[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Rice cakes are odd little things. Straight from the package they look sort of like plastic cylinders; raw, they sort of taste like them, too. But sauté rice cakes and they develop a crackly crust, while the insides become tender and almost creamy. Best part? The transformation takes about a minute, making this a great base for a quick meal.

So why have I only eaten rice cakes enveloped in a spicy sauce made with Gochujang (a Korean red pepper paste)? Sure, it's delicious (click here for a great version), but only if you're in an extra spicy kind of mood. So what if you're in a more relaxed, vegetable-laden kind of one?

The last thing I wanted to do was make this dish bland, so I reached for two of my favorite flavor-boosting ingredients: bacon and kimchi. Sautéed until crispy, the bacon pieces are then set, leaving its fat behind. The kimchi adds some spice, but it also adds some acidity. You can stop here and end up with a good dish, but the addition of spinach ties the dish together, giving it body while slightly lessening the spice and salt assault. The result is a dish with serious personality, but one that you wouldn't mind encountering on a weeknight.

About the author: Nick Kindelsperger is the editor of Serious Eats: Chicago. He loves tacos and spicy food. You can follow him as @nickdk on Twitter.


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