Picture this: you’ve just picked up a jar of store-bought kimchi, eager to enjoy its tangy and spicy flavours.
But upon opening the jar and taking a whiff, you can’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment.
Perhaps it’s not as flavourful as you had hoped, or maybe it’s missing that homemade touch. Fear not, dear kimchi-lover, for there are some excellent ways to improve and elevate your store-bought kimchi experience.
Right here, we’re going to take an in-depth look at how to improve store bought kimchi, from customising the spice level to improving the texture. Let’s get going!
Understanding Store Bought Kimchi
Knowing the ropes about store-bought kimchi can significantly enhance your experience and set you up for success.
In this section, we’ll explore ingredients and varieties, as well as storage and expiry tips.
Ingredients and Varieties
Generally, store-bought kimchi includes napa cabbage as the core ingredient, along with a plethora of spices, garlic, and fermented shrimp to give it that distinct, tangy flavour.
Some varieties may feature radish or cucumber instead of napa cabbage. One such exceptional brand is Mrs. Kim’s, known for their rich and flavoursome napa cabbage kimchi.
For spice enthusiasts, you might want to try the Wang Korean gochugaru brand, which is pleasantly spicy and can bring some heat to your kimchi if you’re after an extra kick.
Storage and Expiry
When it comes to fermenting store-bought kimchi, attention and care are essential. After purchasing your kimchi, place it in a shallow bowl with the lid halfway turned loose, and let it rest on the kitchen counter for 10 hours, but not exceeding 12 hours, all while avoiding direct sunlight and keeping it in a cool area.
Once fermented to your liking, store the kimchi in the refrigerator.
However, be cautious with potentially pasteurised store-bought kimchi – if it’s pasteurised, it can’t be fermented any further due to the absence of necessary bacteria. Keep an eye on the use-by date and be mindful of any changes in smell or mould growth, as these may be signs that your kimchi has gone past its prime.
Store-bought kimchi can sometimes be a bit underwhelming in terms of texture, but fear not!
With a few simple tweaks and additions, you can elevate your kimchi to new heights of crunchy, satisfying delight. Let’s explore some tricks of the trade to transform the texture of your store-bought kimchi.
Draining Excess Liquid
It’s not uncommon to find store-bought kimchi swimming in more liquid than necessary.
While some moisture is essential for the fermentation and taste, too much liquid can create a soggy, limp kimchi experience that’s far from ideal. Time to put an end to the sogginess!
Simply use a sieve or colander to drain the excess liquid from your kimchi before adding it to your favourite dishes. By doing so, you’ll allow the true star of the show – the fermented vegetables – to shine in all their delicious glory.
Adding Crunchy Elements
Now that we’ve addressed the excess liquid issue, let’s focus on adding some crunch to your kimchi.
There are two primary ways to do this: adding extra vegetables and introducing crunchy toppings. Let’s dive into both options:
Extra Vegetables: One of the simplest ways to add crunch to your kimchi is by incorporating additional vegetables.
Try tossing in some thinly sliced carrots, radishes, or even cucumber to give your kimchi a refreshing, slightly sweet and crunchy boost.
These colourful additions not only enhance the texture but also add extra nutrients and visual appeal to your dishes.
Crunchy Toppings: Sometimes, adding a bit of crunch on top is just what your kimchi needs.
Consider topping your kimchi with crushed roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, or even crispy fried shallots for a delightful textural contrast.
How To Improve Store Bought Kimchi: Enhancing Flavour
Store-bought kimchi can be a great starting point, but with a bit of culinary creativity, you can turn it into an even tastier treat.
Let’s dive into a few ways to elevate your store-bought kimchi by incorporating fresh ingredients and adjusting spices and seasonings.
Incorporating Fresh Ingredients
One of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your store-bought kimchi is by adding fresh ingredients. Try mixing in thinly sliced radishes or cucumbers, which will add both brightness and crunch to the dish.
Don’t be afraid to improvise and throw in your favourite veggies or herbs like spring onions, carrots, or even fresh mint for an unexpected twist.
Adjusting Spices and Seasonings
If you’re in the mood for a little heat, a pinch of extra red pepper flakes should do the trick nicely. And for those fond of a bit more umami in their kimchi, a dash of soy sauce can be a game changer.
If your kimchi is on the saltier side, simply add layers of radish or rinse the kimchi to balance out the flavour.
Transforming store-bought kimchi into delightful dishes is not only fun, but it also provides a unique way to incorporate the delicious flavours of this Korean staple into various meals.
In this section, we’ll explore three techniques to spruce up your kimchi: making kimchi stir-fry, preparing kimchi soup, and cooking up some delicious kimchi stews.
Making Kimchi Stir-Fry
Kimchi stir-fry, also known as Kimchi Bokkeum, is a simple yet flavoursome dish that’s perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. The key to a delectable stir-fry is using well-fermented kimchi, so make sure to choose a quality store-bought kimchi for a satisfying outcome.
Follow these steps to create an irresistible kimchi stir-fry:
- Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.
- Add chopped onions and stir fry until translucent.
- Throw in some minced garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Add kimchi and cook for a few minutes before incorporating thinly sliced proteins (tofu, chicken, pork, or beef).
- Season the dish with some gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes), soy sauce, and a pinch of sugar.
Serve your kimchi stir-fry over a bed of steaming rice, and prepare for a taste explosion!
Preparing Kimchi Soup and Stews
Korean cuisine lovers will undoubtedly appreciate a hot and hearty kimchi soup or stew. These comforting dishes can be easily customised to cater to your preferences or dietary restrictions.
Try your hand at these two popular recipes:
Kimchi Jjigae – A spicy, umami-packed kimchi stew with tofu and pork that will keep you warm and satisfied during those colder months.
- In a pot, add kimchi, chopped onions, and garlic and fry until fragrant.
- Add in thinly sliced, bite-sized pieces of pork.
- Pour in a broth or stock of your choice (vegetable, chicken, or beef), and let the mixture simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Finally, add tofu cubes and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Garnish your steaming Kimchi Jjigae with spring onions, and enjoy!
Kimchi Guk – A flavourful kimchi soup that’s less rich than Kimchi Jjigae but equally delicious. Perfect for when you are craving a warm, soothing meal with a tangy kick.
- In a pot, add kimchi, garlic, and ginger and cook for a few minutes to release their flavours.
- Pour in your desired broth or stock, and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Add gochugaru and diced tofu, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Relish your Kimchi Guk alongside a bowl of rice or noodles, and savour each slurp.
Whether you are short on time or you have hours to dedicate, experimenting with store-bought kimchi provides endless opportunities to create a variety of appetising and creative dishes. So, get your chef’s hat on and start cooking!
As you can see, there are plenty of quick and easy ways to elevate store-bought kimchi, making it taste even more delicious and authentic.
By combining fresh ingredients, adjusting the flavour profile, and serving alongside complementary dishes, store-bought kimchi can truly shine
(By the way, if you love taking pantry staples and making them more interesting then you might want to also take a look at my guides to how to improve store bought coleslaw, and how to improve grocery store pesto).