Serious Eats: Recipes
The Momofuku Cookbook's Kimchi Stew with Rice Cakes
"Chang's crowning touch is his addition of rice cakes made with glutinous rice."
The Momofuku cookbook is a joy to read and cook from for a lot of reasons, but as an Asian cook, I can especially relate to the idea of reinventing childhood dishes for modern tastes.
With love and willpower, immigrant mothers manage to feed their families for very little, though doing so doesn't always produce the most palatable results. In his discussion of his recipe for Kimchi Stew with Rice Cakes, David Chang recollects his own mother's tendency to add overly-fermented kimchi to the stew (made in the first place with a watery, anchovy stock).
Chang's rendition, on the other hand, uses two-week old kimchi—fresh and crisp with a not-too-sour taste. Given the Momofuku's obsession with pork, it's no surprise that Chang's version is made with his pork bone ramen broth. The stew also features the shredded pork shoulder from the same ramen recipe, making the first achievable only if you have the second prepared.
Kimchi stew, however, can be delicious even without the time-consuming pork bone ramen broth. The idea is to use some kind of stock—chicken, beef, or even a good vegetable-based one—to bolster the flavor of the young kimchi. Lots of kimchi.
Chang's proportion of stock-to-kimchi is exactly one-to-one (eight cups of broth to eight cups of kimchi), and that's also how I like it. Chang's crowning touch is his addition of rice cakes made with glutinous rice, which can soak up the spicy broth and still retain its unique texture. (If you buy the packs of dried rice cakes, soak them for several hours in cold water before use.)
With so much kimchi as well as the rice cakes, the meat plays an ancillary role. Instead of pork, you can use whatever other protein you have, be it another meat, tofu, or eggs poached in the soup. Mirin counters the spiciness of the kimchi-laden soup and if I'm so inclined, I'll add a dollop miso at the last moment.
It may not be the complete Momofuku experience, but if you have fresh kimchi and rice cakes on hand, you can make an addictively good soup for yourself in very little time. This kimchi stew is so good, in fact, by the time I'm a quarter of the way through eating it, I'm already wishing for another bowl.
Maybe it's the umami component of the anchovies, which commonly ferments kimchi, or simply the pleasure chewing the rice cakes. Finally, if you have some extra time, you can toast the rice cakes prior to adding them to the soup so the surface of the cakes stays crisp even as they soak in the soup.