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.
- Yield:serves 4
- Active time: 20 minutes
- Total time:20 minutes
- 4 ounces bacon, chopped
- 1 pound Korean rice cakes, cut into 2-inch lengths
- 10 ounces spinach, cleaned, stemmed, and chopped
- 1 cup kimchi, chopped
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 tablespoons sliced green scallions
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
Cook bacon in a large 12-inch skillet set over medium heat until fat has rendered and bacon is crispy, about 6 minutes. When done, remove bacon pieces with a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the fat behind as possible. Drain bacon on paper towels.
Increase heat to medium-high. When fat starts to smoke, add as many of the rice cakes as will fit in one layer, approximately half. Cook undisturbed until crusty on the bottom, about 20 seconds, and then flip the pieces with a spatula. Cook until crusty on this side, another 20 seconds. Remove the pieces with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat process until all the rice cakes are cooked. When done, turn the heat off.
Discard all but one tablespoon of the fat, and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add half of the spinach, and cook, tossing occasionally with a pair of tongs, until wilted. Add in the other half, and cook until wilted. Add the kimchi, and cook until any liquid has evaporated.
In a small bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar and the sugar. Pour this into the skillet, along with the cooked rice cakes. Toss until everything is mixed together and warm.
Serve immediately with a sprinkling of scallions and sesame seeds.