Kimchi Fried Rice

kimchi fried riceWe’re a home of many stir-fries. There are usually vegetables in the crisper as well as the freezer, and a stir-fry is both easy and nutritious. And it’s a quick dinner.

Sometimes, though, a little variety is desired.

I had a crisper full of vegetables that needed to be used. Their freshness was waning, and I hate to waste anything, so… stir-fry? Nah. Instead, I decided to incorporate kimchi into the dish to create a sour and savory meal

Kimchi seems to be growing in popularity in the States. BuzzFeed even did a list-of-things-you-can-do-with-it article. Like sauerkraut, it’s a fermented food, and it’s versatile in the dishes in which it can be served. Also like sauerkraut, it pairs nicely with Alsace varietals of wine.

I paired dinner with a bottle of Corvidae Ravenna 2012 Riesling. Not only is this an awesome wine, because, raven – Charles and I are big corvid fans – it’s really nice. It was a spot on pairing – the Riesling cut through the richness of the egg while making the kimchi fried rice almost creamy and balancing the spice from the Sriracha. It was lovely.

Kimchi Fried Rice with Egg

Serves 4

Hot Pepper Sesame Oil
1 cup white rice, cooked
1 jar of kimchi, drained well
2 cups mixed vegetables
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1-2 Tablespoons Sriracha
1-2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
4 eggs, cooked how you like them (Charles is a scrambled egg kind-of guy. I like mine over-easy.)

Warm a skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Drizzle in sesame oil, just enough to coat the pan. Toss in rice and stir for a minute. Add kimchi and sauté until mixed well and warmed-through.
Remove rice mixture and set aside.
Add a bit more oil to the pan. Toss in vegetables, garlic, Sriracha, and soy sauce and sauté until vegetables are tender.
Turn heat to low and mix the kimchi rice with the vegetables.
While the mixture warms and the flavors incorporate, heat another pan over medium-low and cook eggs.
Divide the rice mixture evenly onto four plates, top with eggs, and serve.

Symbiotic Sustenance

I’ve been captivated with the way fermented foods make me feel for quite some time. If my digestion gets a little wonky, all I have to do is add a bit of raw, fermented sauerkraut to dinner, and I’m back to 100 percent.

My favorite sauerkraut is from In The Kitchen in Nevada City, a locally-owned business that creates fermented foods as well as hosting cooking classes and small events in their immaculate, certified kitchen. I love their old fashioned, German-style sauerkraut. It’s amazing. I’m also a tad obsessed with their Carrapeño — it’s fantastic on Southeast Asian sandwiches.

Fermented foods really became a big part of my diet after I sat down and chatted with Tim Van Wagner and Joe Meade, two of the three people involved with In The Kitchen’s food line.

Celebrating the cycle of produce, from farm to plate, was the inspiration behind In The Kitchen’s fermented line of foods.

Joe Meade, Wendy Van Wagner, and Wendy’s brother Tim Van Wagner, banded together to create healthy, fermented foods including sauerkraut, Kimchi, dill pickles, and more.

“You grow all of this beautiful food, and then how do you preserve that?” wondered Meade. “Can we make a product for this community that was grown here, made here?”

They did research, planned plots on the farm specifically for cabbage, sourced regional jars and labels, designed the labels, and acquired permits. After the long administrative process was completed, they began selling the product in June, 2010.

“From the start, we weren’t doing this to make money – it’s about advocacy and awareness,” explained Meade. “It’s about the local food movement. Someone had to take the risk, and we feel really blessed that it was us.”

They are really proud that they are able to pay the farmers close to market value for produce. There’s security in that guaranteed sale as well as being assured that they’re getting paid the same as they would if they were selling at a farmers market.

Five percent of the money made goes back to Living Lands Agrarian Network – the group of which Van Wagner is a part. What enables them to do so much is that they have access to both produce as well as a certified kitchen. When they’re not creating fermented foods, In The Kitchen is used for cooking classes and events.

“If we didn’t have the production facility, we probably wouldn’t be able to do it,” explained Meade.

And they find it fun – even when confronted by a mountain of cabbage after a work day, they still enjoy the process. It’s a family project that’s made easier because of the close relationships they have with one another.

“It’s fulfilling,” said Tim Van Wagner.

“It’s fun,” added Meade.

Making a healthy product for the community doesn’t hurt either. Meade and Van Wagner explained that every culture has a fermented food – sauerkraut, kefirs, many fermented drinks, yogurt, etc.

“The pH that is generated is a pretty powerful preservative,” said Meade.

“The bacteria that spoil food can’t exist in that environment,” said Van Wagner.

He explained that our digestion is dependent upon certain bacteria. The lactobacilli that is found in fermented foods helps to break down nutrients for absorption.

“There is really something for me that has a real balance affect … you can literally feel it in your body,” explained Meade.

“It definitely strengthens your immune system,” added Van Wagner.

Currently, In The Kitchen produces two sauerkrauts, an original and a German style with juniper berries and caraway; dill pickles; Kimchi made of daikon radish, Napa cabbage, ginger, and red jalapeños; and their signature creation developed by Tim Van Wagner, Carrapeño, a fermented hot relish made of carrots supplied by Leo Chapman, jalapeños, and sea salt.

They said the Carrapeño was the perfect complement to any number of dishes because of the heat and intensity of the jalapeño, the sweetness and earthiness of the carrots, and the tartness from the lacto fermentation. Meade is even using the brine in recipes in which you’d traditionally use ingredients like apple cider vinegar.

In The Kitchen’s fermented foods can be found at natural food stores in the Grass Valley area including BriarPatch Co-op, Natural Selection, California Organics, Natural Valley, and Mother Truckers.

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