The Pizza Lab: Why Don't We See More Kimchi on Pizza?

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

It doesn't necessarily sound like it's going to be great, but once you try it, the combination of spicy, garlicky, pickled kimchi and ooey, gooey cheese is tough to turn your back on.

My first experience was at the Broadway Cafe in Ann Arbor, a take out sandwich shop that specialized in Philly-style shaved beef cheesesteaks, and Korean bulgogi. If you ask extra nice, you can get the old Korean owner to slap the two together with a big scoop of spicy kimchi into a Bulgogi Hoagie, one of the finest sandwich creations known to man.

There is a history of American cheese and Korean food mingling since post Korean war times, and even in Korea, it's not uncommon to eat jjigae-style stews or ramen with a slice of American cheese melted into it.

The Kogi Barbecue Truck popularized the kimchi quesadilla about half a decade ago. We liked it so much that went on to put up a recipe in our book, as well as on the site.

Heck, just yesterday I put up a recipe for Kimchi Grilled Cheese sandwiches. They are good.

Today's recipe is better though, and it's something I've never actually seen before.

Putting kimchi on pizza is one of those things that I thought of and immediately slapped myself in the forehead for not thinking of it sooner. It makes a ton of sense. Pickled things go great on top of pizza. If you don't believe me, head over to Best Pizza in Williamsburg, try out their pickled vegetable pizza, and tell me it's not awesome. Go on. I'll wait.

Just kidding, I won't. You'll just have to take my word for it. The spicy pickled cabbage adds its signature garlicky bite, but its intense sour/hot flavors are balanced by the gooey cheese on top of a New York-style pie. I like to pair it up with some hot and spicy soppressata. Pork and kimchi are friends. Pork and pizza re friends. Put all three together and you've got yourself a party with attending.

According to my Pizza Snob's Approach to Toppings, toppings should be limited to those that are either as intense, or more intense than those applied previously. So I finish off my pie with a couple of extra strongly-flavored ingredients: maitake mushrooms are some of the strongest 'shrooms around (you could sub with shiitake, or morel if you've got'em. I'd avoid watery/bland button or cremini here). Slivers of sliced scallion seemed natural with the kimchi, and they get nice and sweet as they bake. Finally, some coarsely grated ginger adds some fresh bite and a bit more heat.