I asked my husband Will the other day whether he could remember a food item whose reputation has undergone as radical a transformation as kimchi. Sure, there were some die-hard kimchi fans who weren’t Korean, but they mostly consisted of Korean War vets. Otherwise, kimchi was considered a little too ethnic—sort of like chicken feet or pig intestines.
These days, you see kimchi everywhere! I’ve recently seen recipes and featured stories in food magazines like Bon Appetit and Food and Wine talking about various different kinds of kimchi (cucumber, radish, etc.) and how kimchi is a method (pickling) or putting kimchi in all sorts of dishes one wouldn’t have imagined. Spam and kimchi rolls. French fries with bulgogi and kimchi. Kimchi in mixed drinks! I told Will that we’d better get prepared for the kimchi ice cream explosion. (After enjoying bacon and maple ice cream in Portland, I’m keeping an open mind on this one too.)
I tend to be more comfortable with kimchi in dishes that already include other Korean—or at least other Asian—flavors or items. At a Michigan winery, we had some short ribs and kimchi tacos which reminded me of the Korean beef and kimchi tacos at the Yardhouse. I realized recently that most successful attempts to include kimchi revolved around tacos. Perhaps there is the idea that kimchi is to Korean cooking what salsa and trimmings are to tacos?
Our favorite use of kimchi in tacos were at an Evanston restaurant, the Cellar. There, we enjoyed tempura fried fish with kimchi slaw served with mini soft tacos and a spicy mayonnaise. We tried our home version this past week with some frozen battered fish, and we thought these are some of the tastiest fast dinners we could have.
1) Heat at least 1 inch of canola oil to 350 degrees. While you are waiting for the oil to come to frying temperature, prepare your accompaniments. In addition to the kimchi, we decided on fresh cucumbers and organic grape tomatoes. Chop or julienne all your trimmings, and plate them together.
2) Once the oil is hot enough, fry your frozen battered fish (just a few minutes on either side).
3) In the meantime, warm up your tortillas. If you use mini tortillas, you can heat 3 comfortably in a 12-inch pan. You should figure at least 3-4 soft tacos per person.
4) Once the fish fillets are finished frying, lay them on layered paper towels to drain.
Now, all you have to do is assemble your tacos at the table.
Cut off a piece of battered fish, place on the warm tortilla, and then sprinkle toppings over. And then spread or drizzle a bit of a creamy sauce on your taco. Ranch salad dressing works surprisingly well in this dish, or you can use mayonnaise spiked with a bit of Sriracha.
Try this. You will feel quite the trendy foodie.