Chicken Kimchi Fried Rice is one of my go-to Asian comfort dishes. There are so many great things about it that it is hard to know where to start. I struggle to think of many other dishes that pack in such a delicious variety of flavour and texture in such a short cooking time. There is something amazingly satisfying about the umami, tangy and warm flavours in this dish. The variety of textures is also an absolute delight with grainy rice, the smooth richness of a fried egg and the crunchy freshness of the toppings. This is a dish I can eat again and again because it never gets boring for me.
If you are wondering what to do with some leftover meat or lingering vegetables in your fridge, kimchi fried rice is the answer. This dish is wonderfully versatile and works well with a wide variety of meats and veggies. This recipe uses chicken with grated carrots and small squares of red pepper because it's always good to start somewhere. Don't hesitate to get creative and use this dish as an opportunity to put your leftovers to a good use because there are so many yummy options.
Key ingredients and possible alternatives:
I always use sushi rice but you can use another type of rice instead such as Jasmine, Basmati or brown rice. Cook the rice the night before if possible and store it in the refrigerator once it has cooled. This enables the rice to harden slightly and ensures the grains remain separate and that it does not go mushy. If you do not have time to do this you can cook the rice before you make the dish. I have done this with good results. You can also buy pre-cooked rice to save time.
Protein & veg:
- Fresh ginger - adds crisp hints of citrusy freshness
- Chicken thighs - I like to use thigh meat instead of breast because it is more succulent, but you can use breast if you like. You can also substitute the chicken with another type of meat such as pork, beef or bacon. Kimchi fried rice is a great way to use up leftover meat. You could also make the dish vegetarian by adding tofu instead of chicken or by increasing the amount of veggies.
- Kimchi + kimchi juice - kimchi is Korean pickled cabbage with garlic, ginger and a little chilli. You can purchase a jar of it from most supermarkets. This is a key ingredient and adds the umami flavour and slight tanginess to the dish.
- Veggies - I have chosen grated carrot and red pepper for this recipe. I find the texture of grated carrot goes well with the rice and the peppers add a slight crunch and juiciness. However, there are many vegetables that work well with kimchi fried rice so feel free to get creative here. This is a great dish for using up any vegetables that might be lingering in your fridge. Examples of veggies you could incorporate include peas, sweetcorn, spinach, kale and mushrooms.
- Eggs - the smooth texture and richness of a fried egg compliments the grainy texture of the rice and the tanginess of the kimchi. If you are based in the UK I highly recommend Clarence Court Burford Brown eggs. Their yolks are much creamier and richer than most others I have tried.
- Soy sauce - adds umami saltiness to the sauce.
- Gochujang (Korean red pepper paste) - brings a slightly sweet and salty spiciness. This is a key ingredient that can be hard to find in standard supermarkets. Asian grocery stores will stock it and you can also buy it online from Amazon. It is a key ingredient in many Korean dishes and will keep for up to two years in the fridge. It's definitely a worthwhile investment if you are a fan of Korean cuisine.
- Kimchi juice - take a couple of tablespoons of the juice that the kimchi is packed in and add it to the source for additional tangy flavour.
Add spring onions, sesame seeds and thin strips of nori to the kimchi fried rice to bring additional freshness and crunchiness. If you do not have all of these ingredients don't worry. The rice will still taste really good without them.
How to make chicken kimchi fried rice
1. Cook the rice and prep the sauce
Cook the rice the night before if you can. This will give it a chance to harden slightly and ensure that the grains stay separate and do not go mushy when you cook it. If you are unable to do this don't worry you can cook the rice before you make the dish. I have done this when I have been in a hurry with good results.
Ensure all the ingredients are chopped before you start because things move very quickly once you start cooking. Mix the sauce, Korean red pepper paste and kimchi juice thoroughly to form a smooth sauce in a bowl or jug.
2. Cook the onions ginger, garlic, chicken and vegetables
Set a wok or frying pan on a high heat and add the onions and ginger and cook for a few minutes until the onions are soft. Then add the chicken and continue to cook until the outside is no longer pink. Add the grated carrot, red pepper and kimchi and continue to cook until the chicken is done and the vegetables are tender. To check that the chicken is cooked remove the largest piece from the pan and cut it in half. If it is white on the inside you are good to go. If it is still pink you need to cook it for a little longer.
Reduce the heat to medium and cook the garlic for 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Add the rice and the sauce
Increase the heat of the pan to medium to high and add the rice and mix it with the other ingredients until it becomes hot. Stir in the sauce until it is thoroughly incorporated. Reduce the heat to its lowest to keep the kimchi fried rice warm while you prepare the eggs.
4. Fry the eggs and serve
Place another frying pan on a medium to high heat and add the remaining oil. Crack the eggs into the pan when the oil becomes hot and cook them until the yolks set and the edges start to brown slightly. You can plate up the rice while the eggs cook. Top the rice with the fried eggs when they are done and add sesame seeds spring onions and optional nori toppings.
Tools and equipment
There are many great things about Chicken Kimchi Fried Rice. One of them is that you don't need any specific equipment to make it. Just make sure you have a sharp knife to hand for chopping the vegetables and chicken and a large frying pan or wok. A wok is ideal for cooking kimchi fried rice because its high walls allow you to quickly toss all ingredients together while they cook quickly on a high heat. If you're a fan of stir-fries a wok is a very good investment but you can also use a large frying pan to make kimchi fried rice if you do not have one.
Three tips for perfect Chicken Kimchi Fried Rice
- Cook the rice the night before if you can - this allows the grains to separate and the rice to harden slightly and improves its consistency. If you do not have time to do this, don't worry. The results will still be good.
- Prep prep prep - make sure all ingredients are thoroughly prepped before you start cooking. Kimchi fried rice is a dish where everything happens very quickly once you start cooking and there is no time to chop ingredients as you go. Make sure the vegetables are chopped/grated, the chicken is cut to size and the sauce is prepared before you start.
- Mix the sauce thoroughly - make sure you incorporate the sauce ingredients thoroughly and that the sauce has a smooth and even consistency. Korean red pepper paste will have a thicker consistency than the soy sauce and kimchi juice. It can form little lumps of intense flavour if you do not mix it well.
You can store the leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Make sure you reheat the rice thoroughly in the microwave or on the stove before you eat it. Kimchi fried rice is not suitable for freezing.
It has a slightly tangy and fermented taste with additional umami, spicy and slightly sweet Korean flavours. It's super yummy and something you will really like if you enjoy Japanese and Korean cuisine.
Korean red pepper paste (Gochujang) adds a medium level of heat to the dish. It is not overly spicy but does have a bit of a kick.