Kimchi Bokkeumbap (The Basics)

Kimchi Bokkeumbap (Basis)

Iedereen heeft standaard rijst en kimchi in thuis toch?! Dan is dit gerecht super makkelijk en snel om te maken als je geen zin hebt om uitgebreid te koken en naar de supermarkt te gaan!

What is kimchi bokkeumbap?

Kimchi bokkeumbap (김치볶음밥) literally means kimchi fried rice. This is a humble Korean dish and the method of making and concept is really the equivalent to the Italian ‘cucina povera’ (cooking of the poor) (in Dutch: armeluiskeuken), which is really all about cooking the most tasty, yet quality dishes with the ingredients you have at home. In Korean households, there is always rice and kimchi. Hopefully that is the case with your house as well because if you’re stuck, kimchi is there to save the day!

The basic contents of kimchi bokkeumbap are literally rice and kimchi, but you can add proteins to it if you like. Some popular examples are processed meats like canned tuna, sausage, ham and spam. You can of course use unprocessed meat like chicken, pork, beef or even seafood like shrimp and calamari. It is also possible to go fully vegan and substitute the meat for tofu. 

Kimchi bokkeumbap is also very popular among students with a low budget or those with very little cooking experience but still want to have something that tastes great and fills them up. Again, very similar to Italian cuisine. Every Italian has pasta and tomato sauce in their pantry right? And now practically everyone on earth probably has pasta and tomato sauce in their pantry because if in doubt, make pasta (with variations depending on what other ingredients you have at home) am I right? But make it Korean: if in doubt, make kimchi bokkeumbap. The literal Korean translation of cucina povera would be ‘가난한 부엌’ (ganan-han bu-eok). Once you’ve learned the basic techniques of kimchi fried rice, you can experiment with whatever other ingredients you like. Hopefully soon, Korean kimchi gets the same reputation and respect that Italian pasta has. 

What kind of rice should I use? 

Koreans use short-grain rice but any kind of rice should be ok to use as well. Only if you really want the Korean experience, go for the short-grain rice. The most important thing about making fried rice is using day-old rice. If the rice was in the fridge, it could get quite hard so it is recommended to put it in the microwave to break the rice a bit. If you don’t have a microwave, you can break the rice over the stove on low heat.

If you choose to use fresh rice, you can of course do that. Just make sure to add less water than you normally do just so that the grains cook are a bit drier and cooled before using. 

Tips on making the best kimchi bokkeumbap

  • Using well fermented kimchi (at least 3-4 week old kimchi) for its richness and robustness. There is no substitute or exception to this. This is a must. 
  • Using day-old rice. Make sure to break the rice with a little bit of heat if it was stored in the fridge.
  • If you are using any additions to your kimchi bokkeumbap like unprocessed meat or tofu, marinade them in soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic and sesame oil before frying them. This gives additional flavors.
  • If you are a lover of spicy food, you can always add a bit more gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) instead of more gochujang (Korean red pepper paste). This is because your fried rice will get salty if you add more gochujang. 
  • Start with high heat to cook your kimchi, then turn to medium heat when you are breaking up the rice, and then back to high to give your rice a crispy and toasty finish. 
  • Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can add any other toppings to your fried rice like processed and unprocessed meat, vegetables, fish, e


  • 1 cup Choi kimchi *(see note)
  • Small onion (diced)
  • 1 sprig chopped spring onion 
  • 1 clove garlic (diced)
  • 3 tbsp Choi kimchi juice
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp gochujang
  • 2 cups cooked rice**(see note)
  • 1 tbsp oil 
  • ½ tbsp sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Optional ingredients:

  • Egg
  • Sesame seeds
  • Roasted laver (seaweed)


  1. If you are using any additional ingredients, this would be the step to cook them. 
  2. Add cooking oil to your pan and quickly stir-fry the onion, garlic and scallion over high heat. Add kimchi, kimchi juice, soy sauce and gochujang. Fry until kimchi becomes soft (about 3-4 minutes). This is an important step because you are developing flavors and aromas here, so take your time with it. 
  3. Reduce heat to medium low and add the rice. Unclump all the rice pieces by mixing everything in together and coating the rice with the sauce (about 3-4 minutes).
  4. Once the rice is coated with the sauce evenly, turn up the heat to high again and fry the rice. Here you can adjust the seasonings by adding salt and pepper if needed, and gochugaru if you want it more spicy. Add sesame oil at the end right before turning off the heat.
  5. Serve with the optional ingredients.


    *Make sure to use well-fermented kimchi for this. There are no exceptions or substitutes to this. Well-fermented kimchi provides a rich and robust aroma to the fried rice so this is a necessary ingredient. You will need kimchi that has been fermenting for at least 3 – 4 weeks. 

    **Use day-old cooked rice. This is because the rice needs to be dry in order to get a nice and clean fried rice. If your rice was in the fridge, make sure to heat up the rice by breaking them apart either in the microwave or on the stove just until it has slightly warmed up and the pieces or rice can break apart. 


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