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Jun 14, 2016
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WINE WITH…Korean Kimchi Fried Rice

Kimchi fried rice is one of the world’s great comfort foods, the Korean version of America’s mac and cheese perhaps. But you certainly don’t have to be Korean to appreciate this tasty and soothing dish, which is said to be wildly popular there, and is becoming ever more so in the US as well. One advantage of the dish is that it can be made from leftovers, especially if you happen to have a jar of kimchi in the fridge--which we often do. We became addicted to this staple of Korean cuisine when our former neighbor, John, used to give us a batch of homemade kimchi every few weeks (one of our favorite ways to use it was on hot dogs--forget catsup and relish). Now that John has moved to New Jersey we’re without a homemade source of the condiment, but have discovered that the commercial version is usually pretty good too.

But back to the fried rice. If you have leftover rice from, say, Chinese takeout, that’s perfect, otherwise it’s easy enough to cook a cup or two of rice. Any kind of meat works well in the dish, especially beef, chicken or pork. We generally make our version of kimchi fried rice using the leftovers from a rotisserie chicken. Some people use bacon, while (believe it or not) others swear by spam! For vegetarian fried rice, eggplant and/or zucchini would be good choices. Topping the dish with a fried egg or two is a popular option. If your kimchi is fairly bland you might want to add a little gochujang (Korean hot sauce), sriracha, or other spicy sauce.

Kimchi fried rice is a one-dish meal, and if you’ve never had it before you may be surprised to discover how satisfying and delicious it is, and also how well it partners with wine.

Korean Kimchi Fried Rice

Serves 2-4

3 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
1 medium onion, cut in medium dice
1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup kimchi, coarsely chopped if it is in large pieces
2 tablespoons kimchi juice
1 ½ - 2 cups cooked chicken, cut or torn in large bite-size pieces
2 cups cooked, cooled rice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
optional garnish: scallions, chives, or a little crumbled nori (roasted seaweed)

In a large skillet (ideally cast iron) heat one tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the onion and cook it over medium-high for a few minutes until it begins to soften. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Continue cooking for another 8-10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are nice and soft. Stir in the kimchi, the kimchi juice, and the chicken, and cook until the ingredients are thoroughly heated through and the kimchi juice has mostly been absorbed.

Spoon the kimchi mixture into a bowl and reserve. Add the remaining tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Add the cooked rice, breaking it up with a spatula. Stirring it from time to time, continue cooking the rice until it is lightly browned, then stir in the kimchi mixture. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more soy sauce and/or sesame oil as well as a little hot sauce if you think the mixture needs it (you can also pass the hot sauce at the table). Top with the optional garnish.

* * *

When made with chicken, this is definitely more of a white than a red wine dish, though we did find a juicy, spicy red that paired very nicely with it. Overall, though, you’ll want a wine that exhibits vivacity and verve rather than muscle or brawn. The wine need not be bone dry, as a hint of sugar will complement the spicy kimchi quite nicely.

Questions or comments? Contact us at Talkofthevine@gmail.com


Approx. Price


Bellenda, Connegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore (Italy) “Brut” 2014

(Imported by Vision Wine & Spirits)


Despite what it says on the label, this sparkler is not really “brut,” though it certainly does taste drier than most run of the mill Proseccos. It shows juicy stone fruit flavors and a touch of residual sugar, but ends very balanced on the palate. Most important with this dish, it seems to love spice.

Charles & Charles, Washington State (USA) Riesling “Art den Hoeg Vineyard,” 2014


A dry but definitely fruity Riesling, this excellent value is long and lean but chock-full of varietal flavor. We worried that it might be too light-bodied, but it more than held its own with the dish.

Finca El Encinal, Ribera del Duero (Spain) Crianza 2011

(Imported by Vision Wine & Spirits)


The one red we are recommending, this pure Tempranillo tastes of sweet plums with plenty of savory spice lurking beneath the surface. It brought out the earthy character of the mushrooms in the dish.


Central Otago (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 2015

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)


Weightier than Kiwi Sauvignons from Marlborough, this wine is filled with bright citrus fruit flavor as well as herbaceous notes in the finish. It’s dry but very fruity, and made the dish sing because of its vibrant acidity.

Wairau River, Marlborough (New Zealand) Pinot Gris 2014

(Imported by Terlato Wines)


A lovely Pinot Gris, with a touch of sweetness in the mid-palate, this wine, like a number of others we are recommending, performed well with the Kimchi Fried Rice because it paired so well with the spicy elements in the dish.