Dish of the Week: Kimchi Burgers

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re firing up the grill for burgers, but first, we’re taking a look at a special topping: kimchi.

Kimchi, the national dish of Korea, is made with fermented vegetables and spices, sort of like sauerkraut but better. Cabbage, daikon radish or even cucumber can be the stars, with red chile pepper powder (gochugaru) lending its signature reddish tint. Other seasonings include brine, scallions, ginger, garlic, brined seafood and oyster, shrimp or fish sauce.

The pungent dish comes in many forms. Seoul’s Kimchi Field Museum has documented almost 200 historic and current varieties. Types of kimchi can differ according to region, season, main ingredient, seasoning and fermentation method. For instance, kimchi from northern parts of Korea does not commonly include brined seafood. Also, it tends to be more watery and have less salt and red chile. White kimchi, or baechu, is another varietal made with napa cabbage. It is not red or spicy, thanks to a lack of chile.

Though kimchi is traditionally a banchan, or side dish, the briny, spicy and sour cabbage varietal makes an incredible companion to a fat, greasy burger. You can try fermenting your own at home (this recipe makes the process quite simple), or use your favorite store-bought variety.

As for that fat burger – this recipe, from Food and Wine, makes a shack-style, double-patty burger blanketed with kimchi, sambal oelek (Indonesian chile sauce) aioli and bacon for good measure. 

Bacon-and-Kimchi Burgers

Ingredients yields 4 burgers
1/4 cup sambal oelek
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
4 slices of thick-cut bacon
1-1/4 pounds ground beef chuck
Kosher salt
4 slices of American cheese
4 potato buns, toasted
1 cup chopped drained cabbage kimchi (6 ounces)

In a small bowl, combine the sambal with the mayonnaise and ketchup and mix well.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Grill the bacon over moderate heat, turning until golden and crisp, about five minutes total. Drain on paper towels.

Form the beef into eight 1/4-inch-thick burgers and season with salt. Grill over high heat, turning until browned. Make four stacks of two burgers each on the grill and spoon one tablespoon of the sambal mayo over each stack.

Top with the cheese, cover and grill over high heat just until the cheese is melted, about 1 minute.

Spread the remaining sambal mayo on the bottom buns. Top with the burgers, bacon and kimchi, close and serve.
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Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano