use all fish sauce or all soy sauce. You can top it with whatever sauce you choose, whether it be sambal, sriracha, or gochujang. Short or medium grain rice is best for this, but you can use whatever leftover rice you have.


RECIPE

Yields approx. 2 servings

Ingredients

2 cups of short/medium grain rice, cooked and cooled, preferably overnight

1 cup of kimchi, cut into bite size pieces

1 cup of raw shrimp, whole with tails removed if they are small, diced if they are large

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce (I prefer Red Boat brand)

3 scallions, sliced, green and white parts separated

1 clove of garlic, grated

1 tsp ginger, grated

A high smoke point oil like vegetable, grapeseed, or avocado

Sesame seeds

Gochujang

Directions

Preheat a large non-stick or well seasoned cast iron skilled over medium-high heat. Add a generous amount of oil to the pan and allow it to get very hot. You can test the temperature of the oil by flicking a drop of water on the pan and if it sizzles, it's ready. Add the rice to the pan and cook until it starts to get nice and crispy. Lower the heat to medium and add the ginger, garlic, and scallion bottoms. Saute until the scallions are softened, scraping the bottom of the pan so the ginger and garlic don't burn, then add the shrimp, kimchi, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Mix well and saute until the shrimp is opaque. Give it a taste and add more soy or fish sauce if you feel it needs more salt. Spoon into serving bowls and garnish with sesame seeds, scallions, and gochujang.


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