Kimchi-Fried Bulgur

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You know a food trend has arrived when you see frozen bags of it at Trader Joe’s (no disrespect to Trader Joe’s, purveyor of all things delicious, whimsical, and well-priced). So once I started seeing frozen kimchi fried rice in their aisles, I wondered how else I could riff on one of my favorite weeknight dishes. Enter alt grains.

Why not kimchi-fried bulgur? A little Middle Eastern-East Asian mashup, if you will. It’s just as easy as kimchi fried rice, but more filling, and pretty guilt-free. Put an egg on it and you’ve got yourself a complete meal.

Kimchi-fried bulgur

1/2 cup kimchi, plus 3 tablespoons juice from jar
4 green onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs
Salt
1 carrot, peeled, cut into matchsticks
3 cups cooked bulgur
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 sheet nori seaweed, shredded
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

1. Chop kimchi; set aside. Cut green tops from green onions and thinly slice; set aside. Thinly slice white and pale green parts and set those aside too.

2. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Crack eggs into pan; season with salt. Cook until whites are golden and crisp around edges and puffing up and set near yolks, about 4 minutes. Transfer eggs to a plate.

3. Return skillet with oil to medium-high heat, add carrot, and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add reserved white and pale green parts of green onions and kimchi and cook, stirring often, until scallions are wilted, about 3 minutes. Add grains, soy sauce, sesame oil, and reserved kimchi juices; cook, stirring, until grains are slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt; divide between 2 plates. Top with eggs, then nori, sesame seeds, and reserved scallion tops.

Ramen with Miso Pesto

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I hate cilanto. It tastes awful to me. (Yeah, I’m one of those.) But cilantro is good for you and lately I’ve been trying to sneak it into recipes where I might not notice, like in salsas or chutneys, or this miso pesto tossed with springy noodles.

And you know what? I don’t taste the cilantro. Adapted from Bon Appetit, this pesto is packed with bright, herbaceous flavor, thanks to the addition of spinach, lemon juice, and a healthy dollop of sweet and salty white miso.

These noodles make a perfect warm-weather dinner and they’re a terrific way to get in bunches of greens without even trying.

Ramen with miso pesto

Ingredients:

4 cups baby spinach
2 cups cilantro leaves with tender stems
1 tablespoon white miso
1 small garlic clove
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt
2 5-ounce packages fresh ramen noodles
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Toasted sesame seeds, for serving

1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, puree spinach, cilantro, miso, garlic, olive oil, sesame oil, and lemon juice in a blender until mixture is smooth. Season with salt and pour pesto into a bowl.

3. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and add to bowl with pesto. Add butter and toss until butter is melted and noodles are coated in sauce.

4. Divide noodles between bowls and top with sesame seeds.

Singaporean-Style Chicken Congee

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Congee, jook, bubur, porridge — whatever you call it, it’s the ultimate comfort food in a bowl, and an endlessly adaptable one at that. Topped with fried shallots, drizzled with sweet and salty soy sauce, served alongside Chinese doughnuts or a soft-boiled egg — the possibilities are endless.

Whenever I travel to Asia, I eat a lot of congee, especially for breakfast. One of my favorite ways to prepare congee is Singaporean-style. This version uses sticky rice as well as short-grain rice for a creamier version, but you can use simply regular short-grain rice for equally delicious results.

Singapore-style chicken congee

Ingredients:

1/2 cup short-grain rice
1/2 cup glutinous white rice
4 cups water
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound boneless chicken, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons shredded ginger
2 teaspoons crisp-fried shallots
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Pepper

1. Wash both types of rice, drain, and place in a large saucepan. Add the water and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer with the saucepan partially covered for about 1 hour, until the rice is very thick and soft, stirring from time to time to keep the rice from sticking. (If the congee is looking too thick, add some water or stock to thin it out.)

2. When the rice has been cooking for 30 minutes, put the chicken in a bowl, sprinkle with cornstarch and toss to coat. Add the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, and ginger. Mix and set aside.

3. When the rice is porridge-like, add the chicken and its marinade. Stir well and simmer until the chicken is cooked, 7-10 minutes.

4. Transfer the porridge to serving bowls and top with the crisp-fried shallots, green onion, and pepper to taste. Serve accompanied with more soy sauce for adding to taste.

Korean Cucumber Salad

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This dish is one of my favorite banchans to eat. You know, the glorious array of little side dishes that come to your table when you go out for Korean food? Everyone has their favorite banchan. Mine are fish cake, cabbage kimchi, radish kimchi, and this ubiquitous cucumber salad.

It’s easy to make at home and it’s perfect on a hot summer day as a cooling side. Make this salad ahead of time and chill it in the fridge for later. I even eat it alone as a snack. Pass the banchan, please.

Korean cucumber banchan

Ingredients:

3 Persian cucumbers (or 1 English cucumber)
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 green onion, sliced
1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

1. Cut the cucumber lengthwise in half. Cut diagonally into thin slices.

2. Put the cucumbers in a medium bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and mix well. Transfer to a serving dish and serve room temperature or chilled.

Smacked Cucumber in Garlicy Sauce

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There’s this cucumber appetizer at Z&Y Restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown that I love: piquant, garlicy, and salty, it’s perfect in its simplicity yet a challenge to recreate. Until now. This is as close as I’m going to get to achieving this cooling cucumber that’s perfect alongside a meal of spicy dishes.

Resist the urge to make smacked jokes: the smacking refers to whacking the cucumber to help it absorb the flavors of the sauce. Try not to crush it into a million pieces!

Smacked cucumber in garlicy sauce

Ingredients:

1 English cucumber
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar (or substitute balsamic vinegar)
1 tablespoon chili oil

1. Lay the cucumber on a chopping board and smack it a few times with a rolling pin. Cut the cucumber lengthwise into 4 pieces. Cut the cucumber on the diagonal into 1-inch slices. Place in a bowl with the salt, mix and set aside for 15 minutes.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.

3. Drain the cucumber, pour over the sauce, stir, and serve.