The first time I tried kimchi, a spicy Korean concoction of fermented vegetables, a friend of mine had made a stew out of it for a group of friends. The hot, vinegary taste flavored the whole broth, which had tofu and scallions, and then he added Sriracha to dial up the heat further. It was in the middle of summer in a capacious west Philadelphia apartment with no air conditioning, and the soup burned. But I was surprised to find that we all began to feel cooler immediately as the sweat-inducing soup caused us to condensate and cool. The pungent, garlicky taste stayed with me for hours.
Since then, I've loved kimchi, especially straight out of the jar. It's strong stuff though, and not necessarily fit for a meal all by itself, which is why this recipe caught my eye. Basically, it's a delivery vehicle for kimchi, with a few other ingredients to elevate the flavors. The clean, wheaty flavor of udon noodles absorbs some of the kimchi's spice, tempering the stronger flavors to allow them to mellow and bloom more in the mouth. Toasted sesame oil adds a rounded, caramel flavor that warms the stringent acidity. Best of all, it's made in about 7 minutes, just the time it takes to boil the noodles, run them under cold water, and toss them with all the ingredients. This is my new midnight snack.
- 1/2 pound dried somen or udon (Japanese wheat noodles)
- 1 1/2 cups kimchi, chopped
- 1 tablespoon kimchi juice from the jar, or more to taste
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
- Salt, optional and to taste
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
Bring a pot of water to boil and boil the noodles according to package directions, 7 minutes in my case. Drain the cooked noodles and run under cold water until cool.
2. In the meantime, chop the kimchi and combine it in a bowl with the sugar, vinegar, and kimchi juice. Add the cooked noodles and the sesame oil, and toss to combine.
Season to taste with salt (kimchi is already quite salty) and top with scallions.